This week, I bring you yet another break from our regularly scheduled program… whoops. I’ve been neck-deep in grad school applications all week. After I finalized and submitted my very first one (woo!), I was craving some Chinese food on that cold, cold Saturday night. I truly did scour the internet for a Black-owned Chinese restaurant in Rochester, but I could not find a single one. If anyone happens to know of one, let me know.
Anywho — Szechuan Opera! I’ve had food from Szechuan Opera maybe twice before this occasion and, oh my goodness, it fucks, every time. (I mean that in the most elegant of ways, of course). Everything I have ever had from them has been so incredibly flavorful, balanced, and perfectly cooked. They absolutely delivered on that again this time around. This was exactly the delish Chinese meal that I was craving after my stressful week.
For our appetizer, I switched things up and tried out some dan dan noodles, which I’d never had before. They were a complex mix of nuttiness, umami, meatiness, and spice. The light meatiness came from some sparse bits of a mystery meat (I think it was beef?). It brought a nice flavor to the dish and a tiny bit of texture, so I’ll call that a win. The dan dan noodles were a great departure from my beloved go-to order of cold sesame noodles. I would order them again without question.
Next, I tried the dry pot-style tofu, which I also loved. The tofu had a light, chewy fry on the outside and was wonderfully soft and moist on the inside. All of the different vegetables (of which there was a great variety) were cooked perfectly as well. They brought many different flavors and textures to the dish. There was an overall deep, bright flavor to the sauce as well as quite a bit of heat — which seemed only mild-medium at first, but built up quite forcefully.
Our next entrée was filled with some sneaky spice. The cumin style chicken had a strong, rich flavor. It was moist, topped with tons of yummy cilantro, salted perfectly, and oh my god it was spicy like no other dish. The heat was strong right from the get-go and continued to build up progressively. This was the first time that I’ve ever felt the heat in my ears, which was a wild sensation. If you have IBS (like me), I’ll warn you that this dish hurts. But if you love heat (also like me), then it’s definitely worth it.
I also had the great pleasure of trying out some desserts! Szechuan Opera offers quite a compelling list, so it was hard to choose, but we eventually settled on a combo plate of sesame balls and pumpkin pies. The sesame balls were textbook perfect in every way. They were crisp and just lightly fried outside, rich and chewy inside, nice and hot, sweet and nutty, and really flavorful. The gummy dough, which normally is pretty plain, actually had a lot of sweetness and sesame flavor, which was really nice.
And the pumpkin pies were more like chewy pumpkin donuts than little miniature pumpkin tarts. They were slightly flattened, fried, and rolled in sugar. They were super crispy outside because of the coarse sugar, but the inside was an interesting chewy and cakey texture that felt like a cross between a chewy sesame ball and a fluffy donut. The pumpkin flavor was light but prominent, and really lovely. Much like everything else from Szechuan Opera, I’d recommend both of these desserts.
Other honorable mentions from Szechuan Opera that I’ve enjoyed in the past include but are not limited to: the lotus root, soupy style entrées, spring rolls, and all of the bubble teas (no, I have not tried literally all of their bubble teas, but based on the ones I have, I’d bet money they’re all delightful). Szechuan Opera is pricier than your typical Chinese takeout, but it truly is miles above the rest, so I’d encourage everyone to try it at least once if you can; it’s a real treat. Consider me singing for Szechuan Opera and, if you try it out, I guarantee you will be, too.