Monday, October 05, 2009

Four Rivers : Philadelphia

Four Rivers is another one of the restaurants that was recommended to me when I moved here 2+ years ago and has just been patiently waiting on my to-try list.

And man do I wish I could get through my to-try list faster, because my hit-to-miss ratio on my to-try list is exceedingly and pleasingly high.

Anyhow, for the most part we enjoyed our meal here.  Four Rivers serves Szechuan food, as denoted by its Chinese name (真川味 or literally translated "authentic Szechuan flavor").  It's actually smaller than I expected from the outside.  Yes it's no hole-in-the-wall, but it's about mid-sized, with about 9 tables of four and 4 tables of eight.

I suspect it's a matter of figuring out what dishes to order, since the chicken dish we got was by far our favorite.

Crystal Wonton, 红油炒手 - Spotted this and thought it might be similar to the wontons we tried in Flushing at White Bear and it was.  While not quite as transcendent, it was still enjoyable.  Really, the sauce was what made this.  A slight sweetness offsets the slow-burn spiciness, making it tantalizingly inviting while simultaneously dangerous.  (By slow-burn, I mean that the spiciness doesn't initially hit you with a bang, but slowly builds up as you eat more and more.  By the end, our mouths were feeling it a bit.)   My main suggestion for improvement would be the wontons themselves - they just didn't have that joy of freshly made wraps, nor did they have that flavorful of meat stuffing.

House Special Chicken 口水鸡 - The Chinese name is definitely right, but I'm not 100% sure that the English name was House Special Chicken (80% sure though).  Anyhow, this was my favorite of the night.  The Chinese name is literally translated as boiled chicken and it tasted like boiled chicken with the sauce dumped on top, but wonderfully done.  The boiled chicken pieces were relatively tender and juicy, but the scene-stealer was the tasty sauce on top: spicy oil, satay (peanut sauce too?), hot pepper seeds, and some savory flavoring (soy sauce?).  This had a good slow burn kick, which was killing us to eat (and we were plowing through our rice to try to temper it), but it was oh so addictive.

Ma po dou fu 麻婆豆腐 - This was much different than any ma po dou fu dishes I've tried before.  Now my exposure to Szechuan food is fairly limited, so I'm not quite sure if this is a common or authentic rendition or not.  First, this was listed under the vegetable section and I had to specifically request them to add pork.  And secondly, the sauce was a clear one, instead of a heavier black bean type sauce.  It was a lot saltier than expected and it had a solid kick to it, with the spiciness differing in flavor than the other two dishes (Man I have to learn about the different chilis and peppers, since the "spicy" taste can have such wide variations).  I didn't quite enjoy this as much as the chicken, since it wasn't quite as flavorful, but it was definitely interesting to try out.

I will admit, dear reader, that my stomach didn't handle this meal so well.  To be frank, I got a case of the runs afterwards and in hind-site, ordering three szechuan level spicy dishes...was not such a great idea (mine of course).  But I don't think that should stop anyone from giving this place a go.  It certainly won't stop me from visiting another time.  I'll just go in with a more balanced dish ordering strategy and perhaps a jug of milk.

Four Rivers
936 Race St, Philadelphia 19107 (Map)
(215) 629-8385
($Chinese, $Philadelphia, $Recommended)

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