From the various rumblings on the web claiming how Joyce Chinese, the barely 2-year-old Sichuan restaurant in River Edge, NJ, "isn't as good as it used to be," you'd think they changed the menu and dumbed down the food to appeal to bland American tastes. From my admittedly unscientific analysis, I conclude that that's all a bunch of cahcah (cahcah means crap). The restaurant continues to serve mind- and tongue-numbingly good Sichuan food.
The Dan Dan noodle remains a standout, and remains our favorite version, edging out the excellent bowl of sweet/spicy noodle that they serve at the also wonderful Chengdu 23 in Wayne. The heap of noodles in a slightly sweet chili oil, laced with mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns and seasoned with flecks of ground beef, is deeply satisfying and highly addictive. And there are even some vegetables in there.
The stir-fried fish with pickled peppers dish comes out on a portable burner. When it hit the table I realized that I've had this dish before. Thankfully, I loved it both times. The missus at first thought the sauce was a tad too sweet. But soon the subtle build-up of heat, along with acid and spice, balanced that sweetness right the heck out. This dish is loaded with vegetables of all sorts of shapes and textures. Super stuff.
"Streaky pork" is the Sichuan way of saying "pork belly." I'm a fan of pork belly, so jumping on the Streaky Pork with vegetables dish (northern style, per the menu) was a no-brainer. I don't know much about northeast Chinese cuisine, but from what I do know, and just learned, it relies more on noodles and vegetables than other parts of the country. Pickled/fermented vegetables are also part of the food culture, likely a reaction to cold, long winters. This dish squared perfectly with that theory.
These three dishes, which could have fed four normal people, came to about $40. An incredible value by any barometer.
If you've been swayed by the various opinions on the internet and have determined that Joyce should come off your list, you should think again. Because I know what I'm talking about. Even if I had to go to Wikipedia to learn about northern Chinese food.
Joyce Chinese Cuisine : 478 Kinderkamack Rd : River Edge, NJ : 201.261.8858 : BYOB