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Oct 27, 2008 02:09 PM

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.