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Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011

Meiji Cuisine's Chinese Menu With a Sichuan Focus

Authentic food makes Waukesha restaurant a destination

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Meiji Cuisine, located on Waukesha's northeast side, offers diners a split personality. Patrons will find two dining areas, separated by a bar. The first area specializes in Japanese food, featuring a sushi bar and a few hibachi tables. The second area, which highlights a Chinese menu, is even more interesting.

Many Chinese menus lose focus, featuring bits of Cantonese, a dash of Mandarin, some Hunan, and a few Sichuan items. While Meiji's menu offers some nods to different regions of China, it focuses on Sichuan.

Soups include the standard trio of egg drop, wonton and hot and sour ($1.95-$3.95). In addition, four other soups are sold as large bowls. One option is fish fillet soup with pickled vegetables ($8.50), offering poached white fish fillets with a light golden broth. The pickled vegetables, not overly salty, serve as a backdrop to the delicate flavor of the fish. It's a very refined, delicious soup.

The appetizers are devoted to Sichuan. Mouthwatering chicken ($6.55) features chunks of chilled chicken meat sprinkled with sesame seeds and served over soy sauce laced with hot red chile peppers. The sauce has a hint of sweetness. Dan dan noodles ($5), which are similar to fettuccine, come with minced pork and small bok choy. Stir them up, as there is spicy hot chile oil underneath.

Traditionalists will find beef tendon, tripe and jellyfish among the appetizers as well. There also is pork slices with minced garlic ($7.50), a bowl of thin slices of gently cooked pork belly—half fat and half meat. The slices nearly melt in your mouth. The sauce has chile pepper and a memorable, aromatic sweetness. Leaves of Chinese cilantro add pungency. The flavors take a bit of time to get used to, and may not be for everyone, but ultimately this unusual dish is seductive.

Dishes are marked with a spiciness scale of one to three chile peppers, with three peppers being the spiciest. Entrees are diverse, and only about half are ranked as spicy.

Tofu with shrimp and wild chili ($12.95) is not as fiery as the name suggests. It is a delightful entrée with sparingly used red and green chile peppers.

The Chongqing chili beef ($13.25) packs more punch. The beef slices, almost unbelievably tender, are served with celery, cilantro, dried red chile peppers and slices of fresh jalapeños.

Cumin lamb ($15.95) offers slices of lamb that are just as tender as the beef. The cumin is used conservatively. Sliced jalapeños offer optional heat.

The fish fillet with pickled peppers ($13.95) was a delight. Poached fish fillets arrive with a few pea pods and pieces of bok choy in a clear white sauce gently laced with pickled hot chiles—an excellent dish.

Lunch specials ($6.55-$7.55) offer good value. Diners may also want to order a la carte.

Meiji's pleasant dining room consists of dark wood tables and beige tile floors. A welcoming, accommodating staff adds to the experience.

There has never been a menu in the Milwaukee area with this much Sichuan depth. Meiji's Chinese menu is one of the finest local Chinese menus to appear in recent years, on a par with the authentic menus at Jing's and Fortune. This is a suburban restaurant that is well worth the drive from the city.

Meiji Cuisine

2503 Plaza Court, Waukesha

(262) 717-9868

$-$$$

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