#5 Ren'ai Road, Yonghe (MRT Dingxi)
I know I am always referencing this place on my blog, but it deserves it. It's just SO GOOD. The boss is an old Sichuanese chef, a master really. It's a small place, easy to miss, and you wouldn't know it was so good unless someone told you (it just looks like a basic restaurant next to a fruit stand on an inconspicuous street in Yonghe).
So far, I feel that their spicy beef (水煮牛), spicy green beans, mouthwatering chicken, pork rib cooked with sweet potato and spicy tofu (麻婆豆腐) are the best in Taiwan. You really can't do better. Once - just once - the spicy tofu missed the mark. We ordered late and I think they were low on ground pork, so they just made what they could. Otherwise it's always been to a high standard of excellence.
Go early - they open at 5:30 and won't take orders after about 7:15pm (and they want you out by 8:30) - there's only one chef, and he sets the hours. If he's tired he closes up early. If he's in a good mood he might cook for you as late as 7:30! With any other restaurant I'd just not go back, but it's so damn good that I'm willing to put up with it.
Lao Sichuan 老四川
Chang'an Road between Songjiang and Jianguo (MRT Songjiang Nanjing, or the area is served by many buses) - I tried to get their address off their website but this is the best I could do (I did get lazy, though).
This is a Chongqing Hotpot restaurant, not a typical "Chengdu dishes" Sichuanese restaurant. It's "famous" in the Taiwanese sense (i.e. very well known and popular) - so famous that in Taipei it's hard to get reservations. I know people who have driven down to Zhubei to eat at the branch there! A friend of ours made the reservation, so we had the chance to go. The hotpot is spectacular, especially the spicy side. I've never been a big fan of the herbal side, at any restaurant. Definitely get their "famous" signature appetizer, which is noodles in a delicious spicy sauce. The edamame are great, too.
The hotpot here reminded me of when I had hotpot in Chongqing itself, and the hotpot I've had in Guizhou (just south of Chongqing) as well. It's the real deal.
I can't "compare" it to the two other restaurants because what they do is different, but it's definitely worth braving their tough reservation competition to go.
Spicy and herbal divided hot pot. You can ask for it with no blood. Look at those fresh sesame seeds!
Fuhua Sichuan 福華川菜
Xizang Road＃228, Wanhua (a longish walk from MRT Longshan Temple, a few buses pass nearby including 307, or just take a cab)
This is a place my student recommended in Wanhua. She said "it's cheaper and better than Tianfu". I found it to be roughly the same price - a little cheaper - but not necessarily better.
The spicy beef - above - was very good, with tons of chili, fresh cilantro (Tianfu doesn't give you fresh cilantro) and very high quality tender meat, a bit fatty (a sign of quality in Chinese cooking). It was served on a sterno warmer, which Tianfu doesn't do. It was fantastic, although I would have added an extra handful of huajiao (花椒 - mouth-tingling Sichuan pepper). It also wasn't as complex as Tianfu in flavoring, but really it just needed more huajiao.
Rating: tied with Tianfu
These clams are not really Sichuanese, we just happen to like them.
The green beans were excellent - with more garlic and less black bean than Tianfu, and expertly seasoned and cooked (if you eat the beans without the topping they seem to need salt, but add the topping and the problem goes away).
Rating: as good as Tianfu
The kung pao chicken was AMAZING - cooked to perfection, not overcooked but not rare (rare chicken is, of course, gross and unsafe). It was glazed just so.
But...it needed hua jiao.
Rating: as good as Tianfu, would be better if it just had hua jiao.
The problems came later, with the eggplant (魚香茄子) and spicy tofu. The eggplant and tofu both lacked hua jiao totally. The eggplant was too sweet and didn't have enough pork. The tofu was low quality, not savory enough and not NEARLY spicy enough.
Eggplant - not as good as Tianfu
Ma Po Tofu - we almost sent it back. I was not pleased. I wonder when I told them specifically to add hua jiao and make it spicy, if the chef misheard the server (the server didn't mishear me, she'd confirmed it) or just decided there's no way foreigners would want that so I must have meant not spicy. I don't know, but either way it wasn't very good.
Han Chi Tiger Noodle
#203 Jinhua Street (金華街203號)
I can't really compare this place, which mostly does basic noodles and puffed rice soups in spicy Sichuan broth, with the others. I just wanted to include it because daaayum, these guys know how to add spice to a complex and well-flavored broth. They don't skimp on the hua jiao, that's for sure.
It's also the easiest to get to, the cheapest, and does not require a reservation.