Little Szechuan, West End

As I’ve noted before, Little Szechuan was the first restaurant in the Twin Cities to put Sichuan food front and center. The original location on University Avenue was ground central for the mini-Sichuan boom in the area, spawning not just its own branches in St. Louis Park and in Minneapolis but also launching Grand Szechuan, which came into existence in Bloomington when the original chef of Little Szechuan, Chef Luo, left with all the kitchen staff. Grand Szechuan too spawned its own branch in Plymouth but that has since shut down.

To our palates there’s really not been any contest between Little Szechuan and Grand Szechuan since the latter opened. However, while Little Szechuan on University had a lot of fluctuations in quality since Luo’s departure it did have some interesting highs in there. A couple of years ago they rebooted their menu–whether this was the intention or not it did have the effect of distinguishing them from Grand Szechuan somewhat: while the menu shrank (and no longer includes a number of staple dishes) it does have some dishes unique to it in the area. This remained for us the only reason really to occasionally choose Little Szechuan over Grand Szechuan. Of course, now that the University Avenue mothership has morphed into an all hotpot restaurant we have to go further, to St. Louis Park, to eat these dishes (I haven’t been to the Minneapolis location and have assumed that its proximity to the university is not a good thing—please disabuse if incorrect). And a few weeks ago that is exactly what we did.

What we ate (four adults plus our young boys)—please click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow with captions:

All in all, an above average meal. All of this came to $144 with tax and tip, which seems a little high in retrospect for the quality. This was our first visit to this location. It’s far snazzier than the University Avenue original was; not surprising, given the upscale nature of the West End Mall. There weren’t too many people there when we were eating lunch, but for all I know they are doing very well there. I will say that the front of house staff seem to have been selected (as at Krungthep Thai) mostly for their ability to interface with a non-Asian clientele (our server’s knowledge of the food was limited). The food, however, suggests that that Sichuan dishes are not being toned down as a default. Not a bad option at all if you’re in easy reach, thougb in general, again, it’s hard to pick them over Grand Szechuan.

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