Grand Szechuan is the restaurant we eat at most in the Twin Cities area. I stopped posting regularly about our meals there a couple of years ago, as otherwise things would get pretty monotonous. As I did last year, I instead have for you an end of the year round-up drawn from a number of meals eaten this year. It highlights mostly dishes that have not been featured before, as well as a few old favourites. A few new things entered our rotation this year and we also got around to eating for the first time a few things that have always been on the menu. Whether it’s to eat old or new things, we’re always glad to walk in their door.
I am also glad to be able to say that this year they seem to have been busier than we’ve ever seen before. This may be because MSP magazine put them back on their 50 best restaurants in the Twin Cities list this year—they should never be off this (or any other similar) list. If there ever comes a time that there are 50 better restaurants in the Twin Cities than Grand Szechuan that will mean either that we’ll have entered a new golden age of Twin Cities dining or that they’ll have declined terribly. So far, there is no sign of the latter happening: Grand Szechuan remains one of the most dependable bets in the area. So much so that we’ve lost track of Szechuan Spice, Tea House and Szechuan (up in Roseville)—if anyone has information on any new developments at those places, please write in below. We also haven’t been back to Little Szechuan in a long while—are they still hotpot-only?
The only major change at Grand Szechuan is that sometime in the first half of this year they acquired fancy new menu books. Nothing dropped off the menu but almost everything that used to be on the Chinese-only menu at the front, or on pieces of paper stuck to the walls by the captain’s desk, or that you had to know to ask for specially, is now on the menu proper: the triple flavour squid is now on there too, I think (as “Spicy Squid Roll”). A few dishes do remain on the Chinese-only menu. As of our last visit, this included only a couple of whole fish dishes and the spicy, scrambled pork brains (which they remain convinced no one who is not Chinese would want).
Names of featured dishes and my takes on them are in the slideshow below. The slideshow is arranged in order of appearance on their menu—with one exception: I’ve put a sweeter dish from the “Szechuan Snacks” section, which is at the beginning of their menu, at the very end.
An old mainstay, it’s been a little inconsistent in the past but always on point this year.
I have to confess that I can never remember after the fact which was the pork tripe and which the beef. I *think* this is the pork. I really need to label my pictures as soon as I take them…
This was one of the dishes we only tried for the first time this year. And I have no idea why we waited so long—it’s really excellent and texturally interesting.
A bit fiddly as it’s on the bone, but always very good.
A mild dish, this is mostly about texture.
And I *think* this is the beef tripe—doesn’t help that the sauces look identical.
As the boys usually insist on dan dan noodles, we’d never got this before this year. But we sneaked it past them earlier this year and now it’s in the rotation. Not unlike dan dan noodles but with a little more vinegar.
Another that was new to us in 2016, this is also very good—and has a nice kick.
This, however, is mild. It can be a little gamy and is also mostly about the texture, so might not be a crowd pleaser.
This, however, is bound to please anyone who likes hot food. Really very good.
This is another of their more inconsistent dishes, showing up more or less crispy on different occasions. When crisped up right, it’s excellent.
Despite the name, you’re not supposed to actually eat the soup as such. This genre of dishes is always dependably good here.
This is, consistently, one of their weaker dishes—I’m constantly ordering it in hope of improvment; I think I’ll stop now.
This used to be on the Chinese specials menu and the name doesn’t quite prepare you for the dish, which is mild and all about the texture of the soft tofu and the fatty beef.
This had fallen out of our rotation for reasons unknown but is back now. Another stew/casserole-style beef preparation, this includes celery and cucumber (hence, I think, the name).
This is the beef take on the cumin lamb and I think it might be better.
This became one of the boys’ favourite dishes this year and so we’ve been getting it a lot.
More or less the same dish as the previous, but the boys can be counted on to eat rice cakes more willingly than lotus root.
This still does not have a name and is still extremely good: you have to like your spam, your tripe and your cubes of blood though.
Still not on the printed menu, this is a must-get for anyone who enjoys organ meats. You have to have a lot of like-minded folks with you though as otherwise you’ll die. Also, this works best when ordered extra-hot.
This mild chicken dish may actually no longer be on the menu but you can ask for it. It’s a good change of pace if you have a lot of fireworks on the table.
Another that made it to the printed menu this year, this prep of chicken with cauliflower is really very good—another dish that deploys cumin rather than dried chillies.
Another first-timer this year and another we really like. It’s not terribly spicy but the interplay between the crisp outside and soft inside of the tofu is very nice.
The one dish we always get as the boys inhale them.
The eggplant version of the popular dish. I do not eat the devil’s tumour so cannot report on it, but the missus always likes when we order it (when dining in a group).
This does not look like much but it’s another excellent change-up dish. A bit oily though.
Another old faithful, we like to get it on the virulently hot side, and so usually order it when dining by ourselves.
At least, I think this is the menu name for their triple/three flavour squid–we only ever ask for it by that name. Always very good.
Another newcomer to the printed menu, this is one of the Sichuan dishes that puts me in mind of Bengali food while not tasting like it. I can’t explain it, but I can tell you this is always very good.
We got this once and probably won’t get it again. The squid was a little rubbery and the dish was uninteresting.
These head-on shrimp, however, are very good and quite lethal if asked to be made spicy.
If you get the shrimp it’s best to get this lovely, mild soup of fish in what I think is pork bone broth. I could eat a whole tureen of this and be happy.
From the Szechuan Snacks section of the menu, this is best gotten as dessert. The rice cakes are crisp on the surface and chewy below; they’re sprinkled with powdered bean and sit in a somewhat cloying brown sugar/molasses syrup. I like it, but I’m Bengali.
I can’t say that Grand Szechuan is on the same level of our favourite Szechuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley (outside Los Angeles)—a couple of meals we ate at Szechuan Impression, in particular, this year were just breathtaking. However, as I said earlier in the year, they held their own with a Michelin starred Sichuan restaurant we ate at in Hong Kong. As far as Asian cuisines in the Twin Cities go, Grand Szechuan represents theirs better and more fully than any other restaurant.
There’s a whole other genre of meals we’ve been eating there, however, that aren’t even touched on above: their weekday menu includes a number of noodle and noodle soup dishes at lunch and we’ve stopped in for those on a number of occasions too. Expect those to show up sometime early next year in my slow-motion survey of noodle soups in the Twin Cities metro area. In the meantime, if you still haven’t been to Grand Szechuan, or haven’t been in a while, what are you waiting for?