Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill, CA

by foodhoe on February 20, 2010

41 Woodsworth Lane (at Contra Costa Blvd.), Pleasant Hill; (925) 686-9828. Lunch daily 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., lunch specials Mon.-Fri.; dinner daily 5-11 p.m.

I chose this restaurant because of its high ratings on Yelp, which is proving to be most helpful in finding good eats out in Coco County.  From outward appearances, it looks the same as any other Chinese restaurant, but the spicy Sichuan dishes are what make it stand out.  In fact, it’s Mr. K’s new favorite Chinese restaurant, especially since our favorite in the WC area, Tin’s Tea House closed in 2009.  In 2007 Allen Shi opened Sichuan Fortune House, with chef/partner Shaobin Zhang, formerly of China Village of Albany.  The menu highlights Sichuan dishes, but offers a wide variety to suit everyone’s tastes, with very generous portions.

We welcomed the plate of peanuts coated in a savory sweet glaze, sprinkled with sesame seeds, along with a bit of pickled cabbage that was crunchy, sweet and spicy.  An interesting combination that we enjoyed while perusing the rather extensive menu of dishes, many of which I had never heard of.  I haven’t had much exposure to Sichuan cuisine, just a few meals at Z & Y Restaurant in the city, where we had the memorably named Chicken with exploding chili peppers and Spicy fish in flaming chili oil… Our server was very patient and enthusiastic in helping us decide what to order.

We watched mesmerized as the bowl of Dan Dan Mien was mixed up at the table for us.

The thick chewy noodles were perfectly coated with the rich spicy meat sauce. It was similar to spaghetti bolognese but had a different set of spices, including the rich nutty flavor of sesame paste.  Mr. K found them to be uninteresting as he is not a noodle fan, which means more for everyone else!

He drizzled the housemade chili sauce over everything, which he said made it even better.

The Changsha Chicken Claypot arrived in a foil lined claypot and looked more like a stir fry.  I always thought claypot dishes were more like long cooked casseroles, but this was an interesting and delicious version, full of fresh vegetables and tossed in a spicy sauce.

The Cumin Lamb arrived and demanded everyone’s attention with its tantalizing fragrance.  I love the funky combination of the flavorful lamb with the pungent aroma of cumin.  The thinly sliced lamb was tender and infused with the penetrating spices, fortified with sliced jalapeno, garlic and a few dried chili pods.

We also ordered the Tea-Smoked Duck, which was stir-fried with crisp bell pepper, cucumber, ginger and green onion.

The duck had a wonderful smoky flavor that infused the tender flesh and was brought out by the spicy marinade and crisp fresh vegetables.

The second time we visited was with my sister Barbara, who really enjoyed the Spicy General Zhangfei’s beef which was completely different from any Chinese dish whose title includes the word General.  The server pointed out that the dish is made with brisket when we ordered it, so that we wouldn’t be surprised.  It was long braised, tender and fatty and cooked in a sauce made with spicy chili, ginger, garlic and Sichuan pepper which makes your lips tingle.  It has the kind of spiciness that makes me want to keep eating, before the heat overcomes me… but you know I am on the wimpy side of the scovillian scale.

The Eggplant Pancakes were an unexpected novelty.  Thick slices of eggplant were stuffed with a savory ground pork filling, then battered and fried and then covered in a spicy garlicy sauce.

The eggplant was creamy and the combination of flavors and texture was truly delightful.

My parents loved the Pan Fried Crispy Noodles, which had a very nice crunchy texture and no chili peppers.  It seemed strangely bland in comparison to the rest of the dishes, but it’s good to have balance.

The Dry Cooked Green Beans are vegetarian friendly but robustly flavored and cooked so that the skin is slightly blistered but the interior is still crisp and fresh tasting.

We enjoyed the Snowpea Leaf with Garlic which is similar to spinach, but a bit more robust and the stalks remain crunchy.

Every dish that we tried reflected a refined and nuanced hand in the kitchen, which makes me want to return to continue exploring the menu.  I’m especially interested in checking out the hotpot, which is not on the menu, while the weather is still winter chilly…

Sichuan Fortune House on Urbanspoon

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Su-Lin February 21, 2010 at 8:02 am

That eggplant/pork dish looks so delicious! It’s getting bookmarked… it looks doable at home!
.-= Su-Lin´s last blog ..Fried Artichokes: A Pictorial Recipe =-.


grace February 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm

oh, that chili sauce looks FIERCE!
and my goodness, that’s a load of food. i daresay i’d enjoy every morsel!
.-= grace´s last blog ..a shmiscuit, a shmasket =-.


rowena February 22, 2010 at 5:26 am

Those eggplant pancake….ooooh…they are just calling my name! Hmmm…pancake anything just might be my next obsession.


Kirk February 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

Hey FH – Looks good, and full of flavor.


Cookie February 22, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I haven’t had much exposure to Sichuan cuisine either since my mom doesn’t eat spicy food. We did eat a lot of Pan Fried Crispy Noodles though and I love it when they’re served with BBQ Pork and Bok Choy!
.-= Cookie´s last blog ..Using Up That Cake Mix! =-.


foodhoe February 23, 2010 at 10:21 am

Su-lin, that was everyone’s favorite, but I’ll leave it to you to cook at home… that’s at least a 3 part dish!
Grace, yep and it’s a house secret recipe
Rowena, me too!
Kirk, indeed
Cookie, I love those crispy noodles too.


Victor February 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Its 11:38am, getting close to lunch, and the Pan Fried Crispy Noodles are making me hungrier than ever! Though I’m never that far north in the sf bay, I’ll be sure to try this place if I ever am!
.-= Victor´s last blog ..Shaking Beef Recipe =-.


Bonnibella February 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Very interesting the chef use to work at China Village in Albany. The way the eggplant is prepared is one of my favorites!
.-= Bonnibella´s last blog ..Diary of a Bridesmaid’s Diet – Baby Cucumbers, Seared Shrimp Salad =-.


Carolyn Jung February 23, 2010 at 11:23 pm

What a feast! Especially that housemade chili sauce. I’d be putting that on everything, too. It looks something fierce! 😉


Juliana February 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

What a treat! Everything looks so delicious…I’d love to try the chewy thick noodles 🙂
.-= Juliana´s last blog ..BAKED TOFU SALAD =-.


Jason Wheeler May 6, 2010 at 1:45 am

I eat there every now and again. Great place and awesome food. They have a million great reviews on Yelp too.
.-= Jason Wheeler´s last blog ..You Can Save Your Home | Cash Offers on Short Sales and Foreclosures in California East Bay Area =-.


Jake July 25, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Try the pork shoulder if they have it on their fresh sheet.

Almost an Asian BBQ in style


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Kevin July 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

That chili sauce looks lethal!


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