Dim Sum at Yangtze (St. Louis Park, MN)

I wrote up dim sum at Yangtze a few years ago in my first post on dim sum in the Twin Cities. That post upset some people in the area. There’s a tendency among a subset of Twin Cities foodies and journalists to inflate the state of the local food scene and I took issue then with the notion that dim sum in the Twin Cities deserved high praise. Not only was it not on par in 2014 with dim sum in Denver more than 10 years ago but compared to that in cities in the US with significant Chinese populations, the best dim sum here seemed fourth rate. And that best dim sum here, in our opinion then, was at Yangtze. (Our last meal at Mandarin Kitchen was atrocious.) But it’s not like we like Yangtze enough to make the near two hour round-trip trek unless we have guests who really want to go.

Well, my parents were recently in town and since, as I’ve said before, even fourth rate American dim sum is better than what’s available in Delhi, we made the drive (in pouring rain). And we were hoping that maybe in the time since our last visit things had in fact improved. I am sorry to say that not only did our opinion of Twin Cities dim sum not improve from the experience but our opinion of Yangtze also took a hit.  Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2016

Grand Szechuan: Szechuan Cool Noodle
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

Grand Szechuan, 2015

Grand Szechuan: Beef and Tofu with Peanuts
This is my fourth report on Grand Szechuan (first, second, third) and my first since December 2014. We’ve been eating there regularly all year, however—I’ve just been waiting to post one large round-up of dishes that we hadn’t had before or that I hadn’t reported on before. This is that round-up. (Though there are a few familiar items in here too.)

Since my last report on Grand Szechuan there’s been a bit of ferment in the Twin Cities Sichuan scene. Little Szechuan has closed their West End location (we haven’t been back to their St. Paul mothership in a while, and so I don’t know if they’re still religiously hotpot only there). There have even been some reports of decline at Grand Szechuan (and some speculation about possible changes in the kitchen). Well, we’ve been eating there all year and we haven’t noticed any decline. And on our last visit we confirmed that Chef Luo is still running the kitchen. In fact, they have some new dishes, though only listed in Chinese on a board stuck to a wall, and I’m happy to report on them here.

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Szechuan (Roseville, MN)

Szechuan: Steamed Flounder
At the end of my review of Tea House in Minneapolis I noted that I was considering finally trying Szechuan in Roseville. It opened at about the same time as Grand Szechuan but early reports had made me wary and somehow we never went. A friend who shares my view of Tea House, recommended it as worth a try after reading that review and so off we went. Once again, my visiting parents (who are always willing to eat Chinese food, and Sichuan food in particular) rounded out our party, which meant we could once again try a bunch of things without the risk of being stranded with lots of leftovers of food we didn’t care for. Continue reading

Tea House (Minneapolis)

Dumplings
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).

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A&L Chinese: Dim Sum in Inver Grove Heights (Minnesota)

Sticky Rice
We’re not very enamoured of the dim sum choices in the Twin Cities metro area. Yangtze is the best, in our opinion, and it’s no great shakes in the abstract, and certainly not worth the long round-trip or the long waits on the weekends. Mandarin Kitchen is the other popular choice and our last meal there was downright depressing, bordering on disgusting. As a result we tend to save dim sum eating for when we’re in Los Angeles and only make the trek out to St. Louis park to Yangtze if guests or friends really want to go. (I wrote about all this last year in a post that I gather made some people a little unhappy with me.) Continue reading

Grand Szechuan Yet Again

Grand Szechuan: Stir Fried Pea Tips

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

Szechuan Spice II (Minneapolis)

Szechuan Spice: FIsh with Chopped Chilli Pepper
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

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. Continue reading

Twin Cities Dim Sum (Yangtze Mostly)

The few Twin Citizens who read all my local food/restaurant write-ups are doubtless sick of my moaning endlessly about the general quality of Asian food in the area. I’m sure I come off like a poseur who wants everyone to know that he knows better than everyone else; or, worse, like an insufferable jerk who wants people to feel bad about what they enjoy. Now I don’t deny that I am an annoying bastard (see the title of this blog) but my version of events is that a) when it comes to most Asian cuisines I have a frame of reference (a decade in Los Angeles and regular visits every year since) against which almost everything in Minnesota pales*, and which I am not willing to let go of to make my gastronomic life here seem better than it is; and b) I do want things to get better and hope they can, and I don’t think overpraising the mediocre or muting criticism is going to get us there. Please bear in mind that I do not have this attitude towards our fine dining scene. We now have a number of restaurants in that genre that would be competitive even in the major metros. But this is just not true when it comes to Asian food. Continue reading

Little Szechuan (Hot Pot), Saint Paul

Little Szechuan, Hot Pot: On the go

Little Szechuan put Sichuan food in Minnesota on the map a little less than a decade ago. From the original location on University Avenue in Saint Paul they expanded first to the tony West End mall in St. Louis Park and then later to the university area in Minneapolis. By the time of their expansion, however, they were no longer the best Sichuan food in town. That torch had been taken by their original chef to his new restaurant Grand Szechuan in Bloomington—and he’s pretty much held it there since then. I’ve noted before that I’ve found the quality at Little Szechuan to be highly variable since Chef Luo left—and I’m not sure how much stability there has been in the kitchen. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan Redux

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.

Click on a thumbnail to launch a larger slideshow with descriptions. (Only dishes not pictured in the previous write-up or featured in particularly heinous photographs are included.) Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan

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