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Friday, April 20, 2012

Number 17: Z&Y Restaurant's Fish With Flaming Chile Oil

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Z&Y's fish with flaming oil. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Z&Y's fish with flaming oil.

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition


The next time your best friend pretends she's not dieting but is "cleansing" her body of "toxins" with a little bout of self-starvation, one-up her by embarking on an "internal sweat lodge," otherwise known as Z&Y's fish with flaming chile oil.

A bowl of broth the happy, prosperous color of glowing coals comes to greet you, a logjam of dried chiles on its surface. There's an innocuous tuft of cilantro on the surface, but the wisps of steam that float up from the bowl carry aromas that normally convey the phrase, "Run now, idiot." But you are no idiot, or perhaps a bigger one than you suspect, because you are in there with your chopsticks, pulling fat, white pieces of fish out from the depths of the broth, holding them up long enough for most -- but not all -- of the crimson oil to sluice off the fish. (Advanced practitioners do this over their rice, denying themselves an easy out.)

You take a bite, and the fish -- cooked merely by pouring the hot broth and oil overtop -- melts as if it were a bundle of unspun silk, or perhaps a pouf of seafoam. And then the burn begins. It starts at the lips, which initially vibrate along with the capsicum-induced throbbing, courtesy of the Sichuan peppercorns that give the broth such a cool, citrus-bright aroma. Then the burn flows around the insides of your cheeks, makes your tongue involuntarily spasm, and spreads out onto the skin of your face.

Your eyebrows sweat. Your ears sweat. You can feel those PCBs and BPAs and all those other unnamed chemicals that are surely poisoning your brain course out of your body like bees from a bear-threatened hive. Once the post-chile endorphins kick in, the pain doesn't hurt quite so much. By the end of a half-hour of this kind of treatment, you may not lose any weight, but you emerge from the meal purer of heart.

Z&Y Restaurant, 655 Jackson (at Grant), 981-8988.

Other favorites in this series:

18: Auntie April's fried catfish

19: None but the Brave from Heaven's Dog

20: Saha's vegan kibbeh

21: Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amann

22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo

23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's

24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan

25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack

26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli

27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke

28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich

29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket

30: Custard buns from City View

31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami

32: Panisse frites from Frances

33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi

34: Fatted Calf's chorizo

35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas

36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager

37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company

38: Broken Record's crawfish grits

39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 

40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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