A onetime snow-cone stand, Famous Szechuan Pavilion now draws crowds eager to experience authentic dishes from China's Szechuan province as prepared by owner and chef Xin Lin. Recently, Lin moved the operation to Jeffrey Plaza, the strip mall just east of Interstate 170 on Olive Boulevard. The new space is certainly more restaurant-like, but it is still fairly bare bones — a few tables, one fish tank and a gigantic flat-screen on which you can catch Chinese-language news. But what matters here is the food, and it doesn't get much better than this. While many dishes feature ferocious heat (try the yu shan pork and prepare to sweat), the Szechuan peppercorn (a signature spice) brings a floral flavor along with a numbing sensation that is truly unique — good examples include the earthy ma po tofu, or the dan dan noodles with chicken or pork. If you're looking to try just one dish, let it be the spicy wonton soup with its chile heat, orange-red broth and plump little wontons stuffed with ground pork. St. Louis has plenty of Chinese restaurants, but this is a one-of-a-kind place, so make the pilgrimage.
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