Tongue Tingler in Chinatown

MC Golfer called Pdho up and invited us to join him for dinner at Z and Y Restaurant. It gets consistently mentioned as one of the better of the bunch in Chinatown which really are quite far and few. The cuisine is mainly Szechuan which essentially means that much of the menu is likely to be explosively spicy. As anyone who has eaten with MC Golfer knows, you leave the ordering to him and you’re pretty ensured to be full and eat well.

Bittermelon with Honey
Bittermelon with Honey

This bittermelon dish was too literally too bitter for my liking. Slices of bittermelon were served on a bed of ice and drizzled with honey (I assume to help mask the bitterness.) Unfortunately, it did nothing for me, and after the first bite, I decided to leave this for the rest of the table to enjoy.

Cucumbers
Cucumbers

The Cucumbers were pickled and spiced. It was pretty typical of similar preparations of this same dish I’ve had before, but it really offered a refreshing balance to the meal.

Dry Sauteed String Beans
Dry Sauteed String Beans

The flavor of this dish was good, but it failed because the string beans were old. It was admittedly very disappointing, but I can only imagine that it was a bad batch of string beans.  I’ll try not to judge them too harshly based on this dish alone.

Spicy Numbing Beef Tendon
Spicy Numbing Beef Tendon

The dish looks (being doused in a fiery red sauce) and sounds (based on having numbing in the name) extremely spicy, but it really wasn’t too bad.  It was pretty oily and slightly tingly to the taste buds, but I actually liked this dish quite a bit.  The cucumbers were necessary to help lighten up the flavors, but the beef tendon itself was really quite delicious.

Spicy Fish with Flaming Chili Oil
Spicy Fish with Flaming Chili Oil

MC Golfer kept saying that this dish wasn’t really spicy as the waitress was scooping out several ladles of chili peppers from the pot. I think the soup was cooked with the chili peppers to infuse the spiciness into the broth and the fish that was cooked in it. I’m not sure what kind of fish it was, but it was nice and firm with just enough oil content to not be dry. There was a subtle smokiness to the fish that I can only assume was imparted by the chili broth, and although I ate a lot of it, it was burning my tongue from the first bite.

Spicy Crab
Spicy Crab

MC Golfer really raved about this crab saying it was the best preparation he’s had. I don’t deny that the crab was good, but I can’t say I had the same glowing reviews. In all honesty, it might have been because my tongue was pretty numb by this point that it was hard to discern any other flavor to warrant a better taste from the crab.

Braised Pork Belly
Braised Pork Belly

The Braised Pork Belly was rich and fatty as expected. The pork was tender and the sauce was pretty hearty and flavorful. It was one of the few dishes of the meal that wasn’t hot and thankfully, it helped to even out the flavor profile of the meal.

Fried Rice with Ham & Pickled Green Beans
Fried Rice with Ham & Pickled Green Beans

This was probably the most interesting version of fried rice I’ve ever had because it was prepared with pickled green beans and ham. It was a nice palate cleanser for the spiciness flooding my taste buds from the other dishes, but the tanginess from the greens beans took my taste buds in an unexpected direction. Definitely a unique taste I’m not sure I’ve fully committed to liking or disliking yet.

I was far from stuffed by the end of the meal (which is often the case when you eat with MC Golfer), but I have a lot of mixed feelings about the meal. There were some definite dishes I liked and would recommend (Spicy Numbing Beef Tendon, Spicy Fish and Fried Rice), others which were just okay (Cucumbers and Spicy Crab), and the rest which could have been left to be forgotten. All in all, I would consider coming back (even though the restaurant is pretty small and there always tends to be a wait), but I would be curious to order some of the dishes which might be considered more main stream. MC Golfer commented that as a result of the web (I assume mainly Yelp), everyone comes here and orders the same thing. I’m not sure what that is, but I am assuming it probably wasn’t a lot of what we had for the meal. A quick perusal of the Yelp reviews tells me that the Chicken with Explosive Chili Peppers might be something I should try next time.

Z&Y
655 Jackson St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

PAFO Ratings for Z&Y:
Price $$½
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars

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