After driving around for the two days prior to New Years Day, it was only natural that my first meal of 2012 took place in New Jersey on the way home. Lunch on January 1st was hopefully supposed to be special, and a little spicy.
Located in an ugly strip mall in Wayne lives Cheng Du 23, a Chinese restaurant that serves a wide variety of dishes and specializes in the spicy foods of Sichuan province, of which Chengdu is the capital. Three pleasant looking red peppers adorn the exterior next to the sign, a promise of foods within.
While ordering a couple dishes from the specialties menu, we also wanted a simple plate of something green and ordered the mustard greens (below) from the dim sum menu. Crunchy and fresh, they are the perfect complement to the more intense flavors you will face from other dishes.
It was slightly chilly outside and we were both in the mood for some noodle soup, and went for the shredded pork and pickled cabbage soup ($8, below). The noodles here are really great, soft and doughy, and the perfect winter remedy even in a warmer than usual period. It could have stood a bit less salt, but we did not leave any noodles in the bowl, proof that we were not too put off by this.
It is always hard for me to resist ma po tofu ($10, below), which makes for a delicious serving with rice. The version here is great and plentiful, well-spiced, and full of character while not being overly oily as the dish sometimes tends to be.
The restaurant has quite a bit of coverage, and adorns the room with this love they have received, especially an oversized poster of the best 100 Chinese restaurants. I'm not sure who decides on these things, but our fellow diners were many Chinese who must live nearby, so they are definitely doing something right. While this might not be worth a trip from New York City since we have good Sichuan as well, anyone within striking distance that owns a car should make this a regular haunt.