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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Fri 6:00pm–10:00pm
Sat–Sun noon–10:00pm

Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

Far East Portland
12306 SE Powell Blvd.
Portland, OR
(503) 206-8292
Lucky Strike
Light up with Szechuan peppers and chili oil in this out-of-the-way little gem

Of all the Chinese regional cuisines, Szechuan is the one you are most likely to be ushered away from, even by the people who run the restaurant. Ask for a menu, and you’ll be handed some broken-English list of take-out standards. Ask for the “real” menu, and you will have to pass a brief interview about what you’re looking for, if you know what you’re getting into, and whether you’re qualified to get into it. It’s understandable, since the staff have probably had one too many kung pao eaters insist they like it spicy, only to return the dish in a tearful huff after it tries to extricate every drop of liquid from their face.

It’s chili peppers, not Szechuan peppercorns, that make you a fire-breathing dragon. The peppercorns are just plain fun; they’re a total tongue trip. Their flavor is hard to describe and harder to forget: if Hell grew chamomile flowers and dried them for tea, it would taste like this. Bite into one and you’ll be alarmed (not but hurt) when it bites back. First, your tongue goes numb. And then comes the drool. Your mouth waters and waters and—speaking of water—when you drink some, it tastes unbelievably like tin and menthol. We have devoured plates full of Szechuan peppercorns just to trip out on the water.

So venture out, far, far off the beaten path to this forgotten corner of Portland and tuck inside this tiny hovel, which is thankfully so dark you can’t see how badly it needs a makeover and a cleaning. Wait with the many, many other huddled masses for a table. When the server comes, don’t let them pressure you into sickly sweet and tarry Guinness-braised ribs. Say “ma po tofu.” Say “lion’s head.” Say “husband and wife” (we won’t name this dish’s ingredients, lest they dissuade you). Say “drunken chicken,” so named because you’ll make yourself drunk trying to extinguish the flames with beer. Lion’s head isn’t as scary as it sounds; it’s actually a garlicky, tender and incredibly flavorful pork meatball. Noodle soup with pork and Chinese broccoli is also a little bit of heaven and a little bit of hell.

Sure, you’ll encounter long wait times, the odd closure here and there, and the somewhat inconsistent balance of peppercorn to spice to oil to garlic. But with so few Szechuan options in Portland (Shenzhen only offers some of these dishes), Lucky Strike is worth the minor inconveniences.

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