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Authentic Sichuan Found in Richmond

  • fmed Jul 1, 2008 09:51 AM

Pics http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

I don't know how this place eluded my radar for so long....but I'm glad I finally found it. It is tucked away in a non-descript strip mall on Saba Road which is next to the Richmond Public Market. I guess I never drive down this road or else I would have spotted it.

I have long complained that the GVA does not have a good Sichuan food scene. Sure you can get a few exemplary Sichuan dishes from certain pan-regional Chinese restaurants (Peaceful, The Place) and at some Food Court stalls at Crystal Mall and at the Richmond Public Market. But I have yet to see (until now) a true Sichuan restaurant here. I have been to many of the more well known and purported authentic places like Golden Szechuan (a Richmond heavyweight) and Ba Guo Yi (a hole in the wall on Park Rd, also in Richmond), etc...but upon repeat visits, I found them all lacking.

Near my home is Szechuan Chongqing, a restaurant my parents and I have dined in for decades. We have been eating there since they were in their original location on Victoria Drive at Broadway. Here, I fell in love with Chinese food....specifically, its particular kind of Sichuan cuisine. Just ot be clear, I don't consider restaurants like Szechuan Chongqing to be authentic Sichuan restuarants. These types of places (there are a number of them in the GVA), I consider "Nixon-era Szechuan."

In 1972 Richard Nixon went to China and raised North American awareness of all things Chinese. Shortly after his visit, hundreds of "Szechuan" and "Hunan" restaurants opened up all over the US and Canada. For the most part, this ersatz Sichuan and Hunan food was a revelation to most North Americans. They didn't think Chinese food could taste this way. But I digress...

On Saba road is Szechwan Restuarant (note that third spelling of Sichuan). The place is clearly a premium restaurant with some old-school Chinese decorsuch as lacquered tables and chairs, nice ceramic table settings, etc. Upon sitting down at my table, I perused the menu and I was impressed with the breadth and depth of the items. I have never seen some of these dishes outside of Sichuan province. The dishes were not cheap - they are charging premium prices (similar to Kirin and that ilk

)

I chatted up the manager. He confirmed that they have an true Sichuan chef. Most of their cooks are also from the Sichuan province.

Sadly, I was alone and I was only able to try a couple of dishes. I chose two of my litmus-tests: Dan Dan Mian, and Sichuan Wonton in Chili sauce. I ordered them both at "medium" heat knowing how hot Sichuan food can be.

When my dishes came, I was overjoyed. The Dan Dan Mian tasted like the ones back in Chengdu. The earthy-toasted flavour of the Chilies dominated this dish. It did not taste like any of the Dan Dan Mian I have had here in Vancouver. I have had a true Chengdu-style Dan Dan Mian only once before in North America - at a long forgotten restaurant in Los Angeles many years ago. Even at medium heat, Szechwan Restaurant's rendition was blazing hot. The Wonton had the same ferocity of chili heat. I finished my meal with a complimentary sweet fermented rice wine with Goji berries.

I am dying to come back. I will bring a few friends so I can be guaranteed to try some of my other favorite Sichuan dishes. Also, I learned that I can't take Richmond for granted. This place is a treasure trove of Chinese cuisine....but I really must explore all the nooks and crannies to get to the really good stuff.

 
 
 
 
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  1. Location

    -----
    Szechwan Restaurant
    8188 Saba Rd, Richmond, BC V6Y 4B2, CA

    4 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      Okay, now I REALLY have to get over my Richmond traffic phobia, if only for the dan dan noodles.

      1. re: grayelf

        I grew up in Richmond and I still get these WTF moments with all the traffic re-routing along the Skytrain extension. It will be great once the Skytrain is running.

        I avoid Three Rd at all costs...go along the ring routes (Garden City, Westminster Hwy, etc.) and dart in towards the restaurant zone.

        1. re: fmed

          To be honest, I've hated driving in Richmond for years before the construction so I can't really blame the Millennium Line ;-). Sacrifices must be made for good chow, however. Thanks for the logistical tip.

          Maybe one day we'll have to try to get some Western Canada hounds together for a trek to Richmond...

          1. re: grayelf

            Great Idea on the chow down.

