Like I had mentioned in my recent post about moving to Connecticut, I am thoroughly impressed by the amount of good, ethnic cuisine found within the state. For instance, in the most nondescript plaza in West Hartford one can find Shu Restaurant serving up very authentic Sichuan cuisine in an ever-so-classic Chinese restaurant setting.
We made reservations to go to Shu one Friday night – reservations being the key here – to see what all the rage was about. Noticing the only other establishment open this late at night in the strip mall was a laundromat, there seemed to be mass amount of cars in the parking lot for such a desolate place and we knew not that many people could be doing laundry. However, upon entering Shu, we understood where all the owners of said vehicles could be found.
The restaurant was packed. The dark-wood features and crisp, white tablecloths fit the customary ying and yang interior decoration of any good Chinese restaurant. The larger rounds had lazy susans and the crowd was mostly of Chinese decent. Luckily, we had my mom to navigate the daunting book that seemed to have about as many pages as those at the Cheesecake Factory.
We immediately went for the classics to start – dan dan noodles, Chengdu dumplings and steamed vegetable dumplings. The dan dan noodles and Chengdu dumplings both packed a punch of heat. If you tend to stray from overly spicy dishes and foods, then you probably would find Sichuan cuisine a personal foodie hell as the liberal use of garlic and chili peppers can ignite fire on your taste buds. Me on the other hand – bring on the heat, baby.
For our main courses we ordered Eastern style beef & Chengdu dry fried shrimp. We got a side of hot & sour soup, which turned out to be a helping of four servings – enough for papa bear, mama bear, baby bear & Goldie if you get my drift.
The Eastern style beef was cut thin like most Chinese beef dishes I’ve eaten with chopped green onion, celery, cilantro and chili peppers. The meat was layered over steamed baby bok choy which helped bring some of the spice intensity down. The jumbo shrimp were more of a peel-and-eat versus bread-fried which is why it’s called dry-fried. The shrimp was topped with a minced ground pork, diced bamboo shoots, green onions and of course Chengdu peppers in a garlic and chili sauce.
While we were completely satisfied with our meal, we couldn’t help but window shop the other dishes on the tables nearby. Next to us a group of gentlemen also order the “side” of soup along with scallion pancakes identical to those that my mom whips up in the kitchen at home. The college-aged kids that were skinny as a rail were feasting on seafood soup out of what looked to be an 18th century cauldron along with a whole-roasted fish covered in diced chili peppers, cilantro, green onions and whatever else that’s red, hot and can clear your sinuses.
Needless to say, the experience at our table was magnificent and coupled with the showing of dishes at other tables, we are going to have to go back many, many times, in order to taste all that Shu has to offer.