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
Back in November I wrote up a very disappointing dim sum meal at Yangtze in St. Louis Park and ended by noting that I’d give A&L Chinese one more shot, and that if it turned out as bad as our meal at Yangtze I’d be done with dim sum in the Twin Cities metro. Accordingly, with a lot riding on it, I returned to A&L last weekend with most of the group of people who’ve been accompanying me to the Twin Cities meals I’ve recently reviewed. I’m glad to say that while the meal was nothing very special it was a lot better than the Yangtze debacle and that A&L Chinese remains the one passable option for dim sum in the area. 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
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 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
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.
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
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).
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
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