T - Express
Yesterday I met up with Aisha for a quick lunch to recap the dinner party that Andy had thrown on Saturday night. It had been such a great party that it actually inspired new in-jokes. From here on out, I say rate something on a scale of 1 - 17, every one of those in attendance are likely to say either 9 or TUNA'S! And much hilarity will ensue.
Of course, when I tried to explain it to Aisha, the whole story falls flat in one of those "Guess you had to be there..." moments - so I'll spare you. It was funny, though. ( It's a big hat. It's funny. )
We had to figure out where we were going to eat and since I was (shocker!) trying to skimp on money, I suggested the new T Express Chinese take out place. It's located in the same building as Kieran's. It would be an easy two block walk in the summer, but since yesterday's temperatures was hovering around the subarctic level, we took the sky way. The winding and turning of trying to get there shaved 20 minutes off our lunch break.
The people working there were enthusiastic and friendly, offering free samples of anything you might want to try. This meant that I, of course, had to sample everything.
The Tea House in St. Paul has been garnering top reviews from all over the place. It seems like everyone who has gone there has fallen in love with their food. Because it's all of a 10 minute drive, I haven't made it over there yet. It's because it's to the East of where I live. If I'm going in any direction, it's Westward, back to my beloved Minneapple. I hoped that their new fast food place would at least come close to the flavor experience of the real thing.
On our epic journey, ring slung around my neck as Aish urged me onward, we passed no less than a dozen Chinese places. Where have I been? I didn't know about any of them other than Ah Sa Wan, which has made me want to Ah So Die the last time I ate it. It's going to be a bit of a tough sell for these guys to make a go of it. Their location is pretty bad and the competition is fierce. The one thing they have going is that it is the only authentic Szechwan food that you can get downtown.
I sampled the Chung King chicken and it was good, but a little closer to Lee Ann Chin's Peking chicken than I would have preferred. It wasn't as good as what I had at Little Szechwan (my new standard in Szechwan and current food obsession.) There were a couple of more standard Chinese food items, chicken and mushrooms, Broccoli Beef and Kung Pao chicken. I looked over the Family Tofu, fried, brown, but somehow desolate looking. I decided to order the Spicy Beef. It was covered in peppers and looked blazing hot.
"You like spicy?" the woman behind the counter asked me.
"Yes, oh yeah."
"This really, really hot."
I smiled and nodded.
"Have you had these?" she gestured towards the wrinkled green beans.
I shook my head, "No, I haven't - I just want the one thing."
"You should try these. They're really good. Here, just have one."
Okay, okay, thrust you free food upon me. I'll take it if I have to. She was right, though. They were really, really good. Salty and garlicky. "You're right. I'll have those, too, with the steamed rice."
Aisha got the beef and broccoli. It looked too innocuous for me. That was clearly not something that she, or her coworkers would regret her ordering. Pssh - wuss!
I greedily dug in to my dish. They weren't kidding. This stuff was really spicy. My nose threatened to run. I couldn't stop, though. I scooped up another bite with a bit more white rice. It was hot, tender and flavorful. The beef was flecked with tiny studs of searing Szechwan peppers. It had been sauteed in oil with bok choy and bean sprouts. It was good and not nearly as greasy as the same dish at Little Szechwan. It seems wrong comparing the two, though. It's the same dish, but different. All in all, it was tasty, but suffered from being sold as take out. The flavor and textures made evident that this dish had been sitting on the warmer for a while. The beans, too, but the flavor was so new that I didn't even care.
They seemed to have been cooked at high heat with soy sauce, sesame seeds and lots of fried crispy garlic. The texture was still full and chewy, they weren't limp at all. Fantastic.
I inhaled almost everything before I even got Aisha past the appetizer portion of our dinner party story. I couldn't stop. Plus, I'd skipped breakfast and was pretty famished.
Also, I can never get enough of the people watching in downtown Minneapolis. One woman walks by in Louboutin boots with perfectly coiffed, edgy hair cut and then a homeless fellow in a top hat follows. There's the lady that yells out God's take on current events in the Target skyway and the guitar player that roams singing breathtaking covers of Dylan or the Indigo Girl's Gallelio. This wold is crazy and it all seems to be encompassed in these few blocks that surround me. I only hope it's a one way mirror and no one is gasping, "Oh my God, did you see that!? She totally just shoved an entire fistful of green beans into her mouth! Sick!"