UPDATE: As of December 24, 2011, I just learned that Beijing Garden has been renamed to Full House Chinese Restaurant.
Ever time I’m in Vancouver, I feel the need for a spice fix. My craving for spice is two-fold. Firstly, I have very few eating companions in Calgary that can handle this level of heat and secondly, we have very few restaurants here in Calgary that serve authentic Sichuan/Szechuan food. When my foodie friend Grayelf told me that Beijing Garden is her second favourite place for Water Boiled Fish (水煮鱼 or shuǐ zhǔ yú) after Nine Dishes, I was intrigued. Nine Dishes has been my go-to place for this dish. My other favourite place for this dish was the now defunct Chuan Xian Ge (or CXG as the Chowhounders liked to call it). When I quickly perused the menu from Beijing Garden, I thought the restaurant had a bit of an identity crisis. Despite its name, most of the dishes on the menu are actually Cantonese style, not Beijing style. There is a special section of the menu dedicated to Sichuan/Szechuan dishes. I was a little doubtful at how a place can specialize in both Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine and be outstanding at both as the cuisines are so different. But Grayelf assured me that the Sichuan dishes were worth checking out so I followed her lead.
We started with an order of the Hot & Spicy Boiled Fish ($18.95). This dish in Chinese is known as 水煮鱼 or shuǐ zhǔ yú, which directly translates in English to Water Boiled Fish. As you can see from the picture, this dish is not bland by any means so the name “water-boiled” is deceiving. This stew-like dish consists of sliced fish cooked in a seasoned broth covered with dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. The stew is typically served over a bed of blanched bean sprouts. After tasting this dish, I concur with Grayelf that this is my second favourite place for Water Boiled Fish, with Nine Dishes still being my favourite. Don’t get me wrong, this version at Beijing Garden is pretty tasty. The fish was perfectly poached in the broth and the blanched sprouts were nice and crunchy. But I find the version at Nine Dishes to be a bit more complex in terms of flavour.
Next up was Szechuan Cool Noodle with Spicy Sauce ($6.95). I really enjoyed this dish and it was one of the better versions of this dish that I’ve tasted. The flavours in the spicy sauce were very bright and the noodles had a nice chewy texture to them. I really liked the contrasting flavours and textures in the dish and would definitely order it again on my next visit. Grayelf commented that the sauce was a touch too sweet for her liking but for me, the sauce was perfect as the slight sweetness helped to balance the spiciness.
Our third dish was the Deep Fried Diced Chicken with Dried Chili ($14.95). This dish is often known as La Zi Ji, Thousand Chili Chicken, Chongqing Chicken, or sometimes even Chicken with Chilies. I was really impressed with this version of the dish at Beijing Garden. The bone-in, bite-sized chicken pieces were flavourful and crispy. And it was nice that they did not skimp on the chilis and sichuan peppercorns. Don’t worry, this dish is not as spicy as it looks. Overall, I really liked the complexity of flavours in this dish and thought that this was one of the better versions that I’ve tried.
Our fourth and the only non-spicy Szechuan style dish of this meal was the Shredded Pork with Garlic Stem ($11.95). I really liked the crunchiness of the garlic stems. The dish was very flavourful and the shredded pork pieces were very tender. I thought overall it was executed well and I could taste a bit of ‘wok hei’, which is the essence and flavour imparted by a very hot wok during stir-frying.
Lastly, we tried the Wonton in Spicy Chili Sauce ($5.95). This actually turned out to be my least favourite dish of the evening. I found to chili sauce to be quite spicy but not very complex in flavour. The wontons were very large but sometimes it’s not all about quantity or size. There was nothing really wrong with the dish but it wasn’t very memorable either. I probably will opt to try other things on the menu instead for my next visit.
Overall, I really enjoyed our meal at Beijing Garden. I’m glad that they did not hold back on the spice even though we had ordered in English, unlike some of the other restaurants. And we didn’t even have to convince them about not being shy to bring on the heat. This was an excellent recommendation by Grayelf. I would definitely go back to Beijing Garden again. While I can’t vouch for the Cantonese portion of the menu, they definitely serve up some delicious Szechuan/Sichuan fare. Even though their Water-Boiled Fish is my second favourite compared to Nine Dishes, they offer a variety of other delicious dishes such as the La Zi Ji and the Shredded Pork with Garlic Stem that are not available at Nine Dishes.
3466 Cambie St