The flavors at these three restaurants – great spots to carry out or dine in – bring different parts of the world to you.

Sze Chuan

The West Allis haunt is buzzing on a Sunday night. Young families, millennials and larger groups are seated at tables dotted with vessels of saucy creations, noodles and rice. These are not quick, in-and-out meals, either. There’s lingering over the plates and additional orders of boba tea, and a collective feeling of contentment before the inevitability of Monday morning.

Sze Chuan: scallion pancakes, spicy pork dumplings, beef chow fun; photo by Chris Kessler

Hot pot – a soup cooked at the table, like you would fondue – engages some active participants in the room. But many others, like us, keep our chopsticks busy sampling some of what is an exhaustive menu of Chinese cuisine, not limited to Sichuan creations. If your comfort zone is filled with crab Rangoon and General Tso’s chicken, you will find those dishes here. But it’s more fun to stretch that zone, and that’s easy to do at Sze Chuan.

The dishes of Sichuan province, in southwest China, are known for flavor-building ingredients like Sichuan pepper, chile oil, pickled vegetables, ginger, rice wine, garlic paste and so on. The heat can be fierce but shouldn’t detract from the flavors. If leery of peppers, you can also ask for the specialty to be prepared mild.

Because the dishes play a balancing act of textures and tastes, a good approach is to build a meal from things familiar and not, such as dan dan noodles (tossed with spicy pork, preserved greens and peanut flakes, $8), beef chow fun (a Cantonese stir-fry of plump rice noodles and flank steak, $10) along with wonderful spicy pork dumplings bathing in chile oil under a halo of fresh scallions ($7).

Sze Chuan

11102 W. National Ave., West Allis

PHONE: 414-885-0856

HOURS: Daily Lunch and Dinner

PRICES: $5.25-$24

Or go for smoky, charry fried string beans ($10) with thin, crisp deep-fried scallion pancakes ($6), fatty beef in sour chile broth ($14) that illustrates the depth of piquant umami, and bubbly-hot fish fillet in a sour-spicy sauce served in a stone pot ($14). In that latter dish, the tender, light chunks of bass absorb the tangy sauce, a specialty of chefs Shungui Luo and Sun Yin, whose homeland is Sichuan province. For a brief time, you’ll feel like you’re there, too.


Holyland: baklava, lentil soup, lamb shawarma plate; photo by Chris Kessler

Holyland

If you’re looking for spices, fresh meats, dry goods, rice – the ingredients necessary to create dishes native to the Middle East, that part of the world where wheat was first cultivated and figs and pistachios are diet staples – Holyland needs to be programmed into your car’s GPS.

The store wears other hats, too. In one corner is a small, counter-service restaurant serving some of the best shawarma (a seasoned lamb-beef combo or chicken) in the area. It comes in sandwich form or a plate, with rice, hummus, tahini sauce and Jerusalem salad ($10).

The falafel ($2 for eight pieces) are tender and fresh, with a crisp exterior. And Holyland also makes pastries and sweets, boxed and sold near the main cash register. Don’t leave without buying some crisp, nutty, not-too-sweet baklava.

 

Holyland

2755 W. Ramsay Ave.

PHONE: 414-817-1959

HOURS: Daily Lunch and Dinner

PRICES: $2-$11


Indian Delight: samosa chaat, special thali, aloo gobi; photo by Chris Kessler

Indian Delight

A modest strip mall off of Drexel and Howell avenues in Oak Creek is the setting for this charming little counter-service venue that’s Indian, vegetarian and perfectly delightful.

Owner Arvinder Kaur keeps the menu fresh and affordable, with especially good starters such as deep-fried samosas ($2 for two), chaats (tasty mixes of potato, chickpeas, yogurt, chutney, puffed rice and more) and breads ($1-$4), including flaky pan-fried paratha and tender stuffed, baked naan.

For a meal that highlights some of the best of meatless Indian cuisine, order the special thali ($10), which includes bread, rice (likely a biryani cooked with vegetables) and three vegetables (could be daal, aloo gobi or potato and cauliflower, and chilli paneer or cheese cooked with bell pepper and tomato). A trek to the O.C. may become habit.

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Indian Delight

140 E. Drexel Avenue, Oak Creek

PHONE: 414-301-5091

HOURS: Daily Lunch and Dinner

PRICES: $3-$12


Travel by Fork” appears as a Special Advertising Section in the April 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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