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Great Szechuan in El Cerrito

Finding ourselves missing out once again on the extra dry duck at Ranch 99 in El Cerrito, the wife and I decided to try nearby Great Szechuan for the first time. Not sure what to order, I decided to see how their Cumin Lamb stacked-up against China Village. Then a fantastic smelling fish dish passed nearby and we were told it was Spicy Boiled Fish. After a short debate on the likelihood of enjoying the taste of boiled fish, the smell won-out and we ordered that as well. Feeling extra hungry from sitting in the hot sun all afternoon (Cal/Ucla game), I asked the waiter for some advice on an appetizer. Turns out they are famous for their Spicy Mixed Beef, so we go that too.

It was nice that the ap actually came out as ap (rare for Chinese restaurants, no?), and once we noticed it was a cold dish we remembered that we had tried the version Great Panda a while ago. We were not fond of the GP version, but this one was much better. Succulent and very tasty slices of lean meat, and not so spicy that your tongue goes numb and can't taste anything else.

Next came a large portion of Cumin Lamb. Though I believe the cumin flavor and quality of lamb was slightly better at China Village, the red & green bell peppers and onions were perfectly charred, which provided a very nice (almost sweet) flavor to the dish). Very nice.

Last came the Spicy Boiled Fish, which was apparently "boiled" in red oil. This was a huge serving of perfectly poached cod swimming in red oil with aromatic veggies like celery, leaks, and bok choy nestled below. Thankfully it was not as spicy as it looked, and tasted great. Better than the version I had tried at Zone 88 in SF, IMO.

All in all, we had a very satisfying and tasty meal, with tons of leftovers. Although perhaps not quite on par with China Village, we would not hesitate to go again, especially with guests as the large portions probably lend themselves better to large gatherings.

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  1. CB, thanks for the detailed report and comparisons to China Village, Zone 88, Great Panda etc...... very helpful.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gordon wing

      Here's a link to a previous post - that also has a place link/map


    2. I was at the mall on Sunday 10/26 and the windows were papered over. A sign stated that the kitchen is being renovated and there was no mention of a re-opening date.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PorkButt

        nice.. and they've been handing out these coupons/vouchers when you pay w/ a 2month expiration -- mine expire some time in Dec.!

        1. re: kc72

          I have one too. I just called the phone number ans got no answer. Well in these time if you see or read about something you better try it soon. Otherwise you will miss out.

          I know I have miss a few places I had on my list to try.

          Hard times.

          Well at least there is Trends in Mountain View whose chef came from Great Sechuan. I better go again soon before it closes.

      2. Today I drop by Trends in Mountain View to have lunch while my car was having it's oil changed. As the waiter if he knew anything about Great Szechuan in El Cerrito. I fear from his statement it closed for good.

        A lost to us all.

        While a local hound who lives in the East Bay stopped by and asked the local shops and was told they be back.

        Who knows for sure.

        1 Reply
        1. re: yimster

          seem like gs closed for good. meet a witness, who was eating in the restaurant at the time when two owners were arguing inside the kitchen

        2. The space has reopened as ... Great Szechuan. Same neon signs and pictures of Sichuan dishes. Don't know if there's a new cook though.

          6 Replies
          1. re: PorkButt

            lol.. thanks for that info -- I wonder if those certificates they were handing out recently are still good.

            1. re: kc72

              Just came back from dinner. Happy to report that it is the same chef, same waitstaff. They do still take the coupons, in fact, I forgot to give them my old one when we paid the bill, but they swapped out another coupon good til January. We tried the spicy braised pork shoulder, the fish soup with red chilis (this is the milder tasting one with mung bean noodles (fen si). Also tried a special that was recommended by the waiter - stir fried sliced mushroom and lotus buds with slivers of smoked pork belly. Very tasty. Also had the cumin lamb and stir fried pea leaves with garlic. I think I prefer the cumin lamb at Ark better because I like the dry style, versus GS' wet style. Everything was quite good, but the fish soup was my favorite. It is not currently listed on the menu, so I had to describe it to the waiter.

              1. re: anli

                Thanks any insight on the 1mo. closure?

