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MSP-Tian Jin-Must Try in western Suburbs (Mandarin/Szechuan)

Teahouse and Little Szechuan have competition.

I recently posted on chowhound asking if anyone could comment on Teahouse as of late as I had a couple of bad experiences. Someone posted that I should try Tian Jin in Chanhassen. I have driven by Tian Jin many times but never stopped as I assumed it was another bland mass market chinese restaurant. I was wrong. This restaurant is a gem.It is a family run restaurant owned by a gentlemen named Ryan and his wife. Ryan and the chef were classmates in Tian Jin which is the 3rd largest city in Northern China close to Beijing. They were both trained in Mandarin and Sichuan cooking with many years of experience. I had the Gizzard appetizer which was incredible. It came in a sauce with soy, ginger, chiles, etc...the sauce was fresh and tasty and the gizzards were tender and flavorful. I had boiled fish in Szechuan spicy sauce which was similar to the same dish at Teahouse but not as spicy and the broth was thicker. This dish has been my go to at Teahouse untill around 6 months ago and I can honestly say that I like Tian Jin's version better as the sole was tender and the broth was bursting with flavor. Tian Jin also makes a Chung king chicken that is incredible. Crispy on the outside and tender in the inside. Once again I used to love this dish at Teahouse but Tian Jin's version wins hands down. My wife loved the Szechuan shredded pork with garlic sauce as I did. There are so many things on the menu that I would love to try and look forward to trying....Double cooked pork, Ma Po Tofu, Halibut in Chile sauce, etc. The owner and his wife were generous and friendly and I really hope they do well as there aren't to many options in the twin cities for authentic food done with care. Unfortunately there website isn't up to see the menu but I encourage anyone who appreciates good, authentic chinese food to make the journey to the western suburbs, I gurantee you won't be disappointed.

Tian Jin
463 W. 79th St.
Chanhassen, MN 55317

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  1. Thanks, Dave. I had dinner at the western Teahouse last week and was generally disappointed by the food. This is a restaurant that I loved and went regularly for the past four years. The Teahouse off 04E/White Bear Lake is much better, but a real haul for me. Will try Tian Jin soon and report back.

    1. Glad that you followed my recommendation and went to Tian Jin! I am delighted that you agree with my assessment that TJ is better than TH or LS. I went to the latter restaurants this week and was disappointed - TJ certainly raised my standards!

      4 Replies
      1. re: kzuiderveld

        Thanks again kzuiderveld. It's too bad a place like this has gone under the radar...It really needs to be reviewed by Rick, Dara, Rachael or Jeremy. I really hope they check sites like Chowhound as they really need to be encouraged to find out of the way places in the overlooked suburbs like Tian Jin.

        1. re: dave43


          Credit goes to kzuiderveld for finding this diamond in the rough. It's good to see THE critic of Minneapolis/St. Paul agrees with our assesment. I wrote the following comment under Jeremy's blog entry.

          Thanks to Jeremy for giving a voice to a deserving Restaurant. Three dishes that are a must try but not mentioned in the article are Chung Quing Chicken (Incredible), Homestyle gizzards (I could drink the soy/ginger/garlic sauce by itself), and Boiled fish in spicy szechuan sauce (ask for it spicy) as the northern chinese chef tends to not make it spicy like it's brethern @ Teahouse or Little Szechaun. I encourage anyone who appreciates good food to make the trek and anyone local needs to appreciate and patronize a truly outstanding restaurant.

          1. re: dave43

            People who feel they've uncovered a treasure should alert our good reviewers. Give them a tip, if you will. Else how will they know? Thanks for posting this. I'm actually considering a trek to Chanhassen.

            1. re: jeanmt

              Thanks kzuiderveld for discovering the place and to dave43 for posting their phone no. I am ecstatic because I just called and asked about msg and they
              don't use it! I generally have avoided Szechuan places because they seem to
              be very free with the msg- and I'm allergic to it. Plus I think it's a lazy way to cook (using it to liven up food that wouldn't be very interesting without it).

              I'm off to see if I can get a bus out there!

      2. Thanks for the head's up, it's on my "to try" list.

        1. adding this to the to-try list!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Ummm


            Looks like Tian Jin is receiving more much deserved press. Heavy Table is my favorite new site as it not only creates local content but also aggregates local press from all the top reviewers like Jeremy, Dara, Rick and all the amateur bloggers.

            I truly think that comparing Tian Jin to the top local Chinese restaurants is an understatement. After trying numerous dishes and hearing feedback from people who KNOW good authentic Chinese I would say that Tian Jin is on level with great Chinese restaurants in New York and San Fransisco. This of course is my humble opinion but I think many would agree.

            1. re: dave43

              I don't want to be a wet towel here, but Tian Jin's appeal may owe to it being the latest "in the know" restaurant in town. The gizzards are nice, but none of the other appetizers were available when we went. We particularly enjoyed the eggplant. The other dishes were just okay, around Teahouse level, but no more. Excessive use of MSG made everything a little less enjoyable for me.

              Having another authentic Chinese restaurant open up in town bodes well for us chowhounds. But seriously, this restaurant would have a tough time in either New York or San Francisco. I've lived in both places and always enjoyed better options.

              1. re: discus


                Thanks for the review. Your right on the appetizers...they really should have more variety considering their extensive menu. I thought they didn't use msg but I am not certain. As far as my comment on comparing them to good chinese restaurants in NY and SF, I still stand behind that comment. Their chef was head chef at a 4 star restaurant in Tian Jin. I have heard from people who actually lived in Northern China say this compares to the local cuisine. On another note it looks like Tian Jin was packed on friday night which is good to see.

                1. re: discus

                  I am sad to hear you felt there was msg in the food, after I phoned and asked about
                  it and was told they don't use it. I don't necessarily get a headache from msg but
                  I can instantly notice a strange artificial 'brightness' in the flavor and a slightly
                  altered feeling. I guess I'll have to actually try the food there and see what I think.

            2. We went to Tian Jin tonight. I think it is better than Tea House. I say it with photos. We had the crispy egg rolls for starters, the orange flavored chicken and the Szechuan Kung Pao Diced Pork.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Davydd

                Hey Davydd-

                Thanks for the great mouth-watering photos! Now I really have to get out there-

                1. re: Davydd

                  Nice pics...good to see some chowhounds making it out to no man's land.

                  1. re: dave43

                    Not exactly no man's land to me. I live out in the Lake Minnetonka area. :)

                2. This is a great restaurant. We've been there 3 times in 3 weeks. We lay a few ideas down and just put ourselves in the owners hands There are many nice touches - like whole leaf jasmine tea in a beautiful tea set...tonight the spicy sauced gizzards was a revelation....shrimp and english cucumber in garlic sauce was a real eye and mouth opener - lots of tender fat shrimp (wild caught) and melonish thin sliced cuke...chicken and green beans (made spicy by request) was another winner chicken so tender beans so tangy...these people know what they are about and they do it very well...there are lots of nice decorative touches - they've obviously not skimped on the place or the food and ingredient quality...they've talked us into the lamb & cumin and the sea cucumber next time and maybe eel some day if they can get good ones. With their guidance we're working our way through the non-americanized side of the menu. Have had 8 dishes and liked them all.

