Review | Tasty 68 in Damascus brings the heat, but you have to ask for it –

Review |  Tasty 68 in Damascus brings the heat, but you have to ask for it –

The menu says that Chef Jinson Xi won the Sichuan Chef Competition in 1996. He has worked at some of China’s most famous restaurants, including the historic five-star Jinjiang Hotel in Chengdu, Sichuan.

The two best pizzas in Washington are not in the restaurant. I’m on the porch.

I had no idea what that meant, but getting behind the wheel of my car and driving north through the higher parts of Montgomery County was fascinating enough. I found Tasty 68 on the corner of the mall, which also has a gun shop, CBD dispensary, state agricultural agency, saloon, and mixed martial arts studio (motto: “Leave egos and apologies at the door. “). A local water tower stands in the center and looks like a water tower. Funko Pop! The figure is painted in the colors of Damascus High School.

Tasty 68 did not return to the closed dining room, so when I first arrived my way to the main room was blocked by a couple of tables. Behind the counter, across the dining room, a woman asked me what I wanted. As my colleague Tom Sietzma might say, we need to speak “aloud”. I ordered the Chengdu fish fillet and some pancakes.

Without a table to store my groceries, I got back in the car and pulled out the steering wheel drawer to open it. In my Chengdu fish fillet, pieces of silk were stuffed into the bottom of a bowl under the forest floor made from dried Chinese pepper and pods of red and green Sichuan pepper. I had to use the empty side of the plate to make a rice and fish dish. The ivory fillet was almost creamy, coated not only with Chilean oil but also with a spicy Dubanjiang fermented bean sauce. The slippery fillet was spicy. They smelled of pine needles and green tea. Sichuan peppercorns have always calmed my palate with my sour, metallic notes.

At that moment I realized I needed to know more about Chef Xs.

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It turned out to be easier said than done. I don’t speak Chinese dialects and Xie didn’t feel comfortable enough in English to interview without an interpreter. I have prepared Mai Kuang to complete the mission. You may know her as the face of her and co-owner of the Great Wall Szechuan House on 14th Street NW, where her husband Yuan Chen is the head chef of Chengdu. Quang didn’t want me to reveal her or her husband’s story to her until the interview was over. She feared this might scare Xie.

He was sitting in the empty dining room one morning, making a figure much younger than 53 years. Tasty and slim, dressed in a Spyder fleece jacket and jeans, Xie said he opened Tasty 68 seven years ago in 2002, after immigrating from China and heading to restaurants in Maryland, West Virginia and the county. He chose Damascus as his base of operations because the rent is cheaper and the competition is not as fierce as in Washington.

It seems that Xie is not a Sichuan master chef, but he trained for more than 10 years in a hotel in Jinjiang, a historic estate known for hosting foreign dignitaries among them. Many presidents from all over the world. Lu Chaohua, one of the most respected Chinese chefs, took Xi out of the dark and hired him in the kitchens of Jinjiang, teaching the young chef everything he knew. It was his ten-year apprenticeship that made Xie a leader.

The best way to use Xie’s experience is to order from the “Private Cook” and “Classic Chengdu Cuisine” menu sections. I ate most, if not all, of the dishes in this food category and found myself very happy: basic lamb, with a delicate but milder seasoning than the pie-like preparations found elsewhere; Chengdu spiced chicken, whose heat is secondary to the delicious burns left in a hot pan, these bread cakes are a reaction reaction known as “wow”; Spicy crunchy fish, minced and fried vial fillet, its heat releases auxiliary steam, a garlic flavor that enhances every bite.

But I also tried enough food to notice the pattern: Sichuan dishes rare in Malada, the famous lethargic and spicy properties of the kitchen, even La, the typical warmth of provincial cuisine. I ordered a mapo tofu where the Chilean oil was missing the expected fireworks. I tried a double cooked pork dish where the pork belly was cooked with peppers and not long chilli. The Chengdu Squid with Cayenne Salt and Chilli – a name that telegraphed its intent – also slowly intensified the heat instead of flying through my heart after biting into it.

During our conversation, I asked Xi about his approach to Sichuan food in Damascus. I was wondering if it would be easier for those unfamiliar with cooking and if she would book real fireworks for the Chinese American consumers who go to Tasty 68. She assured me that she prepared her signature dishes at the the same way for everyone. However, I later spoke to an employee and he told me that locals usually eat General Toss Chicken, Orange Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, and other Chinese-American dishes.

Which got me thinking of an alternate theory: Khie more or less punches all over the board, serving the community for which she has unconsciously raised the flag? I can’t answer, but I know a way to use Xie’s abilities. Ask the kitchen to prepare your Sichuan dishes with extra spices. Or better yet, don’t pre-order and just talk to the staff behind the counter. Tell them you want real Sichuan food prepared by Qingdu Zi.

I did it in just one afternoon at Tasty 68. I was rewarded with a mapo tofu that knew Mala’s lip language. But the real treat was my order of diced fish in a spicy sauce. Bottle fillet soaked in dark paste, unhealthy amount of chili, Sichuan peppercorns, fermented beans, etc. Two bites and I began to feel: the cold heat burned in my head like a stove, the acid electricity of the Sichuan pepper came from my chin.

it was like this. So I drove to Damascus for an hour.

26131 Ridge Road, Damascus, Md .; 301-391-6138 or 301-391-6139;

watches: Monday to Saturday 11:00 – 21:00; Until 9:30 pm on Sunday afternoon.

Prices: $ 1 to $ 19.99 for all menu items.

Source: Washington Post