Originally known as Frice (and reviewed under Frice on Yelp), the restaurant has adopted a curiously new name: Bashu Impression Szechuan Restaurant. Along with the upgrade comes a change of interior, menu and style as well, adding flair to the lonely-looking restaurant located at the far corner of the University Village where Chase and an optometrist are located.
Upon our arrival, a waitress hesitantly headed over to us and directed us to a table by the wall and we took our seats, ready to have our appetites satisfied and mouths burned. The interior was definitely new, with clean grey wallpaper decorated with Chinese characters, a wood-crafted wall sculpture of a pheonix and displays of tiny ceramic vases. As we browsed through the colorful and elaborate menu, we noticed that almost every food item had a corresponding picture which was extremely helpful (if you’ve ever been to a new restaurant with no pictures of food and tried to order something without taking a leap of faith, then you know the struggle).
Advertising as authentic Szechuan food, 90 percent of Bashu’s menu features spicy dishes, primarily using a type of numbing spice (in Chinese it’s pronounced ma-la) and ranging from typical sauteed vegetables and meats to stranger items such as bullfrog, intestines, pig feet and gizzards. With every page I flipped through and every chili pepper-adorned picture I looked past, I felt more and more nervous. I knew that I’m not the best at handling spicy foods beyond a mild to medium range and every dish looked like a frightful “extra spicy” to me.
Upon my friends Cody and Vincent’s recommendations, we ordered the special sliced beef in hot chili oil, house special roast fish, dan dan noodle and szechuan dry fried green beans. To our disappointment, the waitress interrupted us to point out that they were out of the roast fish, and pretty much every other seafood item that we tried to replace the dish with. In the end we settled on kung pao chicken despite our craving for seafood along with our one dollar-per-serving rice.
“Oh, check it out! There’s a Yelp promotion available for a free drink with a check-in!” exclaimed my friend Vicky as we excitedly scrolled through pictures of milk teas and smoothies on Yelp. To our dismay once again, the waitress hurriedly informed us that they didn’t have any drinks available aside from buying a can of soda for a couple of cents (it was unclear whether or not she said 14 or 40 and to be honest it didn’t matter anyway).
The green beans arrived first, as the waitress set the plate down in the least gentle way possible. Shortly after, she arrived once again with a giant square-shaped bowl of the sliced beef bathed in a chili oil soup, kung pao chicken and the dan dan noodle in a black bowl. The combination of the aromas was overwhelming and we grew anxious as Vincent began taking pictures of the dishes.
Finally, we dug into the dishes, generously scooping our portions onto our plates. Not wanting to start my meal off with a numb mouth, I tried the green beans first. It was slightly drier (and wrinkly-looking) than expected despite the oiliness, but the flavor was well balanced with saltiness and a hint of chili from the small peppers. Little did I know this would be the least spicy dish of my meal here at Bashu.
I took a deep breath to prepare myself for the spiciest-looking dish on the table: the sliced beef in chili oil. As I fished around the giant bowl for pieces of beef, the sharp smell of chili filled my nostrils and my curiosity grew. Dripping with oil and glistening under the warm light of the restaurant, the slice of beef felt tender in the grip of my chopsticks. Although it tasted a little too oily for me, it was delicious. To my surprise (and delight), the beef wasn’t as pungent in flavor or as spicy as I had expected.
In comparison, the dan dan noodle seemed bland and although the spicy peanut sauce was good, eating it along with other flavorful dishes didn’t seem to do it justice. On the other hand, the kung pao chicken was bursting with flavor, matching the other dishes that accompanied the meal. Biting into a piece of chicken, I noticed that instead of being traditionally sauteed, Bashu’s chefs had chosen to fry the chicken, giving it an extra crunch which I enjoyed.
By the end of the meal, my tongue was at a tolerable level of numbness and my stomach was stuffed. I would definitely recommend eating every dish with rice (since they’re all pretty flavorful) — only if you don’t mind paying a dollar per serving for the rice though. Otherwise, a big glass of water could still do the trick. Overall, I enjoyed every dish we ordered, and I’m more than glad that I was able to handle the level of spiciness — so if you’re like me and not extremely accustomed to spice, don’t be intimidated by the pictures but still order with caution.