                  I think someone mention they had lived in SF and this place would have a tough time there - that there were better options. I find that statement startling - I lived in SF for 25 years i'd be interested to hear what Szechuan style restaurants Tian Jin wouldn't compare well against.

                  I get very bad headaches whenever I have MSG in my food - I don't get headaches here.
                  So I'm also puzzled by the statement that there is excessive use of MSG .

                  As far as appetizers - not real important - i'm a entree guy - the only reason I had gizzards was because the owners greeted and comped us with them...they also gave us jasmine tea to take home after we complimented them on it - that's the kind of people they are....they deserve praise and our business.

                  Someone wrote here that they were going to contact the food writers - I think they must have because Ryan mentioned that MLPS-STP Mag had just been there...The Rake was coming and Jeremy Iggers had made a return trip...right now during the week it's pretty dead - we were the only ones and just a little carryout - although they say they are busy on the week-ends...if they get good reviews it could start to be a problem getting our usual table when all those shallow city sophisticates get their motors running head out on the hiway go looking for adventure racin' with the wind go make it happen and take Tian Jin and Chanhassen in a love embrace... (:-D)

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: FrugalDanny

                    Here is a photo of that Tian Jin jasmine tea set.

                    1. re: FrugalDanny

                      The rake is no more, but Jeremy does reviews for Secrets of the City. I put a link at the top of this thread for the Tian Jin review. I wrote to Jeremy and some other notable reviewers letting them know Tian Jin needed a voice (credit goes to kzuiderveld for discovering Tian Jin) Jeremy was the first to bite and wrote a great review. I'm glad to hear he made a return visit. I am sure alot of writers are kicking themselves for not being the first to discover this gem. As mentioned in the article Jeremy and I ate with a gentlemen who lived in China and was dissapointed with twin cities Chinese restaurants untill he found Tian Jin. It's good to hear a SF resident agrees with my asessment. They don't skimp on ingredients and everything is cooked perfectly. Ryan's chef doesn't belong in a restaurant in chanhassen but I am thrilled he is. At first I was worried about Tian Jin surviving but lately I'm worried I won't get a table on the weekend.

                      1. re: dave43

                        Dave, thanks for all your work promoting Tian Jian after I passed on the suggestion - I'm delighted that it got good press.

                        I have become a regular at TJ and never was disappointed. Sometimes it is very quiet during lunch and I was becoming concerned about TJ's fate. However, today' TJ was (nearly) full during lunch - I hope this is the sign of good things to come for the restaurant.

                        I lunched with a friend who needs his biweekly Szechuan fix. Before the meal, I paid for it and just asked them to feed us with spicy food and make us happy. We ended up with our favorite dish (Chunky King Spicy Chicken) and Szechan lamb as well as two eggrolls. It was delicious!

                        However, we were sitting at the wrong table. Next to us, there was a big table with 12 Chinese folks that were receiving one tasty looking dish after the other - we only could sample two dishes today :-( Obviously, everyone had a great time.

                        Folks, please follow the advice that Dave, me, and others are giving: pay this restaurant a visit! You will not regret it.

                        1. re: kzuiderveld


                          Since you have been going to TJ's for awhile I had a question. Is lunch always packed there? I work downtown so I never get there for lunch but went today and every table was filled. Also what kind of traffic do they get on weekends? I went last friday and they were packed again. I remember when I went there for the first time after you suggested it...it was a friday and I think besides my family there were only 2 other customers. At any rate if they are getting more customers then in the past they deserve it and I hope that it lasts because not only do the owners serve good food...they are good people. Every time I go it seems like the owners are friends with everyone in the restaurant.. Sorry to excessively post on this thread but I am just thrilled that a suburb has the best Chinese restaurant in Minnesota.

                          1. re: dave43


                            Last wednesday was the first time that I saw the restaurant packed during lunch. More importantly, rather than eating the American-chinese buffet, many folks were ordering from the menu.

                            Ryan told me that traffic on the weekend is usually pretty good - he was most concerned with lunch traffic but that was very good this week.

                            I really wish TJ will get as busy as Teahouse Plymouth - the latter still has the reputation, but TJ beats them handsdown wrt food.

                        2. re: dave43

                          you are right about the rake - now i'm foggy about the paper he mentioned - citypages? not sure I obviously was distracted by the food!

                          TJ should get themselves a web presence although chow yelp secrets and heavy table posters are helpful

                          I just realized i should be thanking kzuiderveld and dave for pushing TJ - it was the secrets review that got us in the door...so a BIG THANKS!

                          1. re: FrugalDanny


                            Another review for Tian Jin. Just want to let anyone who plans on going there to have patience. The last couple of times I have been there I have noticed alot of people getting frustrated with wait times and poor service and many people walking out. This is a small family operation and they are having trouble keeping up with alot of business lately. You may have to sacrifice on service but the food is worth it.

                            1. re: dave43

                              Maybe it is the buffet? Is that served only at lunch? Seems like every Chinese restaurant does that now outside of the major ethno burbs. I've been looking forward to trying it on a visit to MN in April but am now concerned with base nods to the uninformed like cream cheese wontons, egg rolls etc on the menu.

                              1. re: scoopG

                                buffet is only served during lunch - and don't bother. Stick to ordering food from the menu.

                                I usually avoid the crowds by eating around 2 or 5. Works like a charm :-)

                                1. re: kzuiderveld

                                  Thanks - I steer clear of any Chinese buffet places. That's my concern - why they feel the need to do a buffet. It's not a short drive out to Chanhassen!

                                  1. re: scoopG

                                    i think they do a buffet because the average midwest customer might go forcheap and fast American Chinese food during lunch, not the more expensive and exotic Szechuan dishes.

                                    Of course I hope that TJ will be doing so well during lunch that they'll do away with the buffet.

                                    And you can order from the menu anytime they have the buffet - the great food is certainly worth the drive to Chanhassen.

                                    1. re: kzuiderveld

                                      Just came back from my first dinner there. We did the egg rolls, hot and sour soup, mandarin beef with golden garlic and the chun quin (sp?) shrimp. Everything was great. Ryan came over and introduced himself and recommended dishes to try in the future. The egg rolls are now my favorite in the Twin Cities and the shrimp dish was incredible. If I didn't live so far, I would add it to the rotation on a regular basis. TJs was also doing a nice takeout business tonight.

                                      1. re: fromtheD

                                        OK, I finally found someone with a car to agree to go out to Tian Jin. We got
                                        there at 1 pm, just as the buffet was shutting down. There was pretty much
                                        no one else there. We had spicy beef and a veggie dish with straw mushrooms, shiitakes and baby bok choy. Both were excellent- and definitely no msg- there is something about authentic Szechuan and other Chinese cooking that I love- and that is rare in my experience, and it is here. The food has a subtlety unlike the heavy reliance on oyster sauce, soy sauce, msg, sugar, etc found in American style Chinese places. In place of the heavy hitters, you can really appreciate the flavors of the meat and/or vegetables in the sauces, with layers of flavor such as from the chili peppers and other spices. Prices were quite reasonable and good sized portions- I am often a plate cleaner but we both took home leftovers.

