Nothing hints at noshing excitement like an alternate, more authentic menu. It’s the culinary equivalent of the hidden track from pre-MP3 days. On a recent trip to Sichuan Chili—tucked into a tiny strip mall catty-corner from the Cincinnati Asian Market—I bullied my companions into sampling the unknown. We started with the tender and flaky scallion pancake and the carrot-and-cabbage-studded spring rolls, augmented by a syrupy sweet duck sauce. In search of a foodie first, we ordered the jellyfish and cucumber salad. Salt-cured and dried (resembling glass noodles) the jellyfish are rehydrated before being combined with scallion, cucumber, and sesame oil. The result: a cold, light salad anchored by the deep nuttiness of toasted sesame. The tea smoked duck, served bone-in, hit the sweet spot of crispy skin, fork-tender meat, and just the right touch of smoke, while the spicy Sichuan fish illustrated the power of Sichuan chili oil to illuminate an underwhelming fish (tilapia) and buoy braised shards of celery, carrot, and zucchini. The egg noodles with spicy mustard greens and pork arrived swimming in a rich umami broth. We ate our fill and still took home more than a quart of leftovers.
Sichuan Chili, 10400 Reading Rd., Evendale, (513) 376-7223
Originally published in the June 2014 issue.