They say the first step to fixing your problems is to admitting you have them right? Well, I am a spicy food addict. I guess it's some sort of masochism, but I really enjoy torturing my taste buds with the sharp unrelenting stinging pain of capsaicin. I like sitting there without drinking water, squirming helplessly with my best "holy crap gotta take a shit this is painful" face. I'm not sure why. I realize in a lot of cases something that is overly spicy just masks the true flavor, but that's not what I'm talking about. I want something that builds in intensity because of my refusal to drink water. Do I regret it several hours later when that same "heat" reappears in the bathroom? Maybe. Is it worth it for that first pass from the top? Hell yeah.
I've been told E Mei is authentic Szechuan. I do not know. Like I said in a previous post, I don't actually know shit about Szechuan food... so I don't know what "authentically good" Szechuan food tastes like, but this was on the recommendation of another Asian, so I went. The 擔擔麵 (dan dan noodles) were decently good. Lots and lots of what seemed like refried ground pork bits were doused in a not-so-spicy sauce and lined with two sprigs of greens (so it looks healthier than it actually is). The presence of chili seeds and peppercorns was definitely there, but they played a much more aromatic role than a spicy one. Greasy and mild, the noodles were easy to stomach... that's about all there is to say. They're not worth trampling young children for, but they're worth ordering.
I'm sure some people are going to have ethical issues with me eating rabbit. "How can you eat them? They're so cute, fluffy, and innocent!" or "That's disgusting, rabbits aren't meant to be food!" Listen, if something tastes good, I don't really care how cute or revolting it might be. It's going into my mouth. I mean... if it's good enough for Kim Jong Il, then it's good enough for me. If you've never had rabbit, it's like chicken... but better. How can I qualify that statement when fried chicken is pretty much the greatest thing since... uh... non-fried chicken? Because texturally, rabbit is superior. Flavorwise, plain rabbit is as boring as plain white chicken breast, but texturally it's more resilient, more sinewy, and gamier. It's in general... springier? When tossed with a thin coating of chili oil and stir fried with peanuts and peppercorns you get a dish that starts off mild but builds into something that is fantastically spicy. After a few bites you'll still be tasting the flavor of the meat and smelling the peanut scent, but your mouth'll be begging for forgiveness. Screw that, the only respite my mouth got was when I had to spit out the occasional bone. Someone needs to breed a rabbit without bones. "Amorphous delicious eating rabbit" I shall call it.
These 紅油抄手 (hong you chao shou) tasted kind of like the ones they have in Taiwan - and I like those. Kind of thickly skinned, they're just plain ol' wontons sitting in a pool of fiery yet sweet chili sauce. Complete with small islands of chili seeds floating around inside! In this case, the fact that this dish is good doesn't hinge upon the requirement of having kick ass wontons, but rather that the flavor profile of the sauce doesn't overwhelm it. Having shoved my mouth full of spicy rabbit beforehand, pretty much everything would've tasted mild, so... I honestly can't really can't remember if these tasted good or not. I'm gonna say... probably?
That said, I'm not infatuated with E Mei (aside from the rabbit... goddamn that was good). It's not that they don't do a great job cooking all their shit, I guess it's just not my style of food. I can appreciate the use of peppercorns as an aromatic element, but everything kind of ended up tasting similar because of it. I guess that should be expected. Anyway, E Mei is a good enough restaurant if you're a fan of the genre, but I think I'll stick to the more familiar in the future. Unless I want rabbit, in which case I'd go back.