                                        The place is very pretty as well, with carved wood screens and large potted trees....it was 20 minutes from where I live near hwy 100 and Minnetonka Blvd. I noticed some interesting dishes on the vegetable/tofu
                                        part of the menu that I hadn't seen before. I am definitely adding my thumbs up here.

                      2. My life just got better because of Tian Jin. My husband and I moved from NYC two years ago and have struggled to find good or even edible Chinese food in the Twin Cities, specifically in the western suburbs.

                        We live in Chanhassen and have driven by Tian Jin (formerly Giant Panda) many times and written it off. It wasn't unitl I read the review in MSP magazine that we decided to give it a try.

                        We were not disapointed. We have only gotten take out at this point, but are looking forward to eating in the restaurant next week. We loved everything we ordered -- egg rolls, steamed dumplings, double cooked pork and seafood chow fun. Everything was excellent and actually exceeded the best chinese food we've had in NY and San Francisco. All of our entrees were perfectly sauced, and not greasy or heavy. The chow fun was not oily at all and the double cooked pork was made with real pork belly.

                        Ryan was great to talk to and recommended some dishes to try next time. Another bonus - delivery!!! Right now it's only Mon - Thursday within 5 miles, but I'll take it given the only other options for us are Domino's or the equally abismal Frankie's.

                        I'm glad to hear that they are getting some press - I want to do everything I can to make sure they stick around!

                        1. I am always on the lookout for new, fantastic Chinese. How are the vegetarian options here? My boyfriend is a veggie and I like going to places that have options other than the standard Buddhist Delight.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: HypodermicMD

                            Rather disappointing vegie options IMO - standard, stale American-Chinese fare like Broccoli with Garlic Sauce, Mixed Vegetables and four tofu dishes that may or may not have any vegies in them. They should have more vegie options than they do. I will be making a more detailed report on my two visits later....

                            1. re: scoopG

                              I am sure they would be happy to make any particular veggie request you might have, as I posted recently their shiitake/baby bok choy dish was excellent. Their menu has at
                              least 8 or 9 veggie dishes, not all the same old Buddha's delight..(sorry Buddha).
                              I am sure if you wanted a tofu dish to have added vegetables that they would happily do so.

                              1. re: faith

                                Problem is, they are not serving Chinese vegetables, or enough of them. No fresh pea shoots like Little Szechuan, cai xing, or any number of the many greens I've seen in the markets in Minnesota.

                                  1. re: faith

                                    Yes Faith - working on a review now!

                          2. Another great meal - jasmine tea...gizzards...seafood chow fun...sea cucumbers baby bok choy shitake mushroooms - dishes were delicious and looked beautiful

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: FrugalDanny

                              wow, sea cucumbers....they are the one thing my super foodie dad ever told me he disliked..
                              I've never had them. Can you describe your meal in a bit more detail please? thanks

                              1. re: faith

                                faith - it was a leap of faith in Chen's recommendation - she and Ryan are expanding my palette (maybe someday with hard work it will be as cultivated as some others on the forum :=D) I found out later that its a marine animal - Holothuroidea are a class of marine animals (phylum Echinodermata) with an elongated body and leathery skin, which is found on the sea floor worldwide. Many holothurian species and genera, informally known as sea cucumbers, The harvested product is also known as trepang, bêche-de-mer, balate, or sea slug. The body contains a single, branched gonad. Like all echinoderms, sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton just below the skin, calcified structures that are usually reduced to isolated microscopic ossicles (or sclerietes) joined by connective tissue. Doesn't sound like something I would go searching out but it turned out just fine.

                                1. re: FrugalDanny

                                  thanks for the details danny- glad you enjoyed your....slug. I am one of the main
                                  msg-haters on this board- I feel using it is not only lazy but harmful to peoples' health. There have been studies done where large quantities of msg in soup induced chest pain. I can tell instantly by a sensation on my tastebuds of a sort of metallic, artificial 'brightness', as in supermarket sour-cream based dips. There is something kind of addictive about it, and it is used to make less than quality ingredients taste better. There are some take-out Chinese places in this area that advertise 'no msg' but I find much of their food to be 'all the same taste', with no complexity or subtlety. I have the greatest respect for a place such as Tian Jin that is producing authentic tasting Chinese food without msg. And I am disappointed with places like LIttle Szechuan, where, as I posted, my friend and I asked them to leave out msg and they agreed but served us food that made us both feel drugged, so it obviously is being used in their sauces. But really, you should try the place yourself (LS) unless you are deadly allergic.

                            2. While Tian Jin is a certainly a welcome addition to Chanhassen it comes up well short in any wok-work comparison to Little Pepper or Tea House IMHO. For sure, it is worth dropping into if you live nearby. Tian Jin though is light years away though from the finest Sichuan spots in New York City (of which we have four: one in Manhattan and three in Queens.) In my two visits to Tian Jin I found it suffers from:

                              百菜同味 (Bai Cai Tong Wei) or “100 dishes, all with the same taste.”

                              Two house specialties, Cumin Lamb and Double Cooked Pork - as well as their Kung Pao Chicken had no discernible differences in taste or flavor. Where were the Sichuan peppercorns? The Cumin Lamb was wet, not dry-fried and could have used more cumin. All three dishes arrived with a similar sauce and red and green bell peppers! The Sautéed Green Beans was not bad and it was the only dish that did not taste like the other three.

                              A Sichuan restaurant with no Dan Dan Noodles? Sacrilegious! No rabbit dishes? At least Little Pepper and Tea House have one each. A seafood menu here short on fish: only seven dishes out of 25 featured fish (Halibut, Sole or Smelt.) And why not be offering some or all of the Chinese greens that can be found in the Asian markets in the Twin Cities that I’ve seen? (Admittedly, this is the same complaint I have with Little Szechuan and Tea House.)

                              Almost 25% of Tian Jin’s menu is occupied by American-Chinese dishes: Cream Cheese Wontons, Beef with Pea Pods, Lemon Chicken or Sweet and Sour Shrimp etc. Half of their lunch menu is American-Chinese, including the dreaded Combination Plates and worse: the $7.45 all-you-can eat buffet. On both visits 90% of the customers were chowing down on the warmed-over buffet items. While these all are of course items I would never order, it tells me the owners are serving up what they think a majority of their customers want. Despite all the negativity here I will give Tian Jin another shot – if I am ever near Chanhassen, Chaska or Eden Prairie.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: scoopG

                                Not having eaten there yet, one question persists: what is relevant about the comparison to NYC?

                                I just don't see myself choosing between Manhattan and Chanhassan on an average weeknight. Is anyone else doing so?

                                1. re: KTFoley

                                  I believe dave43 asserted above that Tian Jian could hold up to the great Chinese restaurants of NYC or SF, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5980...

                                  It seems fair for someone to rebut.


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Ahhh, you're right about that. I overlooked the upthread reference.

