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Looking for kickass Szechuan food

So I've lived in the Bay Area for ~4 years now, and I haven't found a truly spectacular chinese restaurant yet that rivals what I'm used to. I've eaten at some good places, Kirin in the Richmond, and a couple of anonymous and solid (but not outstanding) places in China town.

I used to eat regularly at Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago, from 2000-2005 and it's just the best chinese food ever. The chef, Tony, has an amazing repertoire of dishes including standard americanized fare like Mongolian Beef, etc. He also has some great signature dishes and *real* chinese dishes (e.g. Yu Shiang Tendon). Apparently, he now has 3 restaurants, one in connecticut...


Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone here has any Chinese places they'd put on par with Lao Sze Chuan....



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  1. China Village is the best Sichuan I've had. Z&Y Garden in SF is good. Links in this topic:


    8 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I'll second China Village. Best Cumiin Lamb and fish soup I have had anywhere.

      I'll also put in a "no" vote for Panda Kitchen. Everything there makes my tongue go numb and I cannot taste anything.

      China Village
      1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

      1. re: Civil Bear

        Civil Bear Said:

        "I'll also put in a "no" vote for Panda Kitchen. Everything there makes my tongue go numb and I cannot taste anything."

        Hmmm... actually that sounds exactly like authentic food from sichuan.

        1. re: boris_qd

          Yeah, lots of Sichuan pepper creates that "ma la" numb sensation.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        Count me among the converts to the cult of Z&Y. Finally got to try the cumin beef and chicken with explosive chili pepper. The latter was a revelation, one of the best versions of this dish I've ever tried. Better even than the diced chicken with chilis at Szechuan Gourmet in NYC. My only complaint is that I prefer the dish with bones in the chicken, but this was a minor quibble given how well spiced and fried the chicken chunks were. It was so good I actually went back for dinner by myself the next day to order it again!

        1. re: a_and_w

          They will make it with the bony joints rather than boneless pieces if you ask; if you're not Chinese, you might have to insist, as I did. Z&Y used to serve the bony pieces by default until their recent chef change.

          It's much better with bones. My other current favorites there are:
          * smoked pork with leek
          * Yunnan fried rice cakes
          * tiger skin jalapeno peppers
          * Sichuan cold noodle

          1. re: david kaplan

            Is "tiger skin jalapeño peppers" the same dish they used to call "braised green pepper (jalapeño)" or something new?

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I never tried the braised pepper dish. The tiger-skin peppers have shriveled skins and are served in a vinegary thin sauce. I'll try to remember to take a picture next time.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Tiger skin jalapenos are roasted on a grill (leaving "tiger" stripes).

        2. Do a search for Sichuan or szechuan chowdowns on this board. You might have to expand the search parameters to 2 years to get more results.

          1. China Village Albany is unquestionably #1 for me. I've also come to really like Crouching Tiger in Redwood City.

            1. I quite like Country Panda Kitchen. In fact, I think I'll try to go back soon


              Panda Country Kitchen
              4737 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

              1. My favorite Sichuan in the Bay Area is South Legend in Milpitas.

                South Legend
                1720 N Milpitas Blvd, Milpitas, CA 95035

                1. Chicago has very little authentic non-Cantonese Chinese food, and I would expect the Bay Area Sichuan restaurants to be superior. Add to the list Classic Sichuan, 148 El Camino Real in Millbrae.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    In defense of laoszechuan, I remember it being very good when I lived in Chicago 7 years ago. And in defense of Chicago, there was a place in the burbs that had the best you tiao ever (and I'm from San Gabriel).

                    Here, in San Francisco, I like Spices! the best, particularly their lamb hot pot thing.

                    1. re: Pandora

                      This may be heresy, but I think sichuan in the Bay Area actually surpasses the San Gabriel Valley.

