Sometime in the last year, Lao Sze Chuan, a Chicago-based mini-empire of Szechuan restaurants, opened a branch in Minneapolis. As I don’t really follow the Twin Cities food media very closely, I missed this. A chance reference to it on Facebook alerted me to its existence recently, and shortly thereafter we descended upon them with a group of friends to see if this was a worthy addition to the Twin Cities’ unexpectedly strong Sichuan scene. Short answer: it is. More annoying answer: it’s nothing very special, however. And while the original bills itself as “the best Chinese restaurant in America”, this one is not the best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities; nor is it, for that matter, the best Sichuan restaurant within a 1/4 mile radius. That award would go to Tea House, which is walking distance from Lao Sze Chuan. The best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area, of course, continues to be Grand Szechuan. Continue reading
Our first visit to Tea House in Minneapolis was almost three years ago. In my review of that meal I noted that while it was fine on the whole, nothing about it made it worth driving 20 more minutes each way over going to Grand Szechuan. However, after our recent return to Szechuan in Roseville, I figured we should give Tea House another try too—especially as occasional commenter, Jim Grinsfelder always speaks highly of them. Well, we went back a few weekends ago with most of our regular eating-out crew. And I am very happy to say that we liked this meal more than our first. Read on to see what we ate. Continue reading
At the end of last week’s review of an excellent dinner at Demera I noted that this week’s review would be of a disappointing Sichuan meal. This is that meal, eaten at Szechuan (in Roseville). I should say right off the bat, however, that it was not by any means a bad meal; it was, however, disappointing on account of some changes in the menu and how it was presented on their website when we decided to go eat there. This menu presentation raised our expectations in a specific way and those were far from met. Anyone unencumbered by those expectations—which would be almost anyone else eating there—would have far less to complain about. What am I talking about? Read on to find out and then keep reading to see what we actually ate and what we thought of it. Continue reading
Grand Szechuan is the Twin Cities area restaurant we eat at most often. Rather than report on every meal, for the last few years I’ve been posting yearly roundups instead. This year we weren’t there as often as usual. This is largely because we were gone for a chunk of the year, and given how much we ate out in the UK, and the fact that it was good to be back in our own kitchen, we didn’t eat out very much for the first few months after our return either. This roundup therefore includes a few dishes eaten at meals in the mid and late summer but mostly comprises a blowout meal we ate there this last Sunday with what has become our regular eating-out crew. As last restaurant meals of the year go, it was a very good one. And we ate so much that it also ended up being our last meal of the year—we passed on dinner. Continue reading
Here now, a scant 8.5 months after our first meal there and a mere 5.5 months after we returned from the UK, is a writeup of the first restaurant we ate at in London: Ma La Sichuan, a hop, skip and jump from the door of our flat in Westminster. When we were flat-hunting a few months earlier, long-distance via the help of a friend on the ground, one of the things that had caught our eye about the one we ended up taking was that it was about a 45 second walk from one of London’s better-reviewed Sichuan restaurants. We figured Ma La Sichuan would be our regular go-to for dining-in and taking out. Things didn’t quite work out that way, though we did eat here a few hours after arrival, after dropping our luggage off at the flat, and one more time after that. Why didn’t we eat here more often? Read on. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
I was going to post yet another write-up of a bunch of meals at Grand Szechuan this month but figured they might be getting a bit monotonous*. And so here instead is a writeup of the U of M outpost of Tea House.
Tea House were, I believe, the OG Sichuan pioneer in the Twin Cities—people with actual knowledge of the history of Chinese food in the area should feel free to correct me if this is wrong (we’ve only been here since 2007). When we first got here they were recommended to us when we asked about Sichuan options. We had a meal at their St. Paul location and weren’t overly impressed; and then we found Little Szechuan (which was then coming into its prime) and couldn’t see any reason to make a longer drive. And after Chef Luo opened Grand Szechuan it’s been hard to go anywhere else (though we did like both our meals at Szechuan Spice quite a bit).
It may seem like I post reviews of every meal we eat out but that’s not entirely true. I certainly don’t post reviews of every meal we eat at Grand Szechuan, for if I did it would get rather monotonous.We are probably a couple of meals away from having eaten their entire Sichuan menu. Once we’ve done that we’ll probably go back with our most hardcore friends for a personal “best of” meal.
Indeed, I’ve never actually posted meal reviews of Grand Szechuan—both of my previous reviews have been compendiums of several meals eaten there (see here for the first and here for the second), and the same is true of this one. This covers a number of meals eaten since the summer, and only some of what we ate on all these occasions is pictured: things that were pictured in the previous reviews have been omitted (even I am not that tedious); however, I may channel my inner George Lucas and go back and update some of the really crappy older pictures with (slightly) better ones of the same dishes taken on later occasions. Continue reading
We ate at Szechuan Spice for the first time in January and I noted in my review then that we would be back soon. Life being what it is, and more specifically, our devotion to Grand Szechuan being what it is, it took us almost exactly 10 months to make it back. This time we were accompanied by friends (two adults and their small kids). It was again a very nice meal, on the whole. Nothing really jumped out as special but everything was quite good. This time we ordered largely from the “Chef’s Recommend” menu—a separate, smaller sheet that you should ask for if you don’t automatically receive it; we were given it without asking on this occasion but not on our prior visit. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
I’d planned to review Little Szechuan in St. Paul this month but they’ve been closed for remodeling. Hopefully, they will reopen soon and if so I’ll have a write-up in May. In the meantime, here are some more pictures from recent meals at Grand Szechuan which continues to be as reliably good as it’s ever been. On our recent visits we’ve been eating some things we hadn’t tried before and now have some new regulars to add to the rotation.
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. Continue reading
As area foodies well know, Grand Szechuan started up when the original chef of Little Szechuan, Chef Luo, left that establishment with pretty much the entire kitchen staff. This was a number of years ago now. Little Szechuan used to be the best in town until then and then went into the toilet for a while. It recovered later with a new chef who put some interesting items on the menu but it’s been up and down for the last couple of years (I suspect there has not been stability in the kitchen). In the last year and a half we’ve had some very bad meals there (we go food shopping in the near vicinity); but our last meal–a couple of months ago–was not bad. Grand Szechuan, however, has been a model of consistency since it started up, despite the opening of a second branch elsewhere in the suburbs. Continue reading