"This place would kill downtown," said Nick, the obstreperous bartender with whom I regularly share review meals. He'd turned me on to Szechuan Chef, the fairly recent addition to the Water Tower building in John's Landing, and we were sharing a table of Chong Qing chicken, xiao long bao, hand-shaven noodles, and cumin lamb. It was bold food, with layers of flavor and texture, and despite Szechuan cuisine's reputation for being VERY SPICY YOU SURE YOU LIKE?, the heat did just what it was supposed to: a bit of numbing, a bit of flush, a bit of high. I don't even think I broke a sweat, although you certainly can if you make sure the kitchen knows you want it hot. After a few post-review visits on my own dime, I fully stand by my assertion that this is one of the best, if not the best, Chinese restaurants in Portland. From the fresh, house-made chili paste and black vinegar on the condiment tray, on through to the roster of unusual dishes and live crab wells, it's served quickly in a clean, upscale dining room.
More food shots after the jump.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!