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    The only changes that I noticed were new slipcovers for the chairs and new wallpaper in the dining area. Don't know if the kitchen was updated at all. Don't know if the ownership changed; will have to ask around. We were with a couple who had never been here before, so I wasn't able to grill the waiter about all the changes.

                    Forgot to mention that they give you a little starter dish of Szechuan cabbage (pao cai), which was generous on the chili oil. We also ordered a cold appetizer of mung bean jelly, cut into rectangular chunks in a ground chili paste that looked spicier than it really was. Our friends really like the texture of the jelly and the balance of spices.

                  2. re: anli


                    Great Szechuan (closed)
                    3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA

              2. fyi.. they'll be open on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

                1. I had a quick lunch there this afternoon. I can't say whether the ownership has
                  changed but the language barrier that prevents me from finding out remains.

                  I didn't recognise any of the staff. I'm pretty sure the slipcovers are the same from
                  before the lacuna. The menu was identical, including prices.

                  I had the Tan Tan Noodles. Which I've had there a dozen times or more but not in
                  the last six months. I'm pretty sure they're different. A little more meat, a little less
                  fireoil. Tiny spinach leaves instead of the bok choi or whatever it used to be. Constructed
                  with more on top than used to be hidden under the noodles. But altogether not enough to tell if
                  it was a different chef or just a different day. They were -really- tasty and I was very hungry
                  so no complaints so far.

                  Around the north side, Andaman is still all papered up shut though.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    Interregnum, now lacuna, Chowhound is getting to be a thesaurus with infrequently used words for gaps in service.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      I suppose that's the essential question here. An interregnum implies a
                      period of change where a lacuna is simply a missing section.

                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                        4th definition read fast before it disappears.
                        1. an interval of time between the close of a sovereign's reign and the accession of his or her normal or legitimate successor.
                        2. any period during which a state has no ruler or only a temporary executive.
                        3. any period of freedom from the usual authority.
                        4. any pause or interruption in continuity

                    2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      The brown paper covering the windows of Andaman has been replaced with some colorful posters advertising the apparent coming soonness of "Chika Ramen".

                    3. Well, I finally made it back to GS for a second visit. W really wanted to order the spicy boiled fish again, but also wanted to try new dishes, so we opted for the smoky pork, Szechuan dry fried prawns, and the wok charred water spinach. However they were out of the spinach, so we ended up with the spicy boiled fish anyway.

                      Unfortunately the second visit did not live up to the first. The smoked pork was pretty bland (much smokier and flavorful at Spices II), and the medium sized shrimp smothered in a kind of sweet & sour sauce was okay, but not what we expected.

                      But the big problem was with the spicy boiled fish. The red oil was much thicker this time, and numbed our tongues on the first taste. Fortunately it came last, so we had a chance to actually taste our other dishes. Some folks seam to enjoy that numbing flavor, but for me it is all I can taste once it has covered my tongue.

                      1. New Years Day lunch to go. Tan Tan noodles, good sized order, pleasantly spicy hot, noodles chewy, good dish and filling.

                        1. The neon sign over the door now suggests they have a new name: Szechuan Fusion.

                          The menu and the bill still say "Great Szechuan," however the credit card receipt says
                          "Szechuan Fusion" on it.

                          Still good.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                            Damn.. they better accept the coupon/certificate they gave me a few weeks ago!

                            1. re: kc72

                              It still seems to be the same place; no other changes
                              I could see. The cumin lamb was very good.

                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                I heard the original owners got into a fight with one of their partners so they sold the restaurant to an employee. I believe the chef is still the same. The original owners opened the new ramen place in the mall. I went there the other day but didn't think the food was very good.

                                1. re: calalilly

                                  I had an accident today in szechuan fusion (the new name now). I ordered some" you tiao" and it was so smell. I was told that may be too much Ammonia was added by the chef. The restaurant took all the you tiao back.
                                  I am not sure Ammonia could be added in food. I will never go to that restauratn again even though it was my top list for a long time. Next time, when you order "you tiao" make sure there is no smell. But I do think something is wrong with this restaurant.

                                  1. re: pollen

                                    The recipe for you tiao I found used Ammonium Bicarbonate or Bakers' Ammonia which can release ammonia.