DanDan Sichuan and Taiwanese Cuisine
DanDan is a restaurant and full service bar serving up authentic dishes native to mainland China and Taiwan. And let me tell you, getting a seat here was no easy feat!
I had set up a reservation for 2, which was all fine and dandy. However, once I called and asked to add an additional pal to the table all chaos broke loose (we ended up just snagging bar seats after about an hour).
Now, that is my own fault, but it just goes to show how popular this spot is. You should be prepared to make a reservation because this place gets packed. It’s only a 50-seat spot and it fills up fast!
Though many dishes are Sichuan, a southwestern Chinese province, they also include “Taiwanese Cuisine” in their name so that they have a little more representation and flexibility on their menu.
So, maybe you’ve heard about Sichuan cuisine, and maybe you haven’t. Here’s a very surface-level history lesson for some menu context:
The deal with Sichuan Cuisine
As I mentioned above, Sichuan cuisine originates from the Sichuan Province, which is in southwest China. Here is a handy-dandy map if you’re a visual learner like me.
This province- literally known as the “heavenly country”- is praised for its beautiful abundance of resources and diverse palate. The varying topography of the region allows for successful growth of foods like rice and vegetables, while also being a great place to grow mushrooms and herbs, which are more highland focused ingredients.
Some of their most popular ingredients include garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. This explains why when people say Sichuan, usually spicy, tongue-numbing flavors come to mind. Savory, oily and heavily seasoned flavors are also very common in this style of cooking.
The sichuan pepper is also a very unique product of this region. This is the spice that is most associated with the tongue-numbing in Sichuan cuisine. It can be a fun flavor to play with because of its unique tingly effect and citrus-like aroma, but it is in fact very spicy (so beware, fellow Americans!).
Spicy food is believed to be popular in this region because cooking hot peppers was believed to help alleviate the frequent in-home dampness due to the province’s humid climate. Pickling, salting, drying, and smoking became popular cooking techniques to combat this uncomfortable, and not so easy to work with climate.
There are 7 key flavors in Sichuan cuisine: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty. And I tasted them all at DanDan. Let’s jump into it.
What I ate
GARLIC SAUCE DISH - $13.75
Now, after rambling on and on about spicy foods, I am here to tell you that this is not a spicy dish! So, if spice isn’t for you, fear not. There are options.
However, this was actually my least favorite dish out of the entire order. The pork was a bit chewy and tough. The garlic sauce didn’t have any distinct flavors. Everything was left one-note.
Maybe I would’ve liked this plate more after the spicier entrees below because it would have served as a cooling dish, but I happened to eat it first and was not impressed.
DRY FRIED BRUSSEL SPROUTS - $14.95
Now THIS is what I’m talking about! You can tell a lot about a restaurant by how they handle brussel sprouts.
And DanDan…you did a fine job, my friend.
This bad boys are CRISP and not too oily with fatty, thick chunks of quality bacon. A gorgeous dance between bitter, spicy, and savory flavors.
TAIWANESE MINCED PORK RICE - $1.95
This TWO DOLLAR DISH actually stole my whole heart.
A simple bowl of well cooked rice (sticky, with a little bite to it) under a generous plop of soft, marinated, minced pork.
The components blend together seamlessly for a soft, hearty, salty mouthful. A wonderful break from the mostly spicy menu.
Just WOW. 10/10. It’s a modest bowl that hits the spot.
DAn DAN NOODLES - $8.25
Yes, I obviously got the DanDan noodles at DanDan.
These noodles are a perfect creamy, peanuty, spicy flavor bomb in your mouth.
Normally you think you want a bite to your noodles, but here they can be easily crushed on the roof of your mouth to provide great mouth feel.
The spurts of cilantro add a great cut through the spice.
You also get A LOT of noodle for your buck. That bowl is surprisingly deep.
WONTONS IN CHILI OIL - $6.95
When I was blessed with this glistening bowl of wontons in chili oil, I was prepared for it to burn my taste buds off. Instead, I was shocked by how balanced and fragrant the chili oil was.
The wontons were good, but the star here is the chili oil for sure. It was a primarily vinegary flavor with a slow burn at the end. The oil created a fatty balance.
If you want to be bold, you can always stir up the settled spices at the bottom and add more of a kick. Either way, absolutely delicious (and beautiful).
Is it worth it?
At the end of the day, I really liked my visit to DanDan. It carries a communal feeling that inspires you to share a couple plates with friends instead of eating your own entree. I enjoyed trying a couple smaller dishes rather than a sole main dish. So, that is definitely my advice if you go here; Get some friends, order a ton of plates, and get a full scope of the flavors DanDan has to offer.
If you added up the dishes, it’s safe to say it wasn’t the cheapest meal. However, at the end of the day I say it’s worth the trip. If you love spice then this is going to be a playground for your taste buds. If that’s not your vibe, there is still plenty left to try. Either way, just make sure you get the minced pork.