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Little Szechuan St. Paul: So Excited!

ok, the second anyone tries this place they have to report back. I have visions of a St. Paul Tea House dancing in my head. In case you did not see the story in the Pioneer Press, I tried to post the link but you have to be a member, so just go to the Pioneer Press site and search for Little Szechuan, the story is from today, 10/19/06. This place is in the old Bui site on University. We may have to go this weekend.

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  1. Wow! Thanks, Alice, for the info! It sounds great. Here's a link to the PP article, in case it works.

    http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincit...

    Anne

    1. I am happy to report that I no longer have to travel to Plymouth to get awesome authentic szechuan food. Now, I preface this by saying that I was sick last night so I did not have much of an appetite, so everyone ordered things I am not interested in. Also, be sure to order off the authentic menu, can't remember which one is which, there is green and black, but authentic has not cream cheese wontons.
      Anyway, the chung king chicken which I like boneless (it is bone in on the authentic menu, but I just specified what I wanted) was awesome and perfect. The hot and sour soup was fine. Lamb with cumin was very good, as was the cucumber appetizer (warm and spicy). The tongue is something I can't eat, but it is reported to be very spicy and good. Eggplant in black bean sauce (or maybe it was brown sauce) was also a hit, and less spicy.
      The service is very rocky, but give it time. In any case, I am the happiest little girl in the world.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AliceS

        Thank you, Alice, for checking this place out (and Anne for the link to the PP story)--I read the same story and was also curious. Funny--we were so devastated when Bui closed, but now that Mai Village features Bui dim sum AND we've got this new Szechuan place, it seems we're better off than we were before. I've been too busy to do much chow-exploring lately, but I'm putting this place on my "must try" list.

        ~TDQ

      2. I am sort of shocked by the lack of response to this restaurant on this board: this place is dyno-MITE, it is at the top of the TC Chinese food-chain, on par with Tea House.
        Oh well, I guess there'll just be more room for me and Paz.

        4 Replies
        1. re: AliceS

          Quick question, AliceS-
          beer/wine, full bar, or neither?
          Can't tell from the Pioneer Press article, and it has been a long day, so I am a trifle exhausted. This seems the easiest way to find out in the wee hours.

          1. re: ajs

            Beer and wine for sure, not sure about full bar.

              1. re: AliceS

                They have a small wine bar, or a large wine rack, that is stocked with bottles of wine and wineglasses in the back of the dining area, but when I asked to see a wine list they said they didn't have wine...maybe they shouldn't display it in open view. They said they had beer: MGD, Budweiser and Heineken, but no Singha yet (there were signs hanging for Singha beer). I ordered a Heineken, which tasted watery, and confirmed my suspicions when I turned the bottle around and read "does not contain more than 3.2% alcohol." Maybe they're waiting for a more extensive liquor license? I don't know how these things work--and this was also on a Sunday.
                We had a phenomenal meal of the Chung King Shrimp--breaded fried shrimp in a sort of blackened red chili oil--a dish that was somehow magically ungreasy. We also had the sauteed eggplant in garlic sauce, which was flavorful, but rather mushy and not something I would generally care to eat more than a few pieces of--but I guess what can you expect from eggplant. I like it, but it seems no matter how its cooked you quickly become bored with an abundance of it, and the portions at Szechuan are absolutely enormous, comparable to Buca style platters. I will definitely be going back for that shrimp, as well as many other intriguing items I read on the menu!