                                2. re: scoopG


                                  I respect your opinion.... but light years away from Chinese served in NY? The Head Chef at Tian Jin cooked at a 5 star Hotel in Tian Jin,China. While I can't compare it to Chinese in NY and San Fransisco because I have never been there...I can say I have both heard and read many reviews that say Tian Jin not only is comparable but better then some of the restaurants in these more cosmopolitan cities. It might be unfair to label Tian Jin as a Sichuan restaurant as the Chef's specialties are rooted more in Mandarin cooking which is more common in Tian Jin and it's neighboring city, Beijing. It is my understanding the Chef is trained in Sichuan style but more as a secondary style as compared to his main style which is Mandarin.

                                  1. re: dave43

                                    dave43, thanks for the clarification as to the chef's regional cooking style- I do have to
                                    admit the 'hot and spicy beef' was not very hot/spicy as I would expect with Sichuan, so
                                    actually now I'm thinking maybe this is what good Mandarin food is like. I liked it very
                                    much --and I'm not a super lover of very spicy food- I like heat up to a point, but if it overwhelms much of the flavor experience, I can go without it.

                                    1. re: faith


                                      It sounds like Tian Jin is more suited to your tastes then say Little Sichuan in St. Paul. I like the spice and therein lies one of my few knocks on Tian Jin...The heat is lacking. One of my favorite dishes is fish fillet in spicy sichuan sauce. I had this dish at Little Sichuan and it blew me away (I wish I had a towel to wipe away the sweat) Even if I ask it for extra spicy at Tian Jin it doesn't get close to the heat at LS. LS must source hotter peppercorns and chiles. I still like Tian Jin's version better as the fish is always cooked perfectly and the oil sauce is balanced and complex. I would definitely ask The owner Ryan to suggest his favorites from his hometown. They are worlds apart from Sichuan style. Don't be afraid to try the items that are more adventerous. I recently had the stewed Oxtail and tounge. It was incredible...The tounge was like butter and the oxtail was the best part, it had the texture and taste similar to bone arrow but included a chewy aspect also.

                                      1. re: dave43

                                        Just as a point of clarification - i don't believe that sichuan/sezchuan peppercorns are actually "spicy" like black pepper, so differences between LS and TJ's spiciness are either due to differential heat levels of their peppers, or Tian Jin just using fewer.

                                        1. re: tex.s.toast


                                          Sichuan peppercorns contain hydroxy-alpha-sanshool that creates a numbness in the mouth. While it may not be similar to the aroma and flavor of Chiles it certainly adds to the heat effect. Thanks for pointing this out. Sichuan Peppercorn's are very important to Hot Pot which I love and from my understanding is available at Jun Bo in Minneapolis.

                                        2. re: dave43

                                          thanks dave. I wasn't super happy with the lack of heat at TJ- as I said, I like some heat if it is well balanced. What I really liked though at TJ was that I could taste other subtle flavors that seemed like the actual ingredients- the meat, the vegetables, rather than soy sauce or oyster sauce or msg. Little Szechuan uses a lot of msg- my friend and I asked for them to leave it out and instead we both were quite altered. The food tasted good but I don't like being drugged for dinner. TJ does not use msg and that is huge for me, though not my only criterion---although the food wasn't super dramatic I enjoyed the simplicity and the natural flavors. People that want super intense spicy, I could see, would not choose TJ. That's ok.

                                      2. re: dave43

                                        Do you know what five star hotel in Tianjin would that be? I suspect there are Chinese cooks at Tian Jin, not chefs. Tian Jin claims on their menu to be serving "authentic tastes of Mandarin and Szechuan." Mandarin is a catch-all term for northern Chinese or Beijing food, which is not a distinct cuisine per se but an amalgamation of many styles. Tian Jin would not last a New York minute in well, New York. Since Tian Jin has been compared to the best in SF and NYC (without any mention of the names of these restaurants) let me go on record and state that Tian Jin is not even close to what is served up at Szechuan Gourmet (Manhattan) Little Pepper, Spicy and Tasty and Chengdu Heaven (Flushing.) Look, I'd stop in again if I was in the neighborhood but Tian Jin is not worth a trip from St. Paul or White Bear Lake etc.

                                        1. re: scoopG


                                          The name of the Hotel is Crystal Palace in Tian Jin. I am unclear if it is 4 or 5 star as it is listed as both from the limited search I have done. To be honest I am not positive if the Chef was the head chef or sous chef at Crystal Palace and I think it would be rude to ask the owner. I envy you for having so many excellent diverse ethnic options in NY. I would love to go sometime and try out as much as possible.As far as the best Chinese restaurant in Minnesota...it will always be debateable...I am just happy we have options on both sides of the river...whether it be Teahouse, Little Sichuan or Tian Jin it's nice to have options across the map. BTW, you might want to check out Pagoda in Minneapolis (Dinkytown) My friend (Who is from Chengdu) prefers it over Teahouse. She hasn't tried Tian Jin yet.

                                          1. re: dave43

                                            Thanks - I'll check out Pagoda next time.

                                    2. Had the Tofu Combination last night - the name doesn't come close to describing it and I thought gee 16.95 for different kinds of tofu?...but once Chen told us it has everything but the chinese version of the kitchen sink in it - i was sold and very full and satisfied - sea cucumber scallops shrimp sole squid pig's stomach! bok choy and of course crispy tofu

                                      And for good measure we had Turkey Gizzards and Szechuan Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce and of course their great jasmine tea

                                      when I read people make comments like nothing special on par with LeannChin etc. I think they should have asked Ryan and Chen what to order and get out of their chinese-american comfort food zone

                                      And the argument like how can this place be that good if they cater to suburban tastes with buffet and americanized chinese food and not enough chinese vegs is just silly - its like Sawyer or is it Lefeur says on Lost - they're busy surviving!

                                      there were quite a few Chinese in last night - which as my Daddy would tell me is always a good sign

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: FrugalDanny

                                        That's an ancient misnomer - that just because Chinese folks are in the joint it has to be good. Plenty of Chinese folks can be seeing eating in McDonald's too. They were only there because it was close by and the didn't want to spend 45 minutes or more on the freeway trying to get to Little Szechuan. I stand by my review. Tian Jin is for the most part serving up meh American-Chinese food. 100 dishes all with the same taste. It is only worth a possible visit if one lives within 10 minutes driving of Chanhassen.

                                        1. re: scoopG


                                          Since you have called into question the credentials of the Head Chef at Tian Jin. I have to call into question your credentials as a professional reviewer.

                                          100 dishes with all the same taste? Jeremy Iggers didn’t think so in his review of Tian Jin and I CAN vouch for his credentials. Jeremy is a respected journalist who was the food critic for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune for 20+ years.

                                          “Tian Jin wouldn’t last a New York Minute” in New York? Really? Forget about New York, Jeremy brought along a foodie friend who LIVED in China and said Tian Jin has dishes that rivaled many of the Restaurants he ate at in China.

                                          As far as Tian Jin having an “Amercanized menu” Are you looking at the same menu? Yes there are a lot of Amercanized items but to actually make a profit in Minnesota things like a buffet are necessary evils. The owner will tell you he wishes he could get rid of the buffet and serve only authentic food but sadly he has a family to feed. BTW…Tian Jin doesn’t use MSG, but the restaurant you claim as authentic…Little Sezchuan, uses MSG.

