Fei Teng Yu Xiang Sichuan Restaurant, which sits adjacent to Portman, holds a great deal of personal significance. It was the first place I ever ate real Sichuan cuisine, the first place I could order delivery from (which I did nearly every night for months) and it was the first place I ever broke bread with Ningbo Guide owner and Editor-in-Chief Nick Jumara. I’m sure I’m not the only place that holds “the Sichuan place” in my heart, as nearly everyone knows which one you’re referring to when you mention “the Sichuan place.”
Given the nature of the restaurant and how important it is to many in the foreign community here in Ningbo, it was no surprise that on the night we went to take photos for this article, we ran into several friends celebrating the birthday of their friend Joel. We joked about how “of course” this is the place to celebrate a birthday, and were treated to some impromptu birthday songs in several different styles and languages. Because of course we were. Happy birthday Joel!
Throughout its time it’s seen generation after generation of Ningbo residents come through its doors. I’ve had a number of first and last dinners there. I’ve also just had a lot of dinners there. All of them have been awesome.
The restaurant is ideally suited for big group dinners, with several private rooms on the second floor and a menu the size of a Tolstoy novel. The great thing about going with a group, especially with people who frequent the restaurant as well, is that everyone has their dish or dishes and very few are afraid to suggest it for the table. This has led to quite a few new discoveries, as it did on this particular dinner when a friend suggested 虎皮青椒 (hu pi qing jiao), a dish made from slightly spicy peppers in a savory sauce which will certainly make its way into the future rotation. At the top of quite a few people’s list is 干煸四季豆 (gan bian si ji dou), green beans dry-fried with ground pork, garlic, spicy peppers and preserved vegetable. It’s pretty much the savoriest savory dish ever savored, and wonderfully so.
But without a doubt the star of the show is the roast fish, simply referred to as 烤鱼(kao yu). The fish is roasted in a rub of garlic, salt and all kinds of spices and then served in a fiery broth along with bean sprouts. It’s what everyone wants so it’s best to just order it without thinking, along with a box of Daliangshan beer, ice cold.
Also on the must-order list, especially for folks just dipping their toes into Chinese cuisine, is 干煸土豆条 (gan bian tudou tiao), Sichuan’s answer to cajun-seasoned french fries. That spicy, salty goodness is always welcome at the dinner table, or eaten with your bare hands at 3 AM after a big night at one of the many watering holes nearby.
There will come a day when it will be time to move on to greener (or maybe just less gray) pastures. When that comes, I know exactly where my last meal will be.