New Szechuan Restaurant 新四川飯店Posted: 01/02/2013
Before we embark on this food adventure, let me first say this: Chinese food is not really within my comfort zone. Well, first of all, “Chinese” food is an umbrella term for so many different cuisines, many of which are available to us in Vancouver. Generally, my knowledge of Chinese food extends to a very minimal understanding of Hong Kong cafes, dimsum, and Taiwanese beef noodles. Even at these restaurants, I depend on someone (usually SB) to help me navigate the menu.
That being said, my family’s trip to New Szechuan Restaurant was kind of a failure. We really should have asked the waitress for recommendations (she was super friendly and probably would have been happy to oblige). Please keep the above in mind as you read my review, which is, after all, from the perspective of an amateur food blogger and not an experienced food connoisseur.
New Szechuan is a small restaurant in a somewhat abandoned looking area, and not the kind of place you’d notice if you were driving by. It looks more like someone’s dining room than an actual restaurant, and the tables are covered with layers of plastic wrap, with each layer removed to create a clean dining space for the next customer. Despite being in a secluded area, there was a solid number of customers in the restaurant throughout our stay, and the service was efficient and friendly.
We started with our customary order of the Hot and Sour Soup ($6.95). This was a nicely sized portion for the price, and chock full of ingredients. The soup itself was of a good consistency, not too thick or watered down. My mom usually doesn’t have any of this even if we order it, saying that the sour taste is too overpowering for her. However, she liked the version here, where the sourness was nicely offset by the spicy aftertaste. The soup had very soft, tasty morsels of tofu, pork, mushroom, and shrimp, and we could detect a bit of sesame oil as well.
I had my heart set on the wet Tan Tan Noodles ($5.50). This was my first time having tan tan noodles, and it was an interesting experience. The noodles were served in a spicy sauce with preserved vegetables and pork, as well as chopped peanuts, which helped add some texture. The taste reminded me of Korean traditional herbal medicines, and although I didn’t particularly enjoy my first taste, I somehow ended up finishing the whole bowl. The sauce was at once sweet, tart, salty, bitter, and strangely addicting. The noodles themselves were cooked perfectly. This was my favourite dish of the night by far.
We also had the Sliced Pork with Chili and Garlic Sauce ($10.95). Instead of being somewhat peppery like we expected, this tasted mostly sweet and sour. Our table was divided on this–my mom and I really enjoyed this dish while my brother couldn’t stand the tartness. In addition to the tartness and sweetness, it was also salty, making it perfect to eat with the bucket of rice we ordered as well. The pieces of pork were tender, with some pieces having a bit of fat that made them extra delicious.
Next, we had the Diced Chicken with Black Bean Sauce ($9.50) (not pictured). We were expecting the famous heat level of Szechuan cuisine, but it was more salty than anything else. Still, it was fine when paired with rice (which we ordered a bucketful of). This wasn’t a particularly memorable dish, and I could taste very little of the black bean in the sauce, to be honest. The vegetables were crisp and the chicken was juicy, but ultimately, it wasn’t a dish I would order again.
And onwards we go to the Szechuan Style Spicy Prawns ($12.95). This was a dish of pan-fried prawns with green pepper, onions, and chili peppers. With all those ingredients, you can probably tell this was spicy, although my family still managed to polish it off. The sauce was unevenly distributed, leaving some of the prawns much too salty and some much too bland. My mom also wasn’t too impressed by the aesthetics of this dish. Flavourwise, everything became a little too repetitive, although that probably has to do with the dishes we ordered. Nothing stuck out as being perfectly memorable for me, except the tan tan noodles.
Each member of my family had a different favourite dish from this meal (ie. the tan tan noodles for me, the pork for my mom), with the Minced Beef and Tofu with Chili and Garlic Sauce ($9.50) being my brother’s. Although this was tasty and savoury, once again, I found the flavours rather repetitive. Rather than being simply peppery, however, this had more of a lingering aftertaste, and was perfect to eat with the small bucket of rice we ordered. The tofu was, once again, soft and in perfectly sized morsels to eat, while the beef was somewhat of an afterthought. The sauce for this one was a little oily, but still fine.
Maybe the lesson here is to definitely ask the server for recommendations when charting unfamiliar territory. We didn’t particularly enjoy our meal here, but perhaps we ordered the wrong dishes. (We definitely forgot about including some sort of veggies, carnivores that we are…). But based on what we ordered, the food here was fine but not memorable, with the flavours all being quite similar. At least I discovered my inexplicable love for tan tan noodles…
New Szechuan Restaurant 新四川飯店
1-511 Cottonwood Avenue