          2. I had lunch last week at the old Bui site. The name is Szechaun Village! It was previously written up on this board.

            Lee

            1. Just went back to Little Szechuan with a big group tonight, so we got to try a lot of great dishes:

              The warm cucumber app was great, even better than the last time
              Chung King Chicken (boneless) was a little less spicy than the last time, but still amazing
              Chicken lo mein was a nice less spicy alternative
              Cumin lamb was a very nice dish, flavorful and a little spicy
              Kung Pao Shrimp was one of the best versions I have had, with a nice light batter
              Fish with Brown bean sauce was a huge hit, very light and tasty, very fresh tasting

              A note though: the service is just terrible, they are clearly overwhelmed and understaffed, so make a reservation and be prepared to nag a lot and wait a lot.
              Jzhu: are you saying that Tea House made changes in response to Little Szechuan?
              It doesn't really matter: they are quite comparable, and it is the difference btwn a 10 minute drive (LS) and a 25 minute (TH).

              1 Reply
              1. re: AliceS

                I was just about to post about our meal last night when I saw your post--Hmmmm...I wonder if you were there when we were there? Yes, the servers are truly overwhelmed. To be fair, the place was absolutely packed. How did the word get out so quickly? It's good to know that the place draws enough business to stay in business.

                Nonetheless, we enjoyed our meal. We ordered the stir fried green beans with special sauce, beer duck (spicy) and spicy fish filet and tofu (very spicy) and thought it was all great. Most imporantly, none of it was dumbed down. We will definitely go back, although, probably not on a Saturday night. Great rec, Alice.

                I love the orange and red paint job with the neat orange lamps. Pleasant ambiance, I thought.

                ~TDQ

              2. Went there this past Friday. Got there right around 6pm before the crowds began. I can see why the reviews have been mixed - once the crowds started coming - 3 large tables of 10 diners were there around 6:30, the staff started to get overwhelmed.

                We really enjoyed our meal there. We had the chungking chicken - didn't care for it that much but the dan dan noodles were excellent - flavorful and filling and we also had the mapo tofu which was ... wow.... a veritable taste explosion in my mouth of hot spices, smokey black bean and smooth tofu. In a concession to our 3 year old, we also ordered the beef chow fun which came hot and well flavored.

                We'll be back for more stuff on their menu.

                Maybe not an entirely fair comparison, but between Little Szechuan and China Jen, there's more intriguing stuff to get me to go back to Little Szechuan on their menu. China Jen is great for their green onion pancakes and a couple of their noodle dishes but my problem with many of their entrees is that they seem to use the same brown "snot sauce" gravy that is reminiscent of chow mein dishes. Just my $0.02. Nonetheless, having the two restaurants in the east metro has opened up our choices of Chinese dining without having to venture to Dinkytown or Nicollet (Eat) Street in Minneapolis.

                1. Wow! Alice, you were so right about this place - it's a treasure!

                  We went Sunday night, and were blown away. Mr. Tastebud and I had Dan Dan Noodles, Lamb with Cumin, and Stir-fried Pea Leaves. Everything except the pea leaves was spicy - just enough for me (she of the iron palate) but not too much for sensitive Mr. Tastebud.

                  The place wasn't very busy, and the service was very good - friendly and quick.

                  Thanks so much for posting about this place! Usually, it takes me months - if not years - to try a new place, but I was highly motivated to try Little Szechuan quickly, and I'm very glad I did. I want to go back every night!

                  Anne

                  1. I tried this place last night. I just moved from New York and am a huge huge fan of Grand Szechuan in Chinatown, Midtown, and Chelsea there. Oh my freakin God. This is much the same. I was in shock and mourning at having lost my favorite Chinese place. The one that can cure depression. And here it is again. I urge everyone to try this place, especially the bamboo shoots in red hot oil. Order off the "Chinese" menu (they give you two). It is so amazine. So freakin' amazing.
                    jean

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jeanmt

                      As a former NYC girl (and New Green Bo fan) I welcome and salute you.
                      I must say, I am pretty thrilled myself.

                      1. re: jeanmt

                        also, if you liked the bamboo shoots in red hot oil, I recommend trying the stir fried spicy cucumbers. They are warm and really interesting, and tast great as leftovers cold.
                        Are the bamboo shoots served cold or warm?