                  2. China Village is always a good bet.
                    Also good, in Oakland Chinatown Spices 3. They serve a Taiwanese style of Sichuan food according to my friend. The spicy bacon steamed with rice flower appetizer is amazing.
                    And in Fremont (in the Ranch 99 shopping plaza) is Little Sichuan Express, my personal favorite. Though I haven't been there for a year( I should really go) when I went the food was trully the best sichuan I've had not in New York. Chongquing chicken wings, boiled beef, any noodles, it was all great.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: germanbreakfast

                      Since no one else has, I'll point out that there are also Spices! locations in San Francisco (I, II, and, I think, IV -- oops, seems to be closed).

                      Spices II
                      291 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                      294 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                      1. re: germanbreakfast

                        Little Sichuan Express moved to the Newark Ranch 99 Center, and dropped the Express.

                        Little Sichuan
                        35233 Newark Blvd Ste F, Newark, CA 94560

                      2. I've tried several sichuan places in NYC and LA, but China Village in Albany is still my gold standard. If the manager, Mr. Yao, takes your order, be sure to heed his suggestions. But don't be afraid to try things that look good to you -- he can be a little aggressively helpful.

                        1. It sounds like dkanter is in san francisco.

                          An interesting question would be whether there are any good sichuan places in SF city limits. Any takers?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Spices 1 & 2 and Z&Y Garden. Unfortunately Zone 88 closed.

                            Z & Y
                            655 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              If I had to choose in SF, Panda Country Kitchen. Spices is too Taiwanish for me. Also, ZY seems to have changed hands and the food isn't quite as good as it used to be.

                              1. re: sfbing

                                Z&Y changed hands in the last few months? It wasn't that long ago they had that great chef from the Chinese consulate.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  This may be the first time I've had the new chef. Maybe it was an off day--chongqing chicken was a little soggy. The spicy fish with tofu had mostly broken bits of tofu and the fish was overcooked. Plus, our female waiter was really aggressive pushing the egg rolls and fried won ton.

                                  The food was fine--just not as good as it was before. My favorite incarnation was when it first opened and they made their own tofu.

                              2. re: bbulkow

                                You mean aside from the ones already listed?

                              3. dkanter, what do you think about those recs?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Hey, so I wanted to thank everyone for the recommendations. Here are a few thoughts:

                                  1. Z&Y is good, especially if you go with a native speaker. However, I do like a little variety : )

                                  2. I found a place called Dong Bei Mama (4737 Geary Blvd) that is superb, although it's definitely more than just Sze Chuan style. It was recommended to me by a long-time native, born in China.

                                  3. I am planning to hit up Spices and Panda Country Kitchen soon, since I've heard really good things. Will try and report back.

                                  1. re: dkanter

                                    Dong Bei Mama has Sichuan dishes held over from when it was Panda Country Kitchen, but the focus is Dongbei. Numerous reports here:


                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      I would absolutely recommend Dong Bei Mama for their Sichuan dishes. Actually, I've never found Sichuan food in the Bay Area as good as this except China Village.

                                      I recommend the Fish a la Szechuan (photo), Chongqing crispy fish (photo), sauteed string beans are perfect (photo), fish filet in dry wok is really great too, ma po tofu, fish filet with tofu, eggplant, green onion pancakes, vegetable cakes, etc. As you can see from the photos, there are lots of peppers, sichuan pepper, garlic, green onions, other vegetables, cilantro. Just great. Wonderful deep flavors and some of my best meals ever.

                                2. Fortune House Sichuan on a little side street in, of all places, Pleasant Hill. It's been on this board before. I understand the ancestry goes back to China Village in Albany. Let the host guide you if you want an authentic experience. Don't miss the sesame flatbread.

                                  - Chris

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: cwujd1


                                    Sichuan Fortune House
                                    41 Woodsworth Ln, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

                                  2. I might put Classic Sichuan Restaurant (in Millbrae right near the BART) above China Village.

                                    Z & Y is good, but I think their Hunan dishes are stronger than their Szechuan dishes.

                                    Also