On My Plate: Spices II

by thedishandthedirt on April 3, 2012

Having just been to Mission Chinese Food (MCF) the week earlier, I had a hankering for some seriously spicy food.  When I’m in the ‘I’m not playin” mood when it comes to spicy, I always hit the appropriately named restaurant “Spices” located in the Inner Richmond.  Or in my case, Spices II, because it’s a block closer and the menu is actually a bit different.

Tonight, I wanted to so a side by side (almost) comparison of the Sichuan wings I had at MCF, and the (basically) same dish at Spices II.  Of course, we ordered more than just that, which reminded that me that Spices II was worth a mention here on D&D for anyone who can stand the heat and stay in the kitchen.

This is the spicy chicken wings.  Whereas MCF does their chicken wing style, the chicken here is cut up in small pieces, which is a more traditional preparation.  It’s not really fair to compare really.  MCF doesn’t proclaim to be authentic Chinese, so much as seriously inspired by Chinese cuisine and utilizing outstanding ingredients.  Now, I can’t attest to the quality of the chicken at Spices II (you can imagine they might not be free range), but the spicy chicken wings are quite good.  Although lacking a bit of salt, I found the chicken to be deliciously hot.  The diced peppers (another difference to Mission Chinese Food, which left them whole) brings the heat of the dish up a few notches, as specks of chili pepper seeds are everywhere and it’d take an hour to de-seed your chicken.   We also ended up getting the mapo tofu, which we also ordered at MCF.  Whereas MCF goes heavy on the cumin, Spices II goes heavy on the chili oil.  As you can see, we did takeout.  But note the ring of chili oil rimming the container.  That’s heart attack stuff there, folks.We ordered basically a pan fried chow mein equivalent for the kids.  Meh.  They use those really fat noodles for their chow mein, and I much prefer the thin noodles.  But what did I expect?  They call themselves Spices, not Chow Mein Kings.  Can’t think a neutral dish is going to overwhelm me.And yet somehow we ordered another noodle dish.  I think we had some confusion here, trying to order the spicy Mandarin noodle and ended up with this.  Definitely not spicy.  So word to the wise, take a pass on the noodle dishes, unless they are of the spicy genre.

The gist about Spices II (and Spices I for that matter) is that there are some great finds on the menu, but you have to weed through some just ok dishes to get there.  If you’re able, it’s worth going for the spicy hot pot, where you can cook your own food in a broth filled to the brim with simmering red chili peppers.

Spices II on Urbanspoon

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The Dim Sum Project

by thedishandthedirt on March 27, 2012

My mom came into town and being the dutiful Chinese daughter, I made a beeline for dim sum with her.  I was hoping to capitalize on her Cantonese-speaking ability, only to be sorely disappointed when she could not identify a dumpling on the menu.  Wassup with that?!!

Nevertheless, I still allowed her to partake in the meal with me and I was even gracious enough to let her pay for the bill.  We made sure to get some of her favorites, too.  Here was the roll call:

Pork siu mai.  Not sure what happened, but that top dumpling got jacked on the roe.  It’s like the little black sheep-pig of this quartet.  Incidentally, you should know that they go heavy on the shrimp in their pork siu mai.Pan fried turnip cake.  My mom loves these and was especially fond of this version because they actually shave pieces of the turnip, so there’s some textural contrast with the otherwise creamy turnip cake.  I like mine with a really good pan fry, practically fried (shocking, I know).  The pan-fried braised tofu skin that is stuffed with shrimp.  I think I’ve only had this once before here and while I like the texture, it’s not one of my faves.Pea shoots with garlic.  Oh, how I love these.  So so so much.  I don’t know why the dish is $8 when you can buy a bushel of pea shoots at New May Wah on Clement for about 2 bucks, but I keep paying the $8.  Steamed custard buns.  These were piping hot out of the steamer and when I broke into it, a bright yolk-colored custard awaited.  I love having something sweet on a dim sum table, and this was it.  It tasted pretty damn good cold 6 hours later, too.This is one of my all-time favorites.  Cheong fun in XO sauce.  They are like chow fun noodles, but not cut up.  [Editor's note:  My good friend Christine, whose Chinese is far superior to mine, corrected me on the meaning of "cheong."  I initially thought it meant "chang" -- like "long" because the noodles are long and not cute up; instead, it's "cheong" as in "intestines."  Those good ol' Chinese!  Naming their food because it happens to look like intestines.  Gotta love 'em.  In any event, thanks for the correction, Christine, and readers, don't be afraid.  It might look like intestines, but it doesn't taste that way...although that wouldn't matter to me, because I like intestines).]  I just love the brininess the XO sauce gives, plus the preserved some-type-of-fish-or-shrimp that they add on top.  The biggest hit for me, though, is the addition of the diced red peppers to give you a nice present, but not overwhelming, heat.  This shit is goooooooood.  (And oh look, the beautiful chasiu buns make a showing, too, behind the chang fun).

