As with many Chinese restaurants in the U.S., Sichuan Pavilion has two menus. Ask for the home kitchen menu—the one with the authentic dishes. Warning: The chili is hot, and the Sichuan peppercorn used in many of the dishes is tongue-tingling.
Keeping with the authentic fare, kick off your meal with the beef and tendon appetizer. If that’s out of your culinary comfort zone, go for the steamed chicken with chili sauce; it's not too spicy hot. For mains, you must, must have the steamed beef (or pork if you prefer) in chili sauce and mapo tofu—two Sichuanese classics. Both dishes are spicy hot, so if you can’t handle chili, order extra rice or better yet, a plate of the salted fish fried rice! For something less spicy, go with the chicken or shrimp with dried chilies—sounds spicy hot, but far from. Veggies on the menu include the baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms, which is utterly delicious. In fact, SP is as popular with my Indian vegetarian friends as it is with my Chinese friends.
SP is the kind of place you want to go to with a group and eat family-style. The place is extremely popular at lunchtime. Try to get there before noon, as the restaurant does not take reservations.
Metro stop: Farragut West