Amigo – hole-in-the-wall Szechuan-fusion feasting!

When I get stricken with a craving for Chinese food, it’s like being possessed by a most single-minded hunger that would walk hours or days for the merest whiff of glistening wok hei-bearing dishes, special ways with all kinds of onions, soft perfumed & pillowy rice and – if you’re very lucky and in the mood for northern Chinese – brow-melting face-numbing spiciness due to that special ingredient, the Szechuan peppercorn.  (AKA the best drug invented since coffee, bien sur.  )

As always, I have to consider the kitchen’s ability to provide fire, and Amigo’s flame was a low burner at best.  We asked for spicy and got only a moderate level of heat, hardly any Szechuan peppercorns, and a little bowl of chiles in oil – not quite the firestorm experience I’ve had in the past!  BUT – and this is important – this was some of the BEST Chinese food I’ve had since being in China and we were getting face burns anyway. …. from shovelling the hot morsels into our mouths too fast.  ^^;;;;

We started with some wonderful Xiu Mai (pork dumplings, about 4$), rich, sweet and clean-tasting, on a bed of some very lucky cabbage that soaked up all that great flavour.  We got wonton soup, too, which was basically the same dumpling in a slightly different shape floating in a soul-bolstering clear broth – so that was a silly order – but delicious nonetheless and a perfect start to the meal.

Our server was also incredibly helpful and patient with our questions about the menu, and was supercool during our dithering about dinner choices.  Rad guy!  Anyway, we eventually decided on the sizzling seafood platter (about 13$), a salt and pepper pork chops all-dressed dish (about 11$), and sliced beef with rice noodles (about 10$) – and what a perfect combination that turned out to be!

The food came incredibly quickly, hardly a few minutes passed before the insane aromas of chewy beef, sprouts and bouncy noodles came from the left (perfectly cooked, fat slices of onions throughout the dish a testament to an expert chef), and crisp-fried tender peppery pork with buttery rice, fried egg and bright bok choy came from the right (like KFC of the gods).  Oh who cares about burnt mouths, we are going IN!!  *munchmunchmunch*  Ohg od.  so good.

And then, one minute after that (one or two layers of skin later), the seafood platter arrived, sizzling like a crazy giant bumblebee, a veritable mountain of sweet scallops, perfectly cooked squids, insanely moist shrimp and even real flecks of real crab, in a clear and spicy sauce.  It was at that moment that my brain simply clicked into joy mode, and we ate and ate and ate.  It was so freaking good.

I think it was also at that moment that we remembered it was thanksgiving, and suddenly it all made sense, you know?  So with no guilt for the gourmands, we stuffed ourselves silly, and left with happy souls and just enough room left for dessert.  Not the 2$ fried ice cream at Amigo, for as delicious as that sounded we had other plans, and headed to Patisserie Harmonie for a strawberry milky tea to enjoy in the deepening dusk of Chinatown… feeling the last of the warm autumn airs on our elbows and rubbing our bellies and still singing the praises of the meal.

(next time, for sure… we’ll be asking about the all-Mandarin menu ;)

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Empanada mission success @ La Chilenita

Most of the time when I crave something random, it turns out to be of the “things stuffed in things” form.  Promises of crusts, and goo, and innards, and surprises, and – if you’re lucky – some kind of piquant relish or sauce that simply *must* go alongside.  Some heroes of the form:  samosas, pupusas, raviolis, spring/summer rolls, pizza pockets, mantou, soup dumplings, dim sum, vine leaves, pierogies, steamed pork buns, stuffed peppers, truffles, donuts, daifuku, mamoul, eclairs  (and we’re getting into fictional and imagined things here…. ) jellybombs, ricotta pops, peanut butter plums, pie dough filled with confit pineapple and sage, pepperpots, NOMclouds, poppypops, cheesewooshers, beetlebuggies, panko-crusted chocolate chiles, umblewubs, frosting melts, 1001 bottles of beer in 1, the key to the middle of the cherry, sugarnuts, fried water, cardamom crispies, cereal milk caviar, apples filled with calvados, and um.  Hey do, you remember those Gushers candies?

