[MSP] Tea House (st paul) and Little Szechwan
Lately I have have found Little Szechwan to be off the game a bit and am wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience. We've eaten there four times in the past six weeks and are witnessing a steady decline in both food quality and service, particularly during lunch service. Staff completely unfamiliar with the menu and Szechwan food in general and thoroughly incapable of explaining a menu item (house special chicken). We asked what the dish was and were told "it's cold chicken in a bowl." The story is deeper but I don't want to waste time on it. The better news is that the St Paul version of Tea House is really great. We've only recently discovered it (sadly), but have eaten there three times now and can't say enough good things. Last night we enjoyed the Boiled Pork in Szechwan sauce, Gui Chow Chicken, the Szechwan Scallion Pancake (WOW!!!), and Dumplings in Hot Sauce. Everything was lovely and perfectly prepared. The waiter knew the menu inside and out, steered us away from dishes he felt they weren't doing a good job on (for lack of proper ingredients) and toward those things the chef specialized in.
And their bartender (the beer waiter...), has a great sense of humor. I ordered a Tsingtao beer. He shook his head as he walked away, which I thought was kind of strange. He came back in a minute holding my beer and a glass, looked me right in the eye with a dead straight face and said, "You really want to drink this? This beer is no good." I said, "Pardon me?" (fished in like bait, I tell ya). And he said again "This beer is not good. It says so right on the label." At which time he pointed to the Tsingtao label and said, "See? Look here. (T)his (S)tuff (I)s (N)o (G)ood (T)ry (A)nother (O)ne." He then poured my beer and walked away shaking he head.
The food alone is enough to make Tea House my new favorite for Szechwan, but the conviviality of the staff makes it a really great place to eat. An interesting point of fact: the current head cook at Little Szechwan is a former cook from Tea House in Plymouth. The head chef at Tea House St Paul is a classically trained Szechwan chef from Chengdu.