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.
See also: - The 100 Favorite Dishes of 2013 archive - Denver's ten best Chinese restaurants - Super Star Asian's Dean Huang on the city's best Chinese restaurant
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:
No. 100: Foie gras oysters from Sushi Sasa No. 99: Porchetta from Parisi No. 98: chocolate caramel sea salt tart from Spuntino No. 97: Nachos from the Pioneer No. 96: Fried pickles from TAG Burger Bar No. 95: Breakfast burrito from Jalapeños Mexican restaurant No. 94: Jajangmyeon from Yong Gung Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant No 93: French fries from Jonesy's EatBar No. 92: Fried rice from Benihana No. 91: Lobster macaroni and cheese from Mizuna