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.

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