Bo HappyThere’s a relatively new retail strip not far from me, on the southwest corner of Stanley and Bernal (the southeast corner, still vacant, is the subject of great controversy — more on that in a future post). First to spring up, a couple of years ago, was a McDonalds, then a gas station (which recently became an ARCO), and most recently a four-plex restaurant pad which is now finally filled up with a Bagel Street Cafe, a Taco Del Mar, a Subway, and a Chinese restaurant named Bo Happy.

Bo Happy, the sole non-chain outlet of the four, did a great job of marketing when it opened early this year, plastering the neighborhood with windshield flyers and door hangers, and I took a look — clearly the type of Americanized Chinese food that does well in suburban neighborhoods, with the usual set of dishes: General’s chicken, Mongolian beef, kung pao shrimp, and so forth. I figured I’d get around to trying it, and I did in July and had some pot stickers and something labeled Peking Beef, which I honestly don’t have any particular memory of. Since I get to San Francisco, Albany, Milpitas, and the Peninsula and South Bay often enough, where the Chinese food is much better, I didn’t worry about it (and now, with a bunch of new places near here, it’s not really an issue).

Spicy boiled beefThen I got another flyer from Bo Happy, with two developments: first, the announcement that they were serving sushi, which was amusing but of no immediately compelling interest considering that Senro Sushi (and half a dozen actual Japanese restaurants) are closer. The second was the appearance of a box on the back of the menu, with no label, but unlike the rest of the menu, which is English-only, these dishes were named in both English and Chinese, and the names of some of them looked particularly authentic: Spicy Boiled Beef, Braised Pork Shoulder, Braised Meat Ball in Clay Pot, Preserved Potherb Mustard Greens with Rice Cake, Spicy Boiled Fish Filet, Shanghai Wine Chicken. It appears to be mostly a selection of Sichuan and Shanghai style dishes.

I seems that just as with Chef Dong at Jade Rivers in Lincoln, you can get the good stuff just by asking. So last night I came in, went through some of the menu items with the hostess (you order at the counter), and asked for some pot stickers and the Spicy Boiled Beef, emphasizing the spicy part (specifically málà (麻辣) “numbing spicy”, which comes from a combination of chili pepper and huājiāo (花椒), the Sichuan peppercorn). The result was an excellent hot bowl of tender beef, celery, leeks, and a whole lot of garlic and chili. (There was just enough Sichuan pepper to be noticeable — perhaps they don’t keep a lot around since it’s not used in the westernized dishes.)

There are 25 dishes on the special part of the menu, and I’m going to try as many as I can.