                      2. Ya. Went the other night. Got the chung king shrimp (not what we ordered) and it was incredible. i could have eaten myself sick. also got the chung king chicken WITH BONES which was quite interesting.... Lindsey said that maybe they actually eat the bones? Can anyone confirm this? Do people seriously eat all those little bone shards? wow. props. in any case it was delicious also. we will be returning at the first available opportunity.

                        1. The bamboo shoots were served cold. Blatantly just canned bamboo shoots (but what do I know?) but with that red hot oil. How do they make that? Is it available commercially? Does anyone know. I'm going back again today..luckily, I live close (not so lucky for the wallet I guess) and plan to order stir fried cucumbres and chung king shrimp. I had some kind of hot scallop thing last time, that was incredibly wonderful.

                          1. We went tonight and wow, better than Tea House in our opinion. We got the bamboo shoots and spicy cucumbers to start and then the spicy fish fillet and tofu and the ma po tofu. We left stuffed and ate maybe 1/4 of the food we were served. Our waitress was a trainee but there was another server helping her out, both we very friendly. We will definitely be back soon.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: katebauer

                              question about the spicy fish fillet and tofu: was it served in a big bowl with a lot of red liquid or was it a plated dish? I ask because we ordered it and got one that was sort of soupy, and I think they might have given us the one with broth when we wanted the one without.

                            2. It was served in a bowl but the liquid was the chili oil or something of a similar thickness, it was definitely not broth. When we were leaving I saw other people had dishes that looked like they were in a broth.

                              ETA: My husband just reminded me the the description said "in spicy broth" but we still wouldn't call that a broth.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: katebauer

                                I agree with your assessment of the "broth"--the dish was very soupy in texture but, good golly, there's no way you could eat it as broth--it was way too spicy (and oily). Even if you could take the heat, it didn't seems to have balanced-enough flavors to be eaten as a broth. No, I think it was there to add flavor to the rest of the dish that you had to pick out.

                                ~TDQ

                              2. YUM. I went there for lunch a few days ago. They have an extensive lunch menu (although it didn't come with salad, as advertised). The chung king shrimp is to die for and the eggplant with spicy sauce was also great. The dish had the requisite sweetness that I associate with well-prepared eggplant.
                                I heard through the grapevine that a couple of the chefs from Tea House moved over to Little Szechuan.
                                For those of you who haven't been, make sure you know exactly where it is beforehand. We had a vague idea of where we were going, reasoning we could easily find the restaurant once we were in the right area. Unfortunately, the sign isn't great, and we drove past a few times.

                                1. Went back again, that is 3 times in a month. Today the service was faster, mostly because they were much less busy. More importantly, everything was unbelievable and fabulous, with the possible exception of the beer duck.
                                  Chung King Shrimp, to die for.
                                  Kung Pao Shrimp, also perfect
                                  Fish with brown bean sauce, light with a lovely texture
                                  Sesame chicken, the best I have ever had, just a hint of spiciness
                                  Veggie LoMein, a nice break from the spicy and just great noodles
                                  Spicy Cukes, always awesome
                                  Beer Duck was sort of soupy and hard to eat because of the bones but with flavorful and tender meat
                                  I am leaning toward making this the best of 2006, the best Chinese in the TC, and my favorite resto in the TC.

                                  1. I went there today, and I was surprised that they were not opened. Does anybody know why?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. This is from their website, http://www.littleszechuan.com/

                                      Dear Valued Customer,

                                      The restaurant had a strong start since her opening, thanks to all the fans of authentic Szechuan cuisine. We are temporarily closed while we make improvements to our kitchen in order to better serve our customers. On November 14th, the exhaust hood was burned when our chef was preparing Chinese chili oil. The kitchen had to be shut down. The restaurant decided to upgrade the whole kitchen to improve efficiency, even though it means longer downtime. We plan to re-open around December 15th. Please check this website for updates. Little Szechuan apologizes for the inconvenience and thanks you for your continued support. Happy holidays!