Szechuan Restaurant had been on my list of places to try for the longest time. My biggest challenge was to find dining companions who are “chili heads” to join me on this spicy dining adventure. When I met up with fellow blogger Anna of Anna’s Appetite a couple of months back, she told me that Szechuan Restaurant was one of her favourite places for authentic Szechuan here in Calgary. A couple of weeks ago when the weather getting colder, I started craving for spicy food and decided to meet up with Anna to check out Szechuan Restaurant.
We started off with #6. Szechuan Spicy Bean Jelly Curd ($5.98). This was an item I wanted to try as I wanted to see how their version compares to the others that I’ve tried at various places in Vancouver. When the dish arrived, I was actually quite surprised how large the portion was considering the price. The jelly curd noodles were cool, toothsome, and slightly springy. However, flavour-wise, I found it to be quite one-noted. The dish was very garlicky. The spicy sauce was a lot thinner than the other versions that I’ve had in the past and hence, did not coat the noodles as well as I would have liked. I remember the chili sauce being a lot more complex and tangy in the versions that I had tried in Vancouver.
Anna told me her favourite dish was #322. Egg Plant with Ground Pork and Sweet & Sour Chili Pepper Sauce ($10.98). This eggplant dish is better known as Fish-Fragrant Eggplant or 鱼香茄子 in Chinese and is a classic Szechuan dish. Despite its common name in both English and Chinese, it actually doesn’t contain any fish. Anna was right on the money about this dish. It was definitely one of the best versions that I’ve had here in Calgary and is almost on par with the eggplant dish that I used to get at Han’s Restaurant under the original ownership a couple of years back. Since Han’s is under new ownership now and the eggplant dish is not as good as it once was, Szechuan Restaurant may become my new go to place whenever I’m craving eggplant if they can consistently execute it like the way they did on this visit. I liked that the eggplant was cooked perfectly al dente and the dish was served steaming hot. After several minutes, the eggplant pieces were still almost too hot to bite into. That’s actually the way I like the eggplant served. Without a doubt, this was my favourite dish of the evening.
I also wanted to try a small order of #80. Boiled Sliced Fish in Hot Sauce ($13.98 for small; $18.98 for large) so I could compare it to the exemplary versions that I had in Vancouver. This dish is better known as Water-Boiled Fish or Shuizhuyu (水煮魚). I had already anticipated that this version would be stylistically different from the one at Han’s Restaurant as the version from Han’s is Taiwanese-Szechuan whereas this version is classic Szechuan. But to my surprise, this version from Szechuan Restaurant is yet different again from the classic Szechuan ones I’ve had at places like Nine Dishes and Beijing Garden in Vancouver. The broth in this version was a lot more murky compared the almost clear versions that I had in Vancouver. Taste-wise, I didn’t think the broth was as complex in flavour as the versions that I love in Vancouver. There wasn’t as many dried chilies in this order because we had asked for it to be mild. I’m not totally convinced though that it was the level of heat that made the difference. Nevertheless, I will order it again on my next visit and ask them to kick up the heat to see if it makes any difference as I’m still craving the version that I had at Nine Dishes in Vancouver.
I’ll definitely be back to Szechuan Restaurant again as there are at least another half dozen classic Szechuan dishes on the menu that I’m curious about and want to try. I want to sample enough of the menu so I can get a feel for which dishes are their strengths. From this visit, there is no doubt their Egg Plant with Ground Pork and Sweet & Sour Chili Pepper Sauce dish is definitely one of the hits whereas the other two dishes were just ok.
414 16 Ave NW