                                          Sorry If I am out of bounds on defending Tian Jin as I believe it is good to have both positive and negative reviews on restaurants but stating that:

                                          “It is only worth a possible visit if one lives within 10 minutes driving of Chanhassen”

                                          “Tian Jin is for the most part serving up meh American-Chinese food”

                                          Is a disservice to anyone that would make a trip across town to try a great authentic Chinese Restaurant.

                                          1. re: dave43

                                            Like I said, TJ has Chinese cooks working there but not chefs. Big difference. There are no chef-driven dishes coming out of that kitchen. I am not a professional reviewer. "100 dishes with the same taste" is a Mandarin Chinese expression that denotes lesser quality food. That was my issue with the dishes I tried in two visits to TJ. I don't care what Jeremy Iggers says. We hounds eat and write to our own measure. I have lived in China, Hongkong and Taipei and I can assure you that TJ is not authentic in anyway, regardless of who Iggers cares to drag around claiming otherwise.

                                            This Chinese buffet business is a fairly recent trend and did not exist in the Twin Cities 25 years ago that I can remember. Mr. Ran (that is the Owner's name of TJ - a very rare Chinese surname at that) made a business decision and be seems to be doing very well with his buffet and I wish him the best of luck.

                                            Re MSG - that is a very contentious issue and best left to the General Chowhounding boards where there are many different threads and differing opinions.

                                            Little Szechuan is the real deal here and worth driving to. Their business model of not having to have a buffet seems to be working very well for them. Tian Jin is like any other of the 40,000 Chinese restaurants in this country serving up mostly Americanized Chinese food and is not authentic in any way.

                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              "This Chinese buffet business is a fairly recent trend and did not exist in the Twin Cities 25 years ago that I can remember."

                                              What!!!!??? Leeann Chin practically set Chinese buffet in stone to salivate Minnesotans more than 25 years ago.

                                              1. re: Davydd

                                                I think she started with one restaurant in 1980. Some of the Chinese places I knew then (Village Wok, Willow Gate) certainly did not serve buffet.

                                      2. Just want to applaud Tian Jin, an excellent and quite authentic Chinese restaurant. My husband and I lived in New York City for three years, and Chinatown was a favorite dining spot. It is, of course, often difficult to find true Chinese fare in the Twin Cities restaurant market, where Asian cuisine tends to favor homogenous, Americanized dishes. Since we love great Chinese cuisine, we are always searching for restaurants that dare to be different. Our restaurant of choice in recent years had been the Tea House in Plymouth until we discovered TJ. Oh, we still do stop by the TH from time to time, but TJ is closer, and the food is consistently wonderful.

                                        We dined at TJ just last night, and our entire family had a grand time. We had cream cheese wontons, which may be unknown in China, but are crowd-pleasers--TJ's version is the best in town, in our humble opinions. TJ's crispy egg rolls are also superb. We shared Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (amazingly good, with shrimp as a surprise bonus!), Mandarin Beef with Golden Garlic (garlicky delicious!), Shredded Fish in Garlic Sauce (not on the menu, but the chefs put this together at our request), and more. Other first-rate options from past visits include Kung Pao Shrimp, Beef Chow Fun, Cumin Lamb, and Chicken with Cilantro.

                                        Although reasonable diners can draw their own conclusions, TJ is an outstanding restaurant. Does TJ compare favorably with NYC 's classic Chinatown locations? Absolutely. From our perspective, Ryan and his wife are the added ingredients that make TJ especially great. Last evening, for example, we sampled pigs' ears at Ryan's recommendation, and the dish was impressive. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but that's not the point. Ryan is a smart, talented, hard-working guy who cares about his customers and about getting the food right. And the food is very, very, special. Ryan is proud of his restaurant, and he should be.

                                        We haven't tried Little Szechuan yet, but plan to do so soon. In the meantime, we'll be frequenting TJ at least every week or so. It's terrific!

                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: MNPOLARBEAR

                                          Hi MPB - Welcome to CH. Please elucidate. Exactly how does TJ "dare to be different?" What is so amazingly good about the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce? Why is their Cumin Lamb first-rate? How does TJ compare so favorably to your NY faves? Also how were the pig ears prepared?

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            Hello ScoopG, Thanks for the welcome. I'm happy to respond to your questions, although I'm heading off to work in a few minutes. First, TJ is exceptionally different because it serves dishes that I cannot find at 99% of the Chinese restaurants in the Twin Cities. Second, the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce is my hands-down favorite dish; the eggplant presents rich, almost smoky flavors while retaining the inherently subtle deliciousness of eggplant, and the shrimp component provides a great complementary touch. Third, the Cumin Lamb is first-rate on every front; I honestly cannot even find lamb in most Chinese restaurants, and TJ's version is incredibly tender and spiced right. Fourth, as for the comparison between TJ and NYC restaurants, I am not certain how to respond except to say that my husband and I probably have dined in at least three dozen NYC Chinese restaurants over the years, and TJ certainly compares favorably to the group. Fourth, the pig ears were thinly sliced and served cold in a tasty, dark sauce with small cuts of green onion. I'm heading out the door!

                                            1. re: MNPOLARBEAR

                                              Try the Cumin Lamb at Little Szechuan - which is dry-fried and much closer to the "traditional" prep method. I did not see Pig Ear on the TJ menu. I guess our chopsticks have not crossed in the Chinatowns of NYC (we have three) cause TJ does not measure up IMHO.

                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                That's right--pig ears are not on the TJ menu. Happily, the restaurant does all sorts of interesting things off-menu. Ryan recommended the dish, so we gave it a shot (he knows that we love sampling authentic fare not often found in Minnesota). He and his wife are wonderful; they always make us feel right at home.

                                                I do plan to try LS in the not-too-distant future. The "dry-fried" prep method for Cumin Lamb sounds interesting...

                                                1. re: MNPOLARBEAR


                                                  The pig's ear is "head cheese" on the appetizer menu and I agree is excellent. I wish Ryan would add some more appetizers to the list though.

                                                  1. re: dave43

                                                    Thanks, dave43, for the clarification. Geez, I missed that entirely! Live and learn.

                                                    1. re: MNPOLARBEAR

                                                      Just had a conversation with the owner, Ryan, last night. Scoop is right about the cumin lamb not being dry fried. Ryan does it wet because the majority of Americans prefer this. I asked if someone wanted it dry fried, could they request it. He said that would be no problem. As far as the bell peppers…Ryan says in his hometown of Tian Jin they use bell peppers in double cooked pork. This goes back to my argument before that this is not purely a Sichuan restaurant but a restaurant that does both Mandarin and Sichuan cuisines. BTW, Sichuan peppercorns are not used in double cooked pork. Also, The chef at Tian Jin was the Head chef at Crystal Palace not a “cook”. He overlooked 30 other cooks. Ryan said not only was Crystal Palace’s restaurant one of the best in Tian Jin but was on par with the top restaurants in Beijing.

