I love spicy food and if there’s only one thing Sichuan province cuisine is known for it’s the spiciness. Delicious mouth numbing “mala” spiciness that is almost better than something that just goes off the Scoville charts… it’s different. And delicious.
I’d seen Tea Horse Sichuan Bistro mentioned frequently on Howard County Eats but today was the first time we’d been able to make the trip up to the Normandy Shopping Center off Route 40 in Ellicott City.
Tea Horse is located on the corner on the right side next to Naz’s Halal Food. The inside is big and expansive with tall ceilings. The bar is to the right and there are a series of private rooms to the left. In the back, you can see into the kitchen behind a massive glass wall.
The menu is a massive hardcover book because they have photos for practically every dish. You know exactly what you’re getting when you order but turning the pages can be a bit cumbersome … but those who are new to Sichuan food will appreciate the photos. It’s a definite positive.
The portions are enormous. My lovely wife and I had lunch there and took away what would normally be given as a takeout order somewhere else. Prime example is we got the West Lake Beef Soup and when we were done, we still had nearly a quart of soup left in our takeout container.
Oh, if you want your soup as a starter, let your server know. I was, at first, surprised when ours came out after the other dishes.. until I realized that’s customary in Chinese banquets (and meals at home). I suspect it’s easy to get it first if you ask them.
The flavors were on point. One of the dishes I order is a Pork Intestine Fire Pot, a dish that I’ve gotten at several places before (another HoCo restaurant that makes a pretty good one is Hunan Manor in Columbia). This one was as good as the ones I’ve had in Flushing, NY (and many of those places, sadly, have closed down).
(for fellow aficionados, they use duck blood curd and not pork blood curd)
I know that pork intestines is not high on many folks’ list of items but another similar dish (less spicy) is one that includes braised beef tendon. Typically slow cooked also so the tendon breaks down into a nice chewy bite, my wife is a huge fan of this dish and they delivered.
I loved the sliced bamboo shoots and massive shiitake mushrooms.
Last but not least, we have another pot but this time it was Beef and Eggplant in Clay Pot. This is another dish we love from Hunan Manor and what separates this one is that they used slices of beef rather than ground pork (or beef). Think slices of beef like you’d see in a beef and broccoli dish.
The chunks of eggplant are nice and big, they were not overcooked and not oily at all. It’s common for restaurants to fry them first to cook them and while I’m not sure how they did it here, it didn’t seem greasy at all – very nicely done.
I’ve seen a few “complaints” (in quotes because even the people mentioning it didn’t really think it was a huge negative, just a surprise) that they charged for white rice ($1 each). Since I knew about it ahead of time, it didn’t bother me.
The $3 we paid for the Sichuan Scented Tea (it has jasmine!) was worth it too. It’s definitely a step up from a random black tea you’d get for free elsewhere.
We did order a lot of food but we are huge fans of leftovers, especially for dishes like this that go over rice so easily, and never got a chance to get any appetizers or smaller dishes. I think we’ll fix that next time and not order three “pots” and a massive soup!
Overall, I was really happy with it and will definitely be back again.