Monday, September 6, 2010

Finally, Good Chinese in Uptown - Szechuan Spice

It took something monumental to get me out of my 6-month blogging drought - discovering a decent new Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood.

Since coming to Minnesota 8 years ago, the only Chinese place that has captured my attention is the Tea House. I'm always impressed with their food, if not the ambiance. While I always enjoy my meals there I've reached the point where in the summer, if I can't walk there, I'm not likely to eat there very often.

Hungry and bored, I by-chance did a Yelp search from my house last week and noticed that a new place called Szechuan Spice had recently taken over the former location of Zen Fusion (a place I only went to once with which I was bitterly disappointed) near the corner of Lyndale Ave and Lake Street. While I couldn't convince J the BF to go that evening (not in the mood) we committed to try it ASAP. After getting caught in a rain storm while walking around Lake Calhoun, we decided it was time for something spicy so we stalked the 10 blocks through the rain to check this place out. So glad we did.

We have been rocking the junk food all weekend so we thought we'd take it easy - if you call ordering three apps and an entree taking it easy. We started with 2 scallion pancakes - standard fare, but something we don't always see on the menu of other places. Take my word for it, you only need one pancake for 2 - 4 people. They were thicker than others I've had, but very crisp and tasty with the standard soy dipping sauce on the side.

Next came the Juicy Mini Crab Buns which were more of a soupy dumpling than a bun. These reminded us of the soup-dumplings we have when we do Dim Sum at Yak Sing in San Francisco. Each dumpling is placed on a Chinese soup spoon. You pierce the dumpling and sip out the flavorful juice and then sprinkle a vinegar sauce on top before slurping down the crab-stuffed yummy morsel. Very fun to eat and this alone could have been dinner for the two of us.

We rounded out the up-front with a bowl of meat stuffed dumplings in spicy sauce. The pile of treats were swimming in a mild sauce and topped with a sweet bean sauce. Very enjoyable, but not our favorite thing in the meal.

For our main, we tried one of the chef's recommendations (i.e. the stuff on page 1 of the menu) the Double Pepper Chicken. The dish had wok crisp strips of chicken lightly glazed with a light salty-spicy sauce and sauteed with an almost intimidating amount of red dried and fresh jalapeno chillies. The flavor was amazing, but the heat crept up on us by the end of dinner. We washed it down with some hot tea to help us forget about our wet socks and pants. All-in-all, a wonderful dining experience.

Szechuan Spice has only been open for about a month, but we hope our neighbors discover it soon and help them to thrive. They don't have an alcohol license yet, but that would be beside the point. The dining room needs some help to warm it up (maybe to break up the space) but overall, two thumbs up. We needed some new flavor in the 'hood.