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Let me make one thing clear before I start being my usual critical self: Assessed based on price, quality, execution and flavor, Fugu is one of the best Chinese restaurants I have visited anywhere in the world. This includes all the Chinese restaurants I have been to in my combined 10 years of living in China. When I eat here I embarrass myself by emitting delighted exclamations and inarticulate rhapsodies.

Notice how I leave service out of that list of criteria. That’s because service is universally bad in authentic Chinese restaurants in the U.S. Fugu’s service is actually decent though, but this restaurant is an outlier in more ways than one.

First thing to do is to decide which of their two leather bound menus to order from. The thinner two pager is their Americanized Chinese food menu. Burn it if you can. The very thick one is their real menu, featuring Si Chuan cuisine. The main characteristics of Si Chuan cuisine are bold flavors, rich sauces, with spice levels ranging from the subtle to the alarming. Everything is delicious in this menu. Many things are divine in this menu. Everything is cooked and seasoned perfectly. The prices are a couple dollars higher than I’d expect for a Chinese restaurant, but I never regret a cent spent here.

If you ordered something braised it will be succulent, moist, and fall apart tender, with an abundance of potently flavored liquid ready to pour on your rice. If you ordered something pan-fried it will be perfectly crisp-tender. If you ordered something battered and fried it will be light, fluffy, with a uniformly golden crust, and it will be so fresh out of the fryer you will have to wait a while to eat it.

I do not know why they call their restaurant Fugu, it should be called Trade Offs. Everything decision made during the course of your meal is a trade off. If you order this delicious dish, you don’t get to have that other delicious dish. If you take a bite of this braised red cooked pork with chestnuts, that’s one less bite of the kidneys in black bean sauce you can savor. If you decide you are full and should ask for the check then you lose the opportunity to sit in the dining room for four hours and order another meal later.

This is one of only two real Chinese restaurants in Madison, the other being Wah Kee Noodles, but their quality has been inconsistent of late. If you live on the west side then Oriental Express is pretty good too, if you order off the Chinese menu instead of the take-out menu (there are very simple English translations of the names of the dishes on the Chinese menu, they are not very descriptive).

Verdict: I will build a shrink ray, shrink this place, put it in my house, shrink myself every day and eat here.