Yuxin is huge. Physically, it takes up the entire third floor of an unlikely office building and packs in enough people to qualify as its own district. Food-wise, its reputation as a bastion for Sichuan food untouched by the Shanghai sugar stick is large enough to keep those people coming back, taking numbers, and waiting, waiting, waiting for their number to be garbled over the loudspeaker. The sheer number of customers makes you wonder about the logistics of their kitchen – are the chefs assigned a single dish, one just slicing catfish all night for the shui zhu yu, another spooning sesame paste over lettuce leaves for five straight hours? We think so – it’s probably how they got so good at their strips of noodle-like rice jelly with a nutty, numbing chili broad bean sauce or tea-smoked duck. The former, chuanbei liangfen, doesn’t have any options; the latter is best ordered pianpi, slices of smoky meat and crispy skin, a la Peking, with bean sauce, julienned cucumbers and spring onion, and steamed buns in place of Beijing’s floury wraps.
But that imagined system has its problems. What happens when the mushroom-pot man goes outside to smoke a cigarette, while Team Hui Guo Rou fills in? Inconsistency – Yuxin’s only problem. It may be the reason that a recent mini-wok of tea-tree mushrooms with slices of ginger, excellent in the past, didn’t live up to its predecessors. In a place this big, that’s probably inevitable, but not a reason to give up. Yuxin hits more than it misses.