Although there are many Chinese restaurants in Berkeley, the ones that I have gone to, including some of the top-rated ones have left me a bit disappointed. Dalian is my current favorite amongst the Berkeley Chinese restaurants. When I was out at the Pacific Mall, and looked at the menu for Sichuan Fusion, I decided to give it a try. That was well over a year ago. I have been back multiple times since then. That alone should tell you I like it.
If you read my prior review, you will understand why I would discourage you from ordering the lunch specials. Perhaps I just caught them on a bad day, but I have subsequently ordered entirely off the regular menu, and have found that to be a much more satisfying experience. There is one dish that I always order. Sometimes I even get two orders, one to eat at the restaurant and the second to take home. That dish is ma po tofu. I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but I am fond of tofu in many forms, and I like the version of ma po tofu at Sichuan Fusion the most of any that I have had locally. You can taste the Szechuan peppercorn that is in it, and dou ban jiang is also evident. I happen to like spicy food, and a few minutes after you start eating this you feel warm all over. We have tried the tea-smoked duck, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The skin is nice and crisp, and the fat fully rendered. Both the twice-fried green beans and the eggplant dishes are good, but not as spicy as they could be. We recently had a stir-fried dish that came loaded with 40-50 chili peppers, and can be ordered with either lamb or beef. I believe it was Uygur-style beef/lamb. In the beef version that we had, the thinly sliced meat was almost crunchy, and there was a cumin flavor in the dish. I thought it was very tasty, had a nice level of heat, and I would love to try the lamb version in the future. Perhaps the only stir-fried beef dish that we were unenthused by is one of their specials that has corn in it. Look at the pictures in the menu for the proper name; it was the only dish that I remember having corn in it. I would have thought that fresh corn would have been used, but it used canned corn instead. Overall, I think there is an incredible variety to choose from, and each time we have gone there has been at least one standout dish beyond the ma po tofu. I look forward to each visit and finding something new that I really enjoy. Each time I have dined there, I have been one of the few non-Asian guests. I consider this a very positive sign. Each time I have dined there the portions have been very generous, and we always leave with enough leftovers for at least another meal. The restaurant scores high on value in my book. It seems like a great place to take a large group.
It is a probably a good thing that this restaurant is a drive away from my house. If it were closer by and/or within walking distance I suspect I would be eating here more often I really should and missing out on trying other new restaurants in the area. If you are looking for a break from Chinese food with toned down seasonings, then give Sichuan Fusion a try. Although you can choose dishes that are mild, I would encourage you to live dangerously, and feel the burn.
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