Where do 7 people go out to dinner on a Monday night? You may have noticed that a lot of restaurants are closed on Mondays, making it difficult to find a place to go. We went to Red Pepper: a Szechuan (or Sichuan) and hotpot restaurant. We’ve been to the hotpot part once, and it’s pretty good but we prefer the restaurant section. This was our third visit to the restaurant and when we’re feeling too lazy to leave the house we get delivery from here. They’ve recently expanded their delivery menu to include their more special dishes, and if you call and ask, they’ll usually let you take away (or deliver to your doorstep) most anything from their regular menu.
Since it’s a Monday night and we all had to go to work the next day we figured we should probably stay away from the really spicy dishes, if you catch my drift. Here, too, they indicate heat level with peppers (zero to three). In the past we’ve had the beef with needle mushrooms and the beef in chili oil, both are very spicy but full of flavor. You should end your meal with it though because you won’t be able to taste the rest of your dishes if you start with it.
This evening we ordered seven dishes. Sorry for the ugly pictures but everyone, including yours truly, started eating before I could take any! The beef in black pepper was good, the meat was tender and the black peppers gave a bit of heat. The five spice fried chicken was crunchy and flavorful. We had the fried chicken with Szechuan peppers a few weeks ago and the extra heat and mouth tingling sweetness of those peppers does give it another dimension, so we definitely prefer that one. We ordered the ubiquitous sweet and sour pork with its unnatural neon-orange sauce. But who cares when it tastes good and the pork is fried crispy? That’s right, no one cares. The last meat dish was the kong bao (or gong bao, kung pao) shrimp with fried chilies. Sweet, spicy, salty goodness, and the kongbao tofu, which we’ve had in the past, is just as good if you’re looking for a vegetarian option. Though you’re seriously on the wrong blog if you’re looking for vegetarian options…
We did, of course, order vegetables. We tried the fried Japanese tofu, which is an extremely delicate silken tofu. If you squeeze your chopsticks too hard the tofu will fall apart, so be gentle. We also ordered the fried green beans, which are served still crunchy and with lots of garlic. The last vegetable dish was the eggplant in Yuxiang sauce. What’s that? Well let me, with a little help from my friend Wikipedia, tell you. Yuxiang literally means “fish fragrance” but contains no seafood and is not typically used in seafood. It starts with finely minced pao la jiao (fish chili), white scallion, ginger, and garlic. These are mixed in equal parts and then fried in oil until fragrant. Then water, starch, sugar and vinegar are added to create the basic sauce. In short, it is divine, and the eggplant completely soaks up the flavors of the sauce.
Their wine list is limited but much more than you will usually get at a Chinese restaurant! They seem to have been carefully selected as they go well with the food. This evening we had the Grüner Veltliner.
For those that are not used to Chinese flavors or are intimidated by trying new cuisines, try this place. It really is a very accessible Chinese restaurant with a modern interior and friendly service. The meat dishes will cost anywhere from 17-20 Euros and the vegetable dishes are 10-15. My last piece of advice is to go with a large group so you can order a bunch of different things!