Sichuan Regency 2007 Viers Mill Rd., Rockville 279-8870 Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Prices: Most dinner entrees $6 to $9. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Restaurants generally fall into two categories: those you'd go out of your way to visit and those you wouldn't. Sichuan Regency, recently opened on the site of a previous Chinese restaurant in the Twinbrook shopping center, belongs in the latter group.
There's nothing on the menu you haven't had in scores of other Chinese places, and there's nothing exceptional about the way the food is prepared or presented.
Still, Sichuan Regency does a decent enough job to make it a convenient option if you live or work in the neighborhood.
This is an unusually pretty place, too, extensively remodeled during its transition. Prices are about average for a suburban Chinese restaurant (although the portions on some items seem a bit smaller than usual).
There are a couple of top-notch appetizers. One is the steamed dumplings, which have ground pork fillings that are juicy yet not waterlogged, a subtle ginger-garlic flavoring, and wrappers that are chewy but tender.
The other is bon-bon chicken, with unusually moist, tender, thin-sliced meat and a sauce that nicely combines the flavors of peanuts, peppers, sugar and garlic.
The spring rolls are reasonably good, too, with crisp wrappers and pleasant vegetable-shrimp-meat fillings. But beware the shrimp toast -- heavy, oily and very short on shrimp.
Among the entrees, look for the items with ginger-garlic sauce or those labeled Cheng-Tu. Both sauces are zippy and well-balanced, and both go easy on the cornstarch. A particularly good dish is the shrimp and scallops with ginger-garlic sauce, featuring sweet, plump shellfish.
Another solid bet is the Cheng-Tu lamb, with tender, well-trimmed, flavorful meat. (The Cheng-Tu sauce, labeled "hot and spicy," is actually pretty mild; if you like to really feel the pepper, let the server know.)
The Sichuan sauce here is more one-dimensional than the Cheng-Tu sauce. Still, beef Sichuan-style is a pleasant dish, with a nice contrast in textures between the strips of meat and vegetables.
Moo shi pork, that old standby, is well done, not too wet and with plenty of fluffy egg and crunchy vegetables.
Another Chinese restaurant standard, kung pao chicken, has an exemplary sauce with just the right ratio of salt, sweet, pepper and garlic flavors, but it's compromised by chicken that's been carelessly trimmed and cubed.
The triple delight sizzling platter (beef, shrimp and chicken) uses quality ingredients with a mild, unobtrusive sauce, but the portion seems skimpy compared with other places.
Sichuan Regency beef, listed as a house specialty, is a letdown, with unpleasantly chewy meat and far too much of a thick, otherwise tasty sauce.
The lo mein is good if unexceptional, a generous portion of noodles and mixed meats, with the pleasingly smoky flavor of sesame oil.
Mixed vegetables are well prepared, too, properly crisp and in an unthickened sauce.
So are the Sichuan-style string beans, beautifully flavored and without excess oil. But the home-style bean curd is a bust, oily and rubbery.