Fun Sichuan Cooking in Lafayette

If you have read my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that I really enjoy Asian flavors and dishes. I talked about culture and food with my Curry Braised Fish, one of my first attempts at creating a Thai inspired dish. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the soft opening of Chopsticks Fresh Asian Cuisine in Lafayette, LA.

A friend of mine agreed to go with me, so we made an evening of it, driving about an hour to get there from my home in Baton Rouge. When we first walked in the door, we were blown away by the fun and interesting decor. I am not sure what I expected beforehand, but the chic furniture and accents paired well with the more traditional Chinese paintings and the terracotta statues.

Now, it is only fair to reiterate that this was a soft opening event, so there were still a few kinks to work out of the system. I want to get my couple of minor complaints out of the way, so I can tell you about the really awesome things I experienced. It took an unusually long time to get our food after we ordered our entrees. I feel this was definitely a first-night issue and will be fixed once everything gets ironed out. My second issue was more about miscommunication than anything else – the Mala Beef Jerky is served cold. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, a note on the menu or a heads-up from my waitress would have saved me a bit of a shock.

Now that I have told you about the negatives, I can tell you about all the great things. My guest and I ordered the Chicken Dumplings and the Mala Beef Jerky. We both loved the dumplings, and I had to make sure to mind my manners and split them equitably. Now, I mentioned the beef jerky in my negative comments, but once I got past the unusual serving temperature, I really enjoyed it. The thinly sliced beef was heavily spiced with bold flavors. As you eat it, you discover more flavors and the heat from the chilis builds.

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I was torn when I searched the menu to select my entree. So many things sounded delicious. I really wanted to try the Shredded Chicken in Garlic Sauce, because it was my favorite dish from the Chinese restaurant my Memaw took me to when I was growing up. However, after talking to my waitress, I settled on the Jasmine Tea Smoked Duck, while my friend chose the Lemon Peel Shrimp.

Now, the star of the evening was the Jasmine Tea Smoked Duck. It was fantastic. The duck breast was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. My waitress described it as an experience, and she was right. The plate came with a shredded cucumber and scallions, homemade duck sauce, and soft flour wraps. My friend ate more of my duck than he did of his shrimp, and I can’t blame him at all.

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The shrimp was basically a sweet and sour shrimp. While not my favorite of the two dishes, it is definitely a great choice for those feeling less adventurous. It was delightful, but it could use a little more of the bright tartness from the lemon.

I don’t find myself in Lafayette often, but I think I will be back in order to try the Shredded Chicken in Garlic Sauce, the Cheesecake Wontons and the Sweet Rice Patties in Caramel Sauce. I highly suggest making a trip to enjoy the fun Sichuan cooking.

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