Szechuan Spice

We leave for Delhi on Sunday and have everything left to do. Therefore, it only made sense that on Wednesday we went up to the cities for lunch. It is true that we’d had the boys at home every day since Festivus, and thanks to the polar vortex, Governor Mark Dayton and the local school district that nightmarelovely time with our delightful progeny got extended by another two days this week. And so we needed to get out and do something. As Sichuan food is not something we’ll be eating much of in Delhi we decided to eat a Sichuan lunch and in a shocking twist decided to go somewhere other than Grand Szechuan. That somewhere is Szechuan Spice on Lyndale, right off of Lake Street in Minneapolis. It is one of the relatively newer Sichuan places in town and for whatever reason we’ve never been moved to go.

Signs at lunch today weren’t promising: there was no one else eating, we had to ask for chopsticks, and the menu is largely American Chinese favourites with some Sichuan dishes in each category (more in some categories than others)—and some Sichuan dishes that should be hot by default were not marked as such. Still, there was enough that we were interested in. As we have a lot of food in the fridge to finish before we leave we couldn’t order our usual complement of dishes and restricted ourselves to only two “starters” and three mains.

What we got (click on a thumbnail to launch a slideshow of larger images with captions):

All of this came to a little north of $60 with tax and tip and we brought quite a bit each of the three mains home.

So, in sum this was surprisingly good. You will have to ask for the food to be extra hot if you like it that way and if you’re not familiar with Sichuan cuisine you might ask for some direction or the special menu. “What special menu?,” you ask. When I asked our waitress why the steamed chicken was done the way it was (sans fiddly bits) when everything that followed was so hardcore, she produced another menu of “specials” and said that next time we should order the version on that menu as it comes as we like it. And, of course, that menu has a lot more interesting things on it (though Grand Szechuan’s repertoire is still much larger); their website lists this stuff–it’s the second half of the “Chef Recommend” page here. I should also add that it’s a nice space and that the serving dishes and utensils are far less utilitarian than at Grand or Little Szechuan.

Well, we’ll be back once we’ve got back from India and my system has recovered from 3.5 weeks of over-eating (gajar halwa, gulab jamuns, jalebis and Bengali sweets, here I come!). And we have to rethink our slavish loyalty to Grand Szechuan. While they have a lot of stuff we like a lot that’s not available here, most of the overlapping things we ate here were a little or a lot better. With the caveat that you have to know what you’re ordering if you expressly want a Sichuan meal, I recommend Szechuan Spice highly.

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