                                                      1. re: dave43

                                                        Then TJ is dumbing-down the dishes to suit American tastes. I dare say one could not even find Cumin Lamb on the menu of a Chinese restaurant in the Twin Cities three years ago so why TJ assumes Americans can't handle the real thing is not surprising. That is something that does not seem to concern the folks at Little Szechuan. Try the Cumin Lamb there and you will see the difference. I know Sichuan peppercorns are not used in Double Cooked Pork but they are in Gong Bao (Kung Pao) Chicken and I found no evidence of their use at TJ. Again, try the Gong Bao Chicken at LS and compare. It does not take a Chinese chef to churn out Chicken with Broccoli, Beef with Peapods, Crispy Chicken Wings or their buffet items. The food at TJ is clearly not chef-driven, unlike what I found at LS - which has about twice as many food items as TJ. Ryan may claim he has a chef back there in the kitchen but I just don't believe it. My issue with TJ is that in the dishes I tried there I found a sameness to the taste and ingredients and red and green bell peppers in every dish I tried.

                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                          Scoop, we know what your issue is- you have repeated it over and over- it's fine if you don't care for TJ- I don't see why you feel the need to insult it over and over in a rather personal way.

                                                          1. re: faith

                                                            I agree, faith. I'm a very infrequent poster and have been following this thread since it started.

                                                            A friend and I had the pleasure of dining at Tian Jin just once as it is quite a haul for us distance-wise. She, not being a spicy food lover, ordered the Four Flavor Chicken. It was loaded with a variety of vegetables and tender, moist chicken in a savory sauce. She loved it. Her husband gobbled up the leftovers the minute she hit the door at home, much to her chagrin.

                                                            I had the Chung Quing Spicy Chicken and enjoyed every bite, some at lunch, and for the next day's lunch. The sauce was piquant and had just enough kick to get the endorphins in gear. I don't recall any green peppers in the dish, though I could be wrong as this lunch was two months ago.

                                                            Authentic, or not, the food is very, very good. To me, that is the essence of what makes TJ a Chowhound find. Now I'm craving...

                                                            1. re: faith

                                                              Nothing personal about it, Faith. And there is no intent on my part to be insulting. I am responding to and refuting claims put forth that that TJ is "authentic" in any way and is delivering good Chinese grub. This is what Chowhound is all about. And my comments are based on two visits each to TJ, Little Szechuan and Tea House in Plymouth on a recent visit. This thread started with the contention that LS and TH have "competition" now with TJ on the scene. Since I have been to all three and assert that TJ is not in the same league with LS that seems to rub some locals the wrong way.

                                                              Edit: Look, I've said ealrlier that TJ is worth considering if one is within 10 minutes driving time of Chanhassen. But from Lake Elmo, St. Paul or Loring Park? No.

                                                              1. re: danfromsf

                                                                I am not from the area...but am visiting soon. Just from reading these posts ...I am more than anxious to visit Tian Jin and order a variety of dishes. The anti TJ posts do not deter me one bit.
                                                                To each..

                                                                1. re: easily amused

                                                                  And if you have time, please try the same dishes you order at TJ at LS and TH as well!

                                                              2. re: faith

                                                                There is nothing wrong with scoop disagreeing with my assessment of TJ or many others that claim it as authentic. Everyone's taste is subjective and I think this thread is a great resource for all chowhounds to delve into what authentic Chinese cuisine really is. As I've said before I like Little Szechaun. But...What is the chef's background? Scoop, I'd be interested if you would compare the head chef at LS against the head chef at TJ. I know the owner of LS was trained in Sichuan cooking but what is his background? A friend of mine is married to a girl from Chengdu who is friend's with one of the sisters who owns Teahouse, so I know a little background of Chinese cuisine in Minneapolis over the last 10 years . Around 5 years ago the current owner of Little Szechuan was the head chef at Teahouse in Plymouth. He was cooking authentic Sichuan cuisine in a little strip mall in Minnesota. Foodies were abuzz and one of our most well known critics, Dara Moskowitz (Who is a James Beard Winner) gave a glowing review. I had the pleasure of trying it before he left and it turned me on to my love of GOOD Chinese cuisine. He left to start Little Szechuan. Teahouse was still good as supposedly they hired another chef trained in Sichuan cooking but it was never the same. Around the time they opened up their restaurant in St. Paul and their fast food spot in Downtown Minneapolis, T-Express, the food went quickly downhill at Teahouse Plymouth. I believe they spread themselves thin as do my friends from China. I have heard that Teahouse St. Paul is better then Plymouth though, but I can’t comment as I have never been there…shame on me. Also they have Scallion pancakes and the only place in the twin cities doing Shanghai soup dumplings, which after watching Anthony Bourdain rave about these, I have always wanted to try them. Back to Little Szechuan though. The former chef at Teahouse opened LS and it was a hit also. I assume he cooked at first but I wonder if he still cooks? What are his credentials? What are the credentials of his Head chef if he no longer is the head chef? I can only take the owners word of Tian Jin, Ryan, that his chef was the head chef at one of the top restaurants in northern China. I have no reason to doubt him. Until someone can refute this information I have every reason to believe that Tian Jin is the real deal…the best Chinese restaurant in Minnesota. I challenge scoop or anyone else to compare credentials of the head chef at TJ and LS. BTW…I would be very interested to know if the owner of LS still cooks and if so…What was his training and what restaurants did he work at in China. As far as my little ramble on the history of Little Szechuan and Teahouse…believe me, I don’t claim to be the expert, I just shared what little I know.

                                                                It was never my intention to compare the cuisine of my favorite Minnesota Chinese restaurant to the great Chinese restaurants of San Francisco and New York as the focal point of this discussion. But please ask yourself…Why couldn’t a small suburb of Minneapolis have a top rate Chinese restaurant if the Chef had top credentials and ingredients were sourced and prepared with care? If the owner cared about serving good food and making sure the customer left happy? What if this restaurant was in a Chinatown of SF and NY and didn’t have to serve the buffet or have cream cheese wontons on the menu because there was an endless ethnic clientele?

                                                                I challenge all chowhounds to think about this.

                                                                1. re: dave43

                                                                  I've tried Tian Jin for the second time this past weekend, and I agree it's one of the better Mandarin/Szechuan restaurants in MN. One question to the posters who seem to know the owner of Tian Jin -- why would the "head chef at one of the top restaurants in Northern China" agree to become the head chef in a strip mall restaurant in Chanhassen? I'm not necessarily challenging the credentials, but I am curious. Tian Jin is the 6th most populated city in China -- I would be just as curious if the top Chinese chef in a hotel in Chicago came to Chanhassen.

                                                                  1. re: dave43

                                                                    > But please ask yourself…Why couldn’t a small suburb of Minneapolis have a top rate Chinese restaurant if the Chef had top credentials and ingredients were sourced and prepared with care? If the owner cared about serving good food and making sure the customer left happy?

                                                                    We have a good number of world-class chefs locally who have been involved in more than one failed venture. A chef can't carry a restaurant. If a chef and owner don't have the same vision the place is doomed to fail. When chef and owner meld like voltron or shefzilla do we really see a place shine. I still think that dude secretly has a twin.

