Jason Perlow returns to restaurant dining. His first? Mainland China Bistro, for a classic spicy Sichuan dish.
During the pandemic, I took a hiatus from restaurant dining, concentrating solely on takeout. Now, post-vaccination, I’ve returned to the patios and dining rooms of our favorite local establishments. Join us as we explore the best independent restaurants in the area have to offer.
By Jason Perlow:
Before the pandemic, one of the requests I used to get on my Facebook “Foodies Who Review South Florida” group is where to get the best Chinese food. It was so frequent that we put together a list, which we’ve now updated for 2021.
The restaurant on that list which I’ve recommended as the very best Chinese restaurant in Broward, and perhaps all of South Florida, time and time again, is Coral Springs’ Mainland China Bistro. It opened in January of 2017 by Tiffany Huang and her husband Tsu Yue Wang, who is the proprietor of several NYC restaurants, including Ollies’ Noodles.
Mainland is one of the few “real” Chinese restaurants in SoFL in that it caters primarily to an Asian clientele. While it does have American-Chinese dishes on the menu, those are not their best offerings. It is a Sichuan restaurant whose province’s cuisine is noted for its use of red chile oil and pungent Sichuan peppercorns, also known as “Hua Jiao.” This spice is essential for giving dishes a signature “numbing” sensation over and above the heat of chilies.
Sichuan peppercorns were a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain, who once gave me a sack of it after his travels in China.
One of the best ways you can taste this spicy and numbing combination (referred to as “málà”) is in Mapo Tofu, or “Pockmarked Grandmother’s Beancurd,” the signature dish of Sichuan province.
Legit Mapo Tofu is not for the faint of heart — and don’t order it “extra spicy” unless you have tasted it here before. This classic Sichuanese dish is a bowl of soft tofu, ground pork, and leeks, cooked with fermented broad bean and chile paste. The plate is swimming in red chile oil with copious amounts of Sichuan peppercorn.
It is the only dish on the lunch specials menu (served until 3 PM Tues-Fri) with a 4-chile warning. We suggest you eat this over rice, so you don’t blow your head off.
Mainland also makes an authentic Sichuan version of hot and sour soup. It’s vinegary, very peppery, not at all gloppy, and features wispy clouds of egg, firm tofu, bamboo shoots, and enoki mushrooms.
The restaurant also features this spicy red oil as a condiment mixed with soy sauce and black vinegar for their Dim Sum. I highly recommend the Sichuan Wontons and Steamed Pork Dumplings from this list.
MAINLAND CHINA BISTRO
2445 N University Drive
Coral Springs FL 33065
Hours: 11:30 a.m. -9:30 p.m., Lunch Specials until 3 p.m. Closed Mondays. Indoor and Outdoor Dining Available.
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- Jason Perlow, a Coral Springs resident since 2012, is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City metro area reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which was featured on Tony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.”
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