The new string of red lanterns outside Cary’s new Szechuan Taste might woo you inside like a qipao-costumed concubine, and that might be alright if you like like Szechuan (or Sichuan as I like to spell it) food. Sichuan fare isn’t for the faint of heart–or tongue–for that matter, and if you don’t like the fragrant, numbing and spicy Sichuan peppercorn that many of the cuisine’s dishes centers around, well, you will be out of luck.
On a Saturday evening, it’s clear that the surrounding Chinese community has found, and enthusiastically embraced, Szechuan Taste. Every table inside is occupied by Chinese families, with cacophonous conversations in Cantonese and Mandarin rolling through the oblong restaurant space. By catering to authentic Chinese tastes, Szechuan Taste has seemingly filled a void that 35 Chinese left after two decades in business when it left its space on Kildaire Farm Road in Cary. And, instead of opening in another non-descript strip mall, like Cary’s nearby Super Wok and Taipei 101, it has opened in a rather nice and more modern and spacious standalone building in the Wellington Park shopping center that used to house both now-defunct Asian eateries Maru and Green Papaya.
An order of the beef tripe and shank might look tepid as an appetizer to what’s to come, except that it’s submerged in a pool of chili oil. Yes, the slices of the chilled beef are clumsily sliced, and the presentation is less than appealing, but it does the trick–it starts to numb your tongue and your nose starts to drip as you nibble along the chewy and fatty edges. The self-flagellating process begins.
You might be done for after the mapo tofu if you can’t handle spicy foods. It’s a fiery red, unrefined vat of diced tofu, swirled with a fermented bean paste, and studded liberally with, yes, more sichuan peppercorns. After lamenting that they use soft tofu, instead of silky, you might trudge on anyway, sopping up the blistering little bits of the traditional Sichuan dish with bites of the cooling, steamed jasmine rice. After consecutive bites, you might be lulled into a state of delirium much like Anthony Bourdain’s celebrity French chef and friend Eric Ripert did on a recent episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown where the duo ventured out to the Sichuan province of China.
For a taste at Szechuan Taste, you’ll have to pay a higher price. The menu items seem to be on average, $1-$2 more elevated than other Chinese restaurants in the near vicinity that cater to more authentic Chinese palates. Though, those who find a perverse sadomasochistic pleasure in punishing themselves through eating spicy food probably won’t mind. And, for those people, just look for the red lanterns raised outside.
SZECHUAN TASTE | 6404 Tryon Road Cary NC 27518 | 919.706.5862