                                                                    Let us explore for a minute what authentic food really means. Recipes created from food local to a region bearing local terroir. How do we expect to have authentic Szechuan food 1/3 of the way across the world? There is going to be a lot of trouble and cost involved in importing fresh Chinese vegetables and beef.

                                                                    I submit an example of a local authentic strategy involving a certain authentic NYC deli. Everyone knows the famous Carnegie deli, why can't we bring that here? While I can really taste the extra few bucks of overnight shipping pastrami, I fail to see the point of not spending that extra cash to drive downtown. If freshness is a factor in food, recipes must be adapted to local ingredients.

                                                                    The travelers among us will know that even within the country, meat and vegetables taste different. We struggle to find fruit that can grow in this MN climate. When was the last time you were having a special dinner and thought, well hmm... I wish I had a nice Frontenac to drink with this? Severe locavores need not answer :)

                                                                    I'm not necessarily knocking Tian Jin. I have eaten there four times and liked a solid 70% of the dishes I had. Service was on the close end of "worst I have ever experienced" two times. The first time there was a sign up that said "be back at x" and I waited 20 minutes after that time outside. The second I waited for take-out for 40 minutes after the time it should have been out. They have the same phone line for their cc machine that they take calls on. Nonetheless, I would still go back if I was in the neighborhood. I do crave the ChonqQing chicken like I sometimes do a couple sliders from time-to-time.

                                                                    That said, why does authenticity weigh more heavily in the overall experience? I wouldn't compare an "authentic" Midwest restaurant in another country with one here. I would be much more interested in how they adapted their local ingredients to our style than their attempt to perfectly clone our food.

                                              2. Can you guys please help jfood. He just finished dinner from Tian Jin and maybe he does not understand, he ordered the wrong dishes or it was an off night.

                                                Fried dumplings - They looked great but the filling was nothing special, actually quite bland. The sauce had a nice and different flavor than those jfood is used to and this was a treat to the tongue.

                                                Chicken Chow Fun - Let's say that jfood can only think that a few spices missed the wok on this one.

                                                Four Flavor Triple Crown - The silking mixture was still clinging to the beef shrimp and squid. It added a mushy floury texture that was not very appealing to the tongue. The flavors were good but jfood was expecting something more special.

                                                Mandarin Beef with Golden Garlic - Now this was a major winner. When jfood saw the color he thought it was just burnt meat, an incredibly dark coating. But the meat was absolutely tender to the point of falling apart. Brilliant. The sauce was over the top great as well.

                                                Any suggestion or is jfood's palate missing the point?


                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  I don't think you are missing the point jfood. I am so glad you made the trek out to Chanhassen from your metro digs. Since Connecticut jfood is quite familiar with NYC (and Chinatown and Flushing I am sure) I suggest you make a bee line for Little Szechuan on University Avenue in St. Paul (Dale Street exit?) and indulge yourself. Excellent Gong Bao (Kung Pao) Chicken, a very decent dry-fried Cumin Lamb for sure. The Cumin Lamb is not as good as NYC but much better than Tian Jin. Avoid the Dan Dan Noodles though. I only visited Tian Jin, Little Szechuan (and Tea House in Plymouth) twice each during a recent visit and Little Szechuan is the best that I've found in the land of 10,000 lakes.


                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                    I'll continue on with TJ but I'm done with this thread

                                                    1. re: FrugalDanny


                                                      Jfood drove to TJ and asked the lady for suggestions, she was wonderfully helpful. And he also re-read your posts and would very much like to understand which dishes he might try if he decides to fight the traffic on the 494 exit. He noticed you liked the tofu and gizzards. Those are not jfood's cup of tea (no pun intended). What else would you recommend that a kid from NJ and living in CT may enjoy here. He really liked the Beef but the other stuff were very flat.

                                                      Or maybe it is just not the flavors that excite jfood's palate. Different strokes for different folks buddy.

                                                      BTW - that is a great website. You have lots of other places to try when you come back out to CT.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Wow...Jfood in my neck of the woods. Mandarin Beef was a good choice. The Oxtail and tounge is excellent too. If jfood ever goes back I have had 60% of the menu so I can help jfood out. I agree with scoop, Little Szechuan is a must try. Also try Pagoda in Dinkytown. I saw your post on Bulldog NE...It's nice to see a recent positive review as it has been beat down lately. I had a truffle burger there around a year ago that was one of my best burger experiences ever. Too bad you aren't in the twin cities on weekends as my recommendation of the sea bass soup at Quangs is something that shouldn't be missed...IMHO.

                                                2. A few points after reading all of this:

                                                  1) Xiao Sichuan is the most authentic Chinese food I've found in MN thus far. The Tea House (well, the one in Plymouth) doesn't come close to it. I haven't been to Tian Jin yet, but I'm heading there soon.

                                                  2) Stop pretending that the Chinese restaurants in NYC are so great. There are probably only two (Da Sichuan and the Shanghai Cafe) that are any better than the typical American Chinese food. Any other cuisine in Manhattan would blow MN away (Korean, Japanese, etc.), but Chinese...not so much. LA and SF have much better Chinese food than NYC. I don't know why -- they just do.

                                                  3) What is "Mandarin" cuisine? Mandarin is a language.

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: jjack100

                                                    Can you provide an address, etc. for Xiao Sichuan?

                                                    1. re: jjack100

                                                      Welcome to the dogfight, I mean Tian Jin discussion jjack- thanks for presenting an opinion that I haven't really seen before here. I also would like to know where this Xiao place is , couldn't find any evidence of it online except for a place in San Diego. Also, I looked up Mandarin cuisine in my favorite search engine and found a quite lengthy piece in wikipedia that addresses the topic, including a huge list of dishes that could be termed 'Mandarin'. Seems that one of the meanings of the term is for food from the Beijing area. Peking duck is of course on the list, and some strange sounding things including 'Dried Soy Milk Cream in Tight Rolls'...... mmmm

                                                      1. re: faith

                                                        Little Szechuan in St. Paul is what jjack is referring to - Xiao Sichuan - 小四川 in Mandarin Chinese.

                                                        Little Szechuan - West End
                                                        5377 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

                                                      2. re: jjack100

                                                        What about NYC street noodles and soup dumplings. oh where are they here?

                                                        1. re: stepawayfromthetable

                                                          Yangtze in St. Louis has soup dumplings but they are not good. As far as I know no one in the Twin Cities is doing home-made hand-pulled noodle or home-made knife cut noodle soups.

                                                          1. re: scoopG

                                                            Not Chinese but I heard Tanpo (Japanese) in St. Paul makes some good noodle soups.

                                                            On another note I find it interesting that Grand Sechuan is a advertising Chef Luo as the head chef. If I'm not mistaken he is the chef who first started chatter at Teahouse, and then Little Sichuan. I was there shortly after they opened and was told he was in the kitchen. It was good...I plan on going back soon as I have been a little dissapointed with Tian Jin as of late.

                                                            1. re: dave43

                                                              Tanpopo in St. Paul has wonderful noodle soups. And it's just the season for it!


                                                              1. re: dave43

                                                                Dave - Do you have any idea why Tian Jin has gone down hill? I used to go there at least 2-3 times a month when they first opened up but the last few times have been a disappointment.

