Grand Szechuan, 2018 (Bloomington, MN)


A little later than usual, here is the 2018 edition of my annual roundup of meals eaten at Grand Szechuan in the past year. Those who follow my restaurant reports closely—if any such exist—know that I’ve said in the past that Grand Szechuan is, in sum, my family’s favourite restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area. I mean this across all genres. Yes, there are better ingredients being used and more elaborate techniques being deployed at some high-end restaurants in the area but when it comes to flavour and satisfaction and value, Grand Szechuan is it for us and it’s the one restaurant that we go back to month after month. For this reason as well I do not review every single meal we eat there. It would get too monotonous and there wouldn’t be enough variance from meal to meal to justify it. Hence these annual reports that give a snapshot from our year’s worth of meals.

As it happens, we ate at Grand Szechuan a little less in 2018 than we usually do. This is not due to some downturn in their fortunes. It’s just that we were out of town a bit in the summer and then I was gone again at the end of the year. And in between I was trying a bit harder to expand my coverage of immigrant restaurants in the general area. As it happens, we haven’t yet been in 2019 either. We are actually scheduled to go for lunch today (about 10 hours after this post will be published) but the goddamned blizzard that has already destroyed our Saturday night dinner plans (at the hard to book Hyacinth) will probably put paid to this as well. But odds are good that we will make up for lost time very soon.

There might still be a few dishes on Grand Szechuan’s Sichuan menu that we have not yet tried but the slideshow below contains few surprises for those who’ve eaten there more than a handful of times. Many of these dishes are old favourites; but a few are new(er) favourites. If you put this together with my round-ups from the last few years you should have a good sense of the breadth and depth of their menu. You may also find yourself bemused anew—as I was again while uploading these pictures—at Andrew Zimmern’s claims last year that his restaurant, Lucky Cricket, was going to introduce Midwesterners to hardcore Chinese flavours and ingredients. I have not yet been to Zimmern’s restaurant—not even those who find it hardest to criticize him have managed to praise it enough to make me want to risk my cash—but no one who has eaten at Grand Szechuan or Tea House or Szechuan Spice or Little Szechuan (especially in their heyday) or the other Sichuan restaurants in town for nigh on a decade needed Lucky Cricket to introduce them to anything. The Twin Cities may not be a Chinese food mecca but we have far better Sichuan food here than people outside the state know; and Grand Szechuan is still at the top of the ladder.

Launch the slideshow for a look at some deliciousness and scroll down to see what I likely have coming next from the Twin Cities.

Prices remain as reasonable as ever and service as friendly. I hope to make it there for sure in the next couple of weeks and will be curious to see if they’ve added any new dishes since our last visit: my one complaint in 2018 has been that the specials board by the door has been rather bare (with just two options for fish cooked in the same styles). I am also hoping that we might be able to reschedule our dinner at Hyacinth for sometime in March. If not—or possibly in addition—we might make it to In Bloom, another newer restaurant we’ve been wanting to eat at. I’m also going to continue my Indian restaurant survey (the last outing was rather promising, after all). And there’s a chance we might do another Korean meal in Saint Paul as well. Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Grand Szechuan, 2018 (Bloomington, MN)

  1. Looking forward to upcoming reviews, and now I MUST to get back to Grand Szech.

    Last weekend we ended up at Dragon Star market just NW of the capitol in STP. I could not believe how huge it is, and the selection of meat, seafood, and produce was nothing like I’ve seen. Check it out sometime.

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  2. Have been wanting to make it to Grand Szechuan for what seems like forever based on your many mentions, and finally made it a couple of weeks ago. Just me and my daughter, but we ordered enough to feed us plus my husband for the next week. I combed your reviews and had my heart set on these for our first round trial: country chicken (takeout for my husband; he thought it bland but I enjoyed it, especially the green beans, so too bad for him); spicy hammered chicken (tasty, but too custardy textured for me–I like custard, but apparently not meat beat into submission); dan dan noodles (unremarkable to me, but my daughter liked them fine); onion pancakes (big disappointment, somehow both greasy and floury and with barely a hint of green–we much prefer the Teahouse’s rendition); Chinese bacon with rice cakes (a big hit with both of us, second favorite of the evening), and the spicy dumplings (fine, but again I prefer the hot chili oil assault Teahouse’s dumplings deliver–maybe I’m just a barbarian.) And then, of course, the triple squid, my high five favorite of the meal. But listen people: don’t go looking for triple flavour squid on the menu. You won’t find it. It’s called Spicy Squid Roll. My daughter and I scrolled through every page looking for Triple Flavour in vain. I asked our server, or maybe it was more like I whined to her, but she wasn’t able to help. But I was determined and just as the first platters were being delivered, and to my daughter’s rolled eyeballs, got out my phone and pulled up a picture from your blog and ah ha! Our server knew immediately what this mythical Triple Flavour Squid was and my dream was satisfied. I shall order that and the rice cakes next time, along with the fish flavored eggplant, green beans, and I think a couple of the cut noodles options. Maybe a whole fish. Do they have a whole fish? Will go look.

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    • The main takeaway for me from your report is that they made everything very mild for you. Next time I’d ask insistently that they make things hot. Also, not sure why the spicy hammered chicken was custardy–it’s never approached that texture in all the years we’ve eaten it. But yeah, the onion pancakes are nothing special. Funny that the staff no longer recognize the name “triple flavour squid”; until it made it onto the printed menu that’s what it was called.

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  3. They do have a whole fish. You can get it with hot bean sauce (which I recommend) or steamed with soy sauce and ginger (also good but mild–good if there’s a lot of heat eleswhere in your order). Both are pictured at the bottom of the slide show above.

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