Editor’s Note: Tian Jin is now closed.
It’s hard not to feel as though you’re getting hoodwinked nearly every time you eat Chinese food in this country. The flavors are washed out, simple, cloying or one-dimensionally hot. There’s no damned way one of the oldest and most magnificently complicated civilizations in the world came up with General Tso’s Chicken or Moo Shu Pork. Pearl Dragon and Imperial Rainbow and Golden Express don’t love you, and they’re not making good food. They’re grinding it out.
A Mandarin/Szechuan Chinese restaurant in Chanhassen called Tian Jin is doing some remarkable things with the food that sheds real light on how it’s meant to taste. A fellow diner (who had actually visited Tianjin, China’s third largest city) said the stuff was the closest thing he’d had to real Chinese food since leaving the country.
If you want the detailed blow-by-blow, read Iggers: as usual, he nails the important stuff and tells a good story.
Here’s the short version: The Chinese food you probably know is a xerox of a xerox. Tian Jin is serving up the original document. Thinly sliced gizzards that are covered in a cooling herbal sauce. Tongue-tingling boiled beef of shocking subtlety. Fried chicken tossed with whole peppercorns. The best dumplings you may ever get to try anywhere, profoundly honest. An entirely new take on the eggroll, based on taro root.
Tian Jin is at 463 W. 79th Street in Chanhassen. The phone number is 952.934.4111. If you care about Chinese food, set your GPS, Google it, or grab your folding map. Then: Hit the road.