                                                                1. re: rjayasuriya

                                                                  I had lunch at Tian Jin last Wednesday. The service was horrible. My two unadventurous friends had the buffet and complained that over half of the bins were empty and not being refilled. This was at peak lunch time.

                                                                  The visit started out with the server yelling from two tables away to ask if we wanted anything to drink. When she finally reappeared she told us to go to the buffet. It was then that I requested a menu and she gave out a big sigh. My friends wanted to be patient and wait for my food to arrive, but seeing that the waitress hadn't even returned to take my order, I told them to go for it. Ten minutes later she returned and I ordered the Family Style Tofu with pork, extra spicy please. Fifteen minutes later, a big serving bowl with my entree' was plopped down in front of me with just a big serving spoon and a small bowl of white rice. No plate, no napkin and no utensils ever appeared and I had to seek them out on my own. She didn't check back once so I could let her know the dish was in no way spicy at all. I had to go to the front to get a takeout container for the leftovers and request the bill. All the while she was chatting away on her cell phone.

                                                                  It's entirely too bad, as I've really enjoyed the Chung Quing Spicy Chicken in the past and have steered a few people to the place. The tofu dish was good, despite the lack of spice, but the service will keep me away.

                                                                  1. re: rjayasuriya

                                                                    The owner Ryan has moved back to China for a couple of months. I really like Ryan and Yin but service has always been lacking. To be fair though you will be hard pressed to get good service at ANY Chinese restaurant in town. I believe the head cook is still there but quality has gone down. They were fighting an uphill battle from day 1 being located in Chanhassen. I really wonder how much longer then can last.

                                                                    Scoop...I am just about positive the chef at GS is the former part owner/chef at LS. It looks like they dumbed down for a surburb although the menu seemed to have a lot of sichuan items on it.

                                                                    1. re: dave43

                                                                      I concur. Not the same since Ryan left and place misses his oversight...Chen is overwhelmed. We've stopped going. Let me know please when he returns....I would recommend only going during the week . Buffet is a mistake anywhere.

                                                                  2. re: dave43

                                                                    Well GS is well below LS and TH in the overall quality of Chinese dishes so I find it odd that the same Chef would be behind all three places. GS is serving up mostly American-Chinese fare dumbed down for suburban tastes.

                                                            2. After seeing kriminalrat continue to praise Tian Jin on this board, I decided a follow-up visit was in order on a brief trip to the Twin Cities last month. The good news in three words: Less bell peppers!

                                                              My complaint on my first visit was that every dish seemed to contain red and green bell peppers. Tian Jin is now owned by a woman from Beijing named Chen Hong. She told me that the kitchen was being run by chefs from Manchuria. I wish she’d let them loose! More on that later though.

                                                              The main news is that Tian Jin has improved. There are fewer American-Chinese dishes although a good few remain. By sticking to the core Chinese dishes it is possible to have a good meal here.

                                                              Here’s what I had:

                                                              Spicy Ma La Beef and Tripe – Excellent version served up here with tiny bits of celery which I had not seen before.

                                                              Steamed Pork Dumplings – Not good. The skins were too thick and not enough of the dipping sauce was presented. (Though skimping on the dipping sauce was not relevant since the dumplings were not finished). Really no excuse from Manchurian cooks since this is a staple of their cuisine!

                                                              Peking Ja Jang Mian – OK. This famous Beijing dish is usually spelled in pinyin this way: Zha Jiang Mian (zhá jiàng miàn - 炸醬麵. There is also a Korean version of this dish). Huge portion for only $6.95 so I can’t really complain too much, but this dish is served with ground pork which was missing here.

                                                              Kong Pao Chicken – Less green peppers than last time and no red ones! Not enough peanuts though and there were water chestnuts added for some reason. I’ve had worse versions of this dish.

                                                              Dry Sautéed Green Beans – here ordered with ground pork. This dish was not bad but the pickled Chinese cabbage was AWOL!

                                                              Braised Pork Belly with Dry Chinese Vegetables (梅菜扣肉 - méi cài kòu ròu). This is a famous dish that originated with the ethnic Hakka Chinese people in southern China in an area known for mustard greens. Here pork belly is quickly boiled, then cooked in a stew of broth, star anise, ginger and scallions and pickled mustard greens. Tian Jin serves up a great version here and this might be the only place in the metro area that has it.

                                                              Homestyle Eggplant – Excellent. You get a choice of having this served with ground pork or meatless and I opted for pork. The eggplant was peeled and the addition of tree ears and cilantro was refreshing.

                                                              Shrimp with Cucumber – this dish was satisfying but bland. It works well within a full array of hot and spicy, or sour dishes though.

                                                              Boiled Beef in Szechuan Spicy Sauce – Tian Jin offers a perfect rendition. Good hot and numbing flavors evidenced throughout with tender slices of beef, Chinese cabbage, scallions, bean sprouts and peppercorns.

                                                              If indeed the Tian Jin kitchen is run by chefs from Manchuria it would be great if the reins could be loosened a little bit. The food of Manchuria – China’s northeast is a cuisine marked by hearty meals centered on meat and fresh and pickled vegetables. Grains like wheat, millet and sorghum are dominate and the food reflects influences from Manchuria, Mongolia, Korea, Russia and Japan. Manchurian cuisine is also known for strong flavors, lots of dumplings and a large variety of cold dishes. Raw fish might be served to start the meal. Garlic seems to be used but not too much ginger.

                                                              I am glad I returned to Tian Jin and happier yet to see the food has improved. Now if only Chanhassen were closer to downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis! But if you are in the area or going to a show at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre by all means drop in.


                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                                Group hug! I love happy endings.

                                                                We've had several "uphill" reports on this place now, which is encouraging indeed. scoop, if you were to rank Tian Jin against your other Twin Cities favs, how would you rank them and (if possible) can you mention when you last visited those other places?


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I also visited Szechaun Spice on Lyndale last month and it's still good.I'll have to look at my last posts to rank them....

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    I'd rank them this way for now:

                                                                    1.) Little Szechuan in St. Paul / March 2011:

                                                                    2.) Szechuan Spice on Lyndale / March and Dec. 2011:

                                                                    3.) Grand Szechuan in Bloomington / March 2011:

                                                                    4.) Tian Jin / Dec. 2011

                                                                    I've not included Evergreen (which like) since it is Taiwanese and the above four are Sichuanese...

                                                                    1. re: scoopG

                                                                      Thanks for the Sichuan tour overview. No Tea House?


                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        It's been too long - 2009 I think. I went to the Plymouth location. Still want to try the St. Paul location....

                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                          It's sad for me to say but Tian Jin can't be included in the top Sichuan spots in town. I have been 3 times that were mediocre at best. The former chef must be gone because my former favorite dishes are a shell of what they were in the past. This is sad as it was a gem at one time in the western suburb wastelands.

                                                                          1. re: kriminalrat

                                                                            "Mediocre at best" matches my experience completely from my one visit a few months ago.


                                                                            1. re: mdg

                                                                              I'd rank Szechuan Spice #1 and Little Szechuan #2. Pretty good, but definitely not as good as Szechuan Spice.