Some interesting tidbits for you all.  My mom was telling me there are two ways to say thank you (both of which I knew, but didn’t know when to use them) — one is in response to unsolicited gestures and the other is typically in response to something you’ve sought or asked for (please, don’t ask me to write the words in a post, I really don’t want to bastardize the words with our alphabet).  Also, I learned that if you ask for ice water in the middle of your meal (after you’ve been drinking tea for most of the meal), your waiter might — just might — laugh at you.  You see, tea is the standard accompaniment to dim sum.  It helps cut the oiliness of the dishes and supposedly helps with digestion.  But hey, I’m cool with a 17 year old with thick rimmed glasses laughing at me asking for some water.  Sometimes you just need WATER.

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Shout Out: AQ

March 20, 2012

Uh, woops.  So, like, um, I went to AQ, this hot new restaurant.  And I went there, like, um, oh, I don’t know, maybe three months ago?  You know, when it was still new?  And then I came home, uploaded the photos and then forgot.  Until now.  When I can’t remember what I really  ate. […]

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The Dim Sum Project

March 13, 2012

So I counted.  There are 79 dishes on the menu (fyi, I’m 18 down, 61 to go!).  I’ve promised myself (and you) that I would try each and every one.  I’m not sure why, but dishes like “pig liver noodle roll” and “garlic soya duck jaw” are not helping the cause.  Never mind the other […]

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Shout Out: My Tofu House

March 6, 2012

When it’s unreasonably cold outside, I like to comfort myself with a cauldron of boiling hot, spicy, kim chee-laden tofu.  Soondubu chigae, my friends.  If you don’t know what it is, meet your new cold weather bestie.  It’s basically a Korean soft tofu stew that can include bits of meat, clams, oysters, mushrooms, onions, scallions, […]

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Mission Chinese Food

March 5, 2012

Well, I finally did it.  I went to Mission Chinese Food.  Everyone fucking loves it there (sorry, it deserved the F bomb).  I’m not going to bore many of you, since you are likely already familar with the story (for those of you who aren’t, you can 1), buy their book — yes, that’s how […]

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Shout Out: Attic (San Mateo)

February 28, 2012

Please tell me where you get good Filipino food in this city, and not from a truck.  Hey, I love Hapa SF and Señor Sisig, too, but sometimes I want to park my ass down to eat some lechon.  Well, gratefully, a mini high school reunion forced me to venture outside of the city and […]

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The Dim Sum Project

February 27, 2012

Welcome to a brand new segment of The Dish & The Dirt!  Shockingly, aside from the dining out that I post about here, I actually still eat out elsewhere.  Usually, the places I don’t post about are my actual favorites — places I go to so often that it doesn’t even make sense to have […]

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Snacktime: Yogorino

February 14, 2012

I’m just a sucker for anything that remotely tastes like ice cream but doesn’t have the same fat content.  (I’m also just a sucker for ice cream.)  Over the years, I’ve developed a taste for frozen yogurt.  Initially, it started with the corner mart in Cow Hollow on Fillmore and Union (you know which one […]

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Revisit: SPQR

February 9, 2012

One of the most difficult things about loving all things food is that you always want to try something new and here in San Francisco, there always seems to be something new to try.  This creates sort of an ADD eating effect on me.  I’m always looking around, spying a new place, longing for a […]

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