Cheap Eats 2011: Sichuan Village

You might have doubts about this Chengdu-inspired gem–the sign out front touts a buffet, and steam tables dominate the main room. But you’re here to sample the expert wok work of the five Szechuan-trained cooks.

Their aim? Not merely to scorch your palate but to awaken your senses–the best dishes here brim with complex flavors that invite close consideration, such as a textbook ma po tofu (soft cubes of tofu in a mouth-tingling chili oil), sliced lamb ignited with peppers and toasted cumin, and Chengdu-style Kung Pao chicken.

Note the color coding on the menu. For most people, yellow will be plenty hot; red means the kitchen has seasoned with abandon.

Also good: Dan-dan noodles; Sichuan pickles; Chengdu fish; “ants on a tree,” ground pork clinging to house-made potato noodles; Chengdu beef.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.