Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
One point that is not made enough about Sichuanese cuisine is its great diversity. Traveling around the province, specialty dishes seem to pop up as often as town names, so that the food they eat in say, Zigong, is significantly different from that in Chengdu. So it is with Yibin, a city four hours south of Chengdu, whose signatures: spicy, fire noodles and twice-cooked eggplant will enlighten the palate of those who visit the newly opened Taste of Yibin.
Located not far from the south gate of Sichuan University and Café Paname, Taste of Yibin covers two stories, with ample roundtable space to accommodate large parties and square tables for smaller groups. It’s a simple, clean affair, with little in the way of adornments or pretension. The service, led by an extremely generous young boss, is friendly and attentive, though those whose 中文 is lacking may want to bring a phrasebook. For those coming by at lunch, there’s a lively, quintessentially “Chengdu” neighborhood park just next to the restaurant. So, assuming you’re unemployed, it’s a great place waste a day.
Yibin is famous for its fire noodles (“yibin ran mian” 4-6RMB), and Taste of Yibin’s are fine examples: finely sliced pickled radish, ground peanuts and (optional) peppers are mixed into dry wheat noodles, and the combined punch and crunch left our large party swooning with approval. Similarly well-received was the twice-cooked eggplant (“chuai qiezi” 10RMB) is Yibin’s answer to fish-fragrant style cooking, but it possesses a subtler, less sweet, spicier character. Also recommended are the cold meats (“yan na pingpan” 18-32RMB) and crayfish (“baishui long xia” 18-28RMB), which were very tender, as well as the sweet and chewy funnel cake-like showstopper that may be the restaurant’s best dish (“fengwo tudou” 18RMB). The meatball and tofu skin soup was filling and lightly flavored. Another Yibin specialty, bitter bamboo (“qinqiao kusun” 10RMB), was more of an acquired taste, but certainly worth a try.
Cold beer is available, as are boiled peanuts and edamame. Prices are excellent. Expect to pay less than 25RMB each for a thoroughly satisfying meal.