100 Favorite Dishes: Schezuan beef in numbing chile oil from Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine
Suffice it to say that I eat out more than the general population, unless, of course, the general population can catalogue more than 450 restaurant meals in a year -- which is about the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners that I stomached in 2012. Pathetic, isn't it? But all those food dates are worth the gluttony, because it allows us to tell you where you should eat, a little favor that we started in late 2009, when we embarked on a culinary journey that took us through our favorite dishes in the Mile High City -- 100, to be exact. Now we're back with round three, counting down (in no particular order) 100 more of our favorite dishes in Denver (and Boulder). If there's something in particular that you think we need to try, reveal it in the comments section below, or shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
No. 90: Schezuan beef in numbing chile oil from Chef Liu's
Chinese menus are notoriously overwhelming, what with page after page after page of dishes, descriptions and glamorized photos depicting what your dish will allegedly look like once it arrives at your table. More often that not, the snap on the menu bears little resemblance to what actually appears on your plate, and the superlatives -- yummy! delicious! exotic! spicy! -- that menu writers toss in as descriptors are notoriously off-base, too. Unless, that is, you're eating at Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine, in which case, pay attention, because the Schezuan cuisine that emerges from this kitchen doesn't need adjectives, photos or superfluous staff praise to ballyhoo its attributes: The food proves its virtuosity all by itself.
I love this restaurant -- the affable staff, the boisterous groups of Chinese-speaking patrons communing around large, round tables inundated with all sorts of foodstuffs that I don't recognize and can't pronounce, but most of all, I love the Schezuan beef in numbing oil, a mammoth bowl, nearly too heavy to lift, that's stained crimson by the oil from too many chiles to count and bushwacked with dozens and dozens of Schezuan peppercorns, enough, it should be said, to numb the lips, tongue and gums of any living creature for a magically long spell. And, yet, somewhat mysteriously, the soup, bobbing with thin shards of beef and scaled with a forest of glistening cilantro leaves, is absolutely everything you want when it comes to a magnificent flavor combustion: tingly, volatile, slightly bitter, salty, and there's even a tease of sweetness, although from what, I have no idea. But this is the kind of dish that I lust for, a basin of intrigue that makes me just want to shut up and eat.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2013 countdown are linked below:
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.