Get A Different Take On Sichuan Fare At Chef Liu Restaurant On Bellaire
American diners generally expect Sichuan fare to be defined by spicy, mouth-numbing, floral flavors with a bite. However, those intimately familiar know that these qualities—as compelling as they are—are just a narrow aspect of the region’s cuisine.
Recently opened Chef Liu at 9398 Bellaire Boulevard, operated by chef Mingchu Liu and Shanquan Li, seeks to broaden the Sichuan offerings in Houston—although all the well-known, pepper-laden dishes are available, too. With spices imported directly from China through SNS Foods, Liu creates Chongqing and Sichuan dishes that taste like they did in his birthplace. We were asked to try the restaurant’s most popular dishes, and the texture and flavors did not disappoint. The large menu offers plenty of options for guests, but the following dishes are excellent starting points.
- Gele Mountain Chili Chicken (also known as Chongqing Chicken), can be ordered two ways: the more traditional bone-in rooster (Liu sources free-range birds) or with boneless chicken breast. The dish uses aromatic Stars-in-the-sky chili peppers to create a spicy dish that builds heat the more chicken you eat. Note that the peppers offer flavor during cooking, but should not be eaten alongside the chicken—instead, do as owner Shanquan Li suggests and take them home to cook with them again.
- The Pickled Veggie Fish Soup offers a surprising flavor combination. Thin slices of pickled ginger mingle with pico chili pepper and delicate white fish, surrounded by a tangy broth. Sip the broth by itself, then spoon out the contents over a bed of rice. The sour and spicy combination is superb and filling.
- You can’t eat at a Sichuan restaurant without trying the chef’s version of Mapo Tofu. At Chef Liu’s, Sichuan peppercorn powder is used extensively to offer the telltale numbing, tingly kick that the dish is famous for. Variations on spice and protein are available, so meat lovers and vegans alike can partake. Eat the silky tofu mixture atop white rice to temper the heat.
- Balance heavier mains with a classically prepared Sichuan vegetable dish: stir-fried green beans. Made with chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, scallions, garlic, ginger, and preserved mustard root, the idea is to create flavor that permeate the vegetables as they cook. The result is a crunchy bright mix that packs a punch but serves as a respite to the spiciness of previous dishes.
- For dessert, opt for the sweet sesame congee. The dish uses black sesames, peanuts, Goji berry and sweet rice wine. Eaten at the end of the meal, this light traditional dish helps to relieve some of the impact from any previously consumed spicy dishes.
To get the most out of the meal, don’t be afraid to ask servers for recommendations and be honest about your tolerance for spice. For more information, or to make reservations, call 281-501-1840. Chef Liu’s hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Lauren is a food writer and editor with a background in cheese and a penchant for pontificating on the joys of eating and drinking.
Hi, This is the manager of Chef Liu Restaurant. We appreciate the good words by Ms. McDowell and we are confident our food is a good interpresentaion of Sichuan Cuisine. Rather than talking more about our food, we would like to express our gratitude here toward our customers.
As a Chinese restaurant offering authentic Sichuan cuisine dishes, Chef Liu Restaurant would like to serve local communities beyond Chinese community here at Houston. Since the openning at the end of March, Chef Liu Restaurant has served many customers from diverse background. As a newly open restaurant, we are trying our best to meet our customers’ demand. Needless to say, there are plenty of room for improvement. Some of our staff cannot speak English well, which creates communication barrier with many patrons. A couple of our staff who grown up in China and came to Texas lately are still experiencing the culture difference. So if you have come to our restaurant and feel not satisfied with our food and/or service, please let us know and we’ll try our best to make it right. If you like spicy food or more specifically Sichuan Cuisine but haven’t visit us, I promise you won’t be regret – our food tastes more than Mala (spicy and numbing), our ingredients are directly imported from Sichuan China. Our Chef team has more 70 year culinary experience combined in China, Singapore and US. If you don’t like spicy food, we invite you to explore dishes from Sichuan Cuisine which is not spicy at all. If you like spicy food but fear the numbing impact of Sichuan Peppercorns, we do have dishes which has few or no Sichuan peppercorns but plenty of Chili Peppers. making your mouth burn. We are looking forward to seeing you at 9398 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, Texas 77036