Rumor has it that the head chef of How Lee has gone to China Star/Sichuan Gourmet, so I decided to give this place a try to see if things have really changed. I don’t come here often. When I do, however, I remember that I am always happy during the meal, but not quite so satisfied when we leave. I suspect it was because the food here isn’t actually that good, but I don’t remember. Anyway, a group of us, not knowing where to eat (typical us) ended up in How Lee’s (typical us).
Also, funnily enough, whenever we go to a Chinese restaurant, somehow I am unanimously assumed to be the person to order dishes, or maybe its some secret scheme to make me look bad when I order a really crappy dish? Haha, who knows, but I ordered stir fry grean beans, mapo tofu, Chen Du spicy chicken, and salt stir-fried pork.
So this dish has another variation, called Chongqing spicy chicken(重慶辣子雞) which is breaded, while this one isn’t. This is one of my favorite dishes of Sichuan cuisine. The chicken pieces, although small, were very tender and juicy. The seasoning was good, and I love those sichuan dried peppers. I think this is a must-order (breaded version or not) if you go to How Lee’s.
How Lee’s must have updated their menu since their head chef left, but I forget what this dish is called. 鹽煎肉? I remember something about salt stir fried meat (pork?). But anyway, this dish wasn’t that spicy, but they clearly got the salty part down. However, the meat was a little tough, and the whole dish was rather greasy, typical of Chinese food. I would possibly get it again, only for the price though (under 10 dollars I remember).
Now this dish has traveled far and wide, making new homes in Taiwan and Japan and so on and so forth. Now I don’t mind different regional variations, but when I go to a Sichuan restaurant, I want the traditional Mapo Tofu. Sadly, I don’t believe this is what the dish is supposed to taste like. Its very bland, despite it sitting in hot chili oil. Also, it has a hint of Sichuan peppercorns, which has the iconic numbing sensation, but I wish they had put more. I swear to god most the stuff on top is just black pepper, ground. Its not spicy nor is it numbing. Its just… greasy.
Here is probably the most disappointing dish of all, the stir fry green beans. How can a restaurant go wrong with such a simple dish!? Seriously. The green beans had a horrible texture. The skin was tough and leathery (in a bad way), and it felt like it was severely detached from the insides as well. It was stringy too, and overall this is just not what I expect from string beans. As my friend pointed out, it tasted like they used frozen green beans, which is sad because they really are not that expensive to buy in Pittsburgh. My friend also pointed out that there were a lot of burnt pieces, as if the cook had not heated enough oil in the wok, threw in the beans, realized they were burning and then threw in some more cold oil. While all of this is just speculation, I still insist that they ruined an easy dish which is disappointing.
Anyway, so this visit has verified my previous intuitions about this place: not so great, and probably not really worth your money. I would say go to China Star/Sichuan Gourmet instead. Although not everything there is perfect/amazing, they have a bigger variety of food to choose from, and I have had some good Chinese food there before.