Ahem, sorry about that.  Now, what was I talking about again?  Oh right!  Filled stuff!  And how I was craving it.  Maaaaan, ever since I tried Le Chilenita’s food back when being vegan I’ve been intending to go back and sample what they’re really known for – the warm little doughbabies of melty salty awesome, ie, empanadas.  And while I think I might even still prefer the burrito here (!), these are some seriously good nommables, available for very cheap.

Cloudy and I split a neat 6 for 16$, in order to sample much of the menu.  Half meats and half veggie, because amazingly, Le Chilenita not only offers a wide vegetarian selection, but some of it is assured vegan.  I say again, amazing.  Here’s what we got:

Le Chilenita (namesake dish, very traditional), with beef, onions, black olives and sliced egg. (M)

This was a good solid hitter, nicely spiced, straight up Beef-in-Dough kinda food (which I love), and peppered with interesting bits of egg and things.  Succulent even, although really, all of the varieties were!  I guess I wondered where the raisins were (?) in this traditional style “de Pino”, but it’s still a great gut-filler and obviously house made and fresh and of course, warm and comfy.

Epinards, with ricotta and feta (V)

Very spinachy, and lovely and creamy from the ricotta!  One of my favourites of the vegetarian options.  I could dunk this in roasted tomato sauce all day and enjoy mid-september in dappled sunlight doing that.  :P

Thon, with tomatos and onions (M)

I was wary of ordering this without double-checking it’s sources – fears of canned tuna, dry and greased up with who-knows-what, flecked with undersoft vegetables freckles… yeah, ew!  Avoid.  BUT!  I asked, and this is not canned tuna at all, not they cook this in house, and it shows – there is real texture and meaty tuna goodness in every bite.  It’s absolutely luscious, not fishy in the slightest and perked up just enough with the simple bits of tomato and onion – egads this is good stuff!

La Mediterraneanne, with eggplant, red peppers, olives and mushrooms (V)

Alas, there was one less-than delicious concoction in the bunch.  Oh, it’s all right, and if you’re vegan / avoiding meat and dairy, it’s great to have something like this to order.  But, despite being filled with such umami-having vegetables, there’s something… missing.  Maybe some chili-spice, maybe some roasted flavours, sundried tomatoes, I dunno.  I’ve had their vegan burrito and it rocked my socks, so I know they can do it.  Anyway, this basically just tastes some nice juicy veggies in a crust.

L’Italiana with spizy chorizo, tomato sauce and (unspecified) cheese (M)

Opposite of boring:  spicy sausage!   Mmmmmm not even slightly Chilean at all, but oh-so good.  Actually on the dryer side, not too saucy, so the chewiness of the sausage is gnawingly apparent.  I would re-order this in a second.

La Napolitana, with artichokes, green olives, tomatoes, feta and mozarella (V)

A resounding vegetarian win!  It sounds like the ingredients could come off too strong, but it’s just punchy enough yet still sweet from the artichokes, just incredibly flavourful and easy to eat.  Would love this with a fruity smoothie, but maybe I’m weird.  Order it at your own pleasure!

So that’s about it, and I’ll honourably mention the complementary and house-made hot sauce that they dropped into our bag.  We didn’t stick around to eat at the resto, despite a nice enough atmosphere, but brought the warm goodies to the park to eat.

I guess I have one caveat about the empanadas, and that’s the sheer quantity of dough involved in eating 3 in one sitting (there is no picture of the dough-bones, but let me assure you the pile existed).  I could have liked more filling.  But I think if you just ordered 1 or 2 like a regular person you’d be more than happy to munch up as much delicious crust as you could get away with (it IS really fantastic crust).  And the price and speed are very right.  They also have a very extensive menu, and I could see sitting down for a real meal here one night.

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