    2. Thanks for the tip. Great photos too. Can't wait to try it.

      p.s. "WTF moments" pretty much describes it... especially in parking lots *ugh*

      1. If anyone goes back, please report...can't rest the merits of a higher end restaurant on the narrow shoulders of street snacks like dan dan mian and hong you chao shou.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pepper_mil

          Indeed. Please post back on this thread.

          pepper_mil - I know yoiu spend a lot of time in China - I would love your assessment if you ever get a chance to dine at Szechwan Restaurant.

        2. I went back today to sample more of the other dishes. There were two of us, but we ordered enough for four (we had leftovers). We ordered the Boiled Beef (the chile broth was hot , very good), the Peppering Chicken ( often called thousand chili and/or orange peel chicken- also very good. Lot's of sichuan peppercorns, and not covered in a sweet glaze), Scallion Cakes (very light - croissant-like in its flakeyness). We also had Dan Dan and the Chile Wonton.

          So far so good in the authenticity department. I will come back soon to order some of the other dishes.

          Updated pics - http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

          1. It's official. I need to come to Vancouver to eat here. Who would have thought a small, strip-mall restaurant would be a destination restaurant?

            Now I must find time and money...

            2 Replies
            1. re: miss_bennet

              The President's Plaza foodcourt (Richmond) has a sichuan place. Ask for the authentic styled noodles, the dan-dan mian is fairly satisfying, very-very mah if you're looking for that sichuan peppercorn (hwa-jiao) kick.
              I'll have to check out Saba Road.
              BTW, if ever in San Diego, California, check out Ba-Ren Restaurant. Gotta be the most authentic in North America.

              1. re: cjlimchow

                There was a management change there not long after my original post about this place. There has been a decline in quality as a result. Now, let me recommend Golden Spring for authentic Sichuan. S&W Pepper House has been receiving new buzz too. I was there just today actually. Very good.

                Thanks for the tip on the Sichan place at President's Plaza. Some interesting potential gems there.

                -----
                Golden Spring (Szechuan) Restaurant
                4200 No 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 2C2, CA

                S & W Pepper House
                6820 NO. 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6Y, CA

            2. If you're in Victoria, we have an off the beaten path recommendation for Sichuan - completely authentic (the cook is from Sichuan, his wife is from X'ian). Try Hong Kong West on Fort Street at Richmond, it's a tiny place with a deceptive name - go for the sichuan dishes and ask Yan for the sichuan (szechuan) special of the day. We love the chicken with garlic and peppercorns (pronounced "joh-jee"), the eggplant and mushrooms in garlic sauce ("chetzi") and the four season green beans ("si-ji-doh"). This restaurant is only for those who really enjoy authentic sichuan food since the standard chinese cantonese chow mein on the menu will be disappointing. Also, be a bit daring and point to a nearby table and say you'll have what they're having! Unless you really love very hot food, start with mild and work your way up through repeat visits. Don't be put off by the name and plain decor - this is a gem!!!!

              -----
              Hong Kong Restaurant
              113 MacKenzie, Revelstoke, BC V0E2S1, CA

              1. Okay...

                Szechwan Restaurant is now operating as a Northern Chinese restaurant, with an equally generic name.

                9 Replies
                1. re: DylanLK

                  Hmmm.....looking at my calendar....

                  (Is it upscale?)

                  1. re: fmed

                    Hard to say. The room is as upscale as it was before. I didn't really check it out.

                    1. re: DylanLK

                      I walked by again today and it seems to be Shandong cuisine, based on the Chinese name of the place: 鲁菜又一香 Lǔcài Yòuyīxiāng -- kind of a play on words, but the important part is 鲁菜 Lǔcài, the fancy way to refer to Shandong cuisine. They also have a sign referring to a specially hired chef.

                      1. re: DylanLK

                        Somebody organize something. :)

                        1. re: _js_

                          On it.

                          1. re: fmed

                            Betterthanbourdain and I (with my kids) checked it out today. Had a few dishes (some cold apps, liangpi, cumin lamb, pork lamian soup, guotie. The flavours and preparations were spot on (though we had some minor quibbles).

                            The waitress said it will focus on Beijing-Tianjin cuisine. It's worth further exploration. I'll set up a chowdown soon.

                            1. re: fmed

                              I'd like to join if I can. I'll bring a face towel to wipe my perspirations.

                              1. re: CrispyLechon

                                It shouldn't be that spicy (not like Sichuan anyway). I better start a new thread for this.

                                1. re: fmed

                                  It's cool that we're getting a Beijing-Tianjin joint. Now, I'm waiting for Yunnan.