Review: Sichuan Bistro

Whenever I’ve discussed authentic Chinese food– not the Americanized stuff that 90% of local restaurants produce– the universal response has been: “Go to Sichuan Bistro”– yet I never had.  When I discovered that it was but a few minutes from my office I felt pretty stupid– this supposedly great place is so darn close?  When a coworker, Ann, suggested we do a group trip– I jumped on it.  Ann assured me that this was the most authentic food in the city.  I trusted her opinion.

Sichuan Bistro is, like many good restaurants in Mason, located in a strip mall.  It’s pretty unassuming– you’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it– and seats about 30.  Their lunch rush is crowded with folks bearing P&G tags (their office is down the street), and from many different international communities, based on the number of languages we heard as we sat down.

There are two menus for luncIMG_0575h and dinner– one Americanized, one traditional Chinese.  We took both, and between the five of us, got dishes from both menus.  Ann got the special, which was diced fish with vegetables.  I had a spoonful– it was amazing– lots of very distinct, fresh flavors and textural contrasts– sweet, still firm corn, soft fish that had an almost buttery flavor, and just a hint of heat.   I think many Americans forget that Chinese food is not the syrupy, salty stuff they get from most take-out joints.  This dish, I think, is so symbolic of authentic Chinese cooking– simple ingredients prepared in a way the brings out complex flavors.

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A vegetarian in the group got a soup, based on vegetable broth, pea pods, mushrooms, and bok choy.  I had a spoonful of this, too– it was as bright and colorful tasting as it was in the bowl– very good and light.

IMG_0573I rounded out the trio of traditional dishes with a hot tofu dish.  I asked for it to be moderate heat– and it was really, really spicy, but again– simple.  Tofu, garlic and tomato– it was delicious (even if it burned my lips.

The surprising thing– well, it shouldn’t have been surprising, after eating the traditional dishes– was that their Americanized food was good, and not prepared in the sugary, salty, greasy way so many Americanized IMG_0574dishes are made.   Two people got combination lo mein– and though it was heavily doused with soy, the dish was not sitting in a pool of grease like so many lo mein dishes can.  The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the bite of pork I got was quite well seasoned.

Another friend got the General Tso’s chicken, which, while fried, did not have the sticky-sweet sauce of most places; it was a lot lighter and had more vinegar tang.  It’s one of the best General Tso’s I’ve had.

If you haven’t been– go.  It’s easily the best Chinese experience– authentic or Americanized– I’ve had in Cincinnati, and I can’t wait to go again.

Sichuan Bistro on Urbanspoon

  • Joshua Joseph

    You have to try the Dry Rubbed Chili Chicken, spicy eggplant and the Sizzling Beef. These dishes are amazing.

  • Deepak Kumar

    I’m so glad you liked it. This restaurant has been my wife’s and my favorite restaurant since our first visit over a year ago. We go there almost every other week. If you love hot and spicy food, try dry red chilli chicken and jalapeno pepper chicken :).

  • http://www.foodstuffsnati.blogspot.com/ Sara

    Love Sichuan Bistro! We were just there over the weekend for dinner, in fact. I second the recommendation for the spicy eggplant and whole-heartedly recommend any of the “(Protein) with Soft Tofu” – it’s served as a large bowl, we’ve had either fish or beef, with soup-like sauce that makes the dish almost like a cross between soup and stew. The soft tofu is a nice contrast with the protein both taste and consistency-wise. But hang on to your hat – it is very spicy! The heat is slightly tempered by the massive pile of cilantro served on top, but it can be a lot of heat. Chris swore his tastebuds went a little crazy for part of the dinner, though mid-way through, he claimed they changed back. Taste-bud changing or not, this place is incredibly good.
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Nicola’s, Over the Rhine =-.

  • http://www.winethink.net Burke Morton

    I agree that the red dry chili chicken is incredible, but you should also try the tea-smoked duck. And one they’re famous for is the sizzling beef…though I can’t remember if that’s what it is called. If there’s more than one in the dining room, they prop open the front door to vent the place…it’s seriously spicy, but the Sichuan peppercorns–those are the taste bud changers–have a weird kind of spiciness that has a cooling, numbing effect. And, the baby bok choy…well, it just may leave you speechless.

    Though I haven’t been in a few months, I have been for both lunch and dinner, and I found dinner to be the most rewarding experience (though they close rather early), especially if you go with at least four and eat family-style. They bring the food out in the order it would traditionally be served (were you in China), and the pace of the meal is managed as well as any fine dining restaurant could do it (only faster, of course).

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I LOVE tea-smoked duck. I will definitely, definitely try that. Thank you for the tip!

  • http://www.cincinnatibites.com/ CIncinnati Bites

    Oh, man, we gotta try this place! I keep hearing about it. A Twitterer known as “ChiefHDB” recommended the following off the traditional menu: potatoes with green peppers, enoki mushroom salad, spicy boiled fish, chongqing chicken, shrimp with walnuts, double cooked pork and sesame noodles.

    One of your entrees looks a lot like Ma Po Tofu. That’s my favorite tofu dish! :)
    .-= CIncinnati Bites´s last blog ..Restaurant Review: Taqueria Mercado =-.

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  • Robert

    Dry Rubbed Chili Chicken I second or third :) Just awesome. there is also a fish version of the dish. Having been to china this better some of the food I had there. So happy to get a truly awesome chinese resturant here!

  • ChiefHDB

    Hey, thanks for the shoutout Cincinnati Bites. I was in town last week and of course we had to hit up Sichuan Bistro. I definitely second the recommendations for the dry rubbed chicken, they are the best spicy chicken nuggets covered in chilis. I really recommend that you order off the Sichuan menu, although like you said, the Americanized Chinese food is better than it has any right to be. I also tried the spicy eggplant dish this time too, very good for any eggplant fans. Honestly, Sichuan cuisine has a way with vegetable dishes that is unlike any other. I could go there and just order vegetable dishes and be content.

    http://www.lawandfood.blogspot.com

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      Yes! Sichuan cuisine makes me want to be a vegetarian (won’t happen, but..). Great stuff. Hope you’ll keep reading, ChiefHDB!