Sherman's Food Adventures: Szechuan Chongqing

Szechuan Chongqing

Just like a scene from the Twilight Zone, we were transported to an alternate reality where there were no Chinese people other than us in a Chinese restaurant. That's right, cue the music, we were the ONLY Chinese people at Szechuan Chongqing for the duration of our dinner. Well, the staff were Chinese; but they don't count. If this happened at any other Chinese restaurant in town, it would send most people running for the hills. After all, isn't Vancouver like 50% Asian? How can it be that there are NO Asians in a Chinese restaurant? Well, I'm exaggerating here because when I go eat "Chinese" food in Delta, it's quite often I am the only Chinese person there. In fact, one time at Delta Wonton House, the server was downright in shock that a Chinese person walked into the place. The Chinese food was awful and well... the restaurant is now closed (I feel bad for them, but their food was not very good). Can it be that the food at Szechuan Chongqing is not actually catered towards Chinese people? I guess we'll have to see about that...

I honestly do not remember ever visiting this location of Szechuan Chongqing. Sure, I've been to the Broadway location; but that has only been for Dim Sum. I never got to try the Kingsway location before they changed hands to Big Lai Palace (which closed under suspicious circumstances). As the name suggests, the restaurant's main focus is Szechuan food, which is bold and spicy. However, my mom doesn't do spicy really well; thus we ordered mostly Cantonese dishes. I did make sure we got one spicy dish since this is what the restaurant is all about. We started off with a Cabbage Hot Pot with Assorted Meat and Seafood. Essentially, a hot pot with all the ingredients sitting in a broth. It's not the most exciting dish; but it was pleasant to eat, if not a bit bland.

Next up was the Moo Shu Chicken with Crepes. This dish was actually pretty good with a cornucopia of sprouts, chicken, onions, wood ear mushrooms and carrots. Strangely, the fried egg was left in one piece on top, rather than being julienned. Viv thought the dish was bland; but I thought it was fine because the hoisin sauce made up for any flavour deficiency. It was probably our fault for ordering the next dish - Crispy Chicken. This is a pretty difficult dish to make right and since this was a Szechuan restaurant, it is obviously not their specialty. It was overcooked and super salty. If there was such a thing as chicken jerky, this would be it. The best part of the dish were the shrimp chips.

One surprisingly good dish was the Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp. Unfortunately, they put green onions in it despite the fact we asked them not to. We didn't send it back in fears that it might be extra "runny" when we got it back. Onions aside, the eggs were perfectly fluffy and the shrimp was cold-water crunchy. Finally, the dish I had been waiting for - Orange Peel Beef. Loaded with beef, this dish had a nice rich colour. The combination of orange peel, dark soy, chilies and lots of sugar resulted in an intense flavour. The beef had a good sear (most likely from deep-frying) which gave it a nice crisp exterior. The only criticism of this dish was that it was a bit too sweet and the slightly watery sauce.

Overall, the meal was a bit better than expected considering our initial impressions. I'd definitely stick with the Szechuan specialties here since they are not a Cantonese restaurant. However, the fortune cookies that we got at the end of the meal gave a clear indication that we were not their target clientele.

The Good:
- Service was friendly and attentive
- The one Szechuan dish we had was pretty good
- Prices are quite reasonable

The Bad:
- Depending what your expectations are for Chinese food, there are better choices
- The fortune cookies at the end says it all (and I'm not talking about the fortune inside)

Szechuan Chongqing on Urbanspoon


Ada said...

We just drove by this place last night & was questioning whether anyone still goes to this place Chinese or not! It's been around for a long time. Not surprised you were the one to seek out the "adventure."

Sherman said...

Ada, to tell you the truth, the food wasn't bad at all. Not my first choice, but I didn't dislike it. So despite the lack of Asian customers, it wasn't Canadian-Chinese food I was eating.

fmed said...

This used to be our go-to Chinese restaurant a loooong time ago. I still take my family once in a while for that Nixon-era "Szechuan" food.

It's nostalgic for me as Szechuan Chongqing's original location on Victoria and Broadway (where the Buddhist temple is now) is where I discovered that Chinese food is regional. Of course, it isn't even remotely close to the flavours of authentic Sichuan food.

Nowadays, I notice that most time I go, the clientele is predominantly South Asian (ie Indian). To this community, it is an alternative Green Lettuce (which serves Indian-Chinese food).

Sherman said...

I remember going to that old location too, in fact, it was a fish n chip place even before that. I used to live in the neighbourhood too! It is a good alternative to Indian Chinese food. Although I'm lucky since I work near Scott Road where there are plenty of Indian Chinese places such as Green Lettuce, Asian Spice, Hakka Masti and Chili Pepper House.

SixBalloons said...

I think their best dishes are the hot/spicy ones, i.e. Tan Tan Noodles, Hot Peppering Wontons.

Those are the consistent winners, I find. It also explains the attraction to the East Indian customers. I also think non-Chinese feel comfortable at this restaurant because the hosts and servers speak English. That's not the case at all Chinese places in town.

My family has been eating here for many years - I think if you go back and try the Tan Tan Noodles, you'll be thinking about them for a long time! It's a cheap solo lunch!

Sherman said...

@SixBalloons Yes, if ordering the right dishes, the food is still fine. For me, compared to when I used to go here as a kid, the food seems a bit different...