According to Google, Sichuan Food on Amsterdam’s Reguliersdwarsstraat was the first Chinese restaurant in the Netherlands to be awarded a Michelin star, holding one star for over a decade from 1993 until 2005. When I went to visit in 2019,
Still, on to the main event: the duck. First up, it was served in the classic Peking pancakes with hoisin sauce and shredded cucumber and spring onions. While you may be used to rolling these yourself, at Sichuan Food, they assemble them for you – stuffed with the crispy skin of the duck and loosely rolled in homemade pancakes that are thicker than the kind you generally see. They tasted delicious, although the oil pouring out of the duck skin was at times overpowering.
Next, we were served soup made from a thin duck broth with slices of the duck and some spring onions floating in it. The duck meat itself was good, but the skin quickly morphed from crispy to soggy and flabby – not a great mouthfeel.
Finally, the remainder of the duck came fried up in various capacities: the breast was served in a traditional orange sauce, while the rest of the meat had either been finely diced and fried to be rolled into lettuce leaves, or stir-fried with onions and peppers. The former was probably the best in terms of flavour and texture, while the lettuce wraps were lacking in both. Note the “rose” made from a radish on the side on the plate – when was the last time you saw one of them?!
Dinner came to €60 each, with the duck courses alone reaching €38.50 a head. Sichuan Food made us pay €5 for a bottle of water, which sends me livid every time it happens. Perhaps bottled water was the norm in the 90s – it’s not anymore. But that was my conclusion across the board: an inescapable sense that this is a restaurant little changed in 30 years. And in a culinary scene that’s evolved in leaps and bounds since the 90s, that’s no longer going to cut it. Perhaps Sichuan Food is still in a few guidebooks, but there’s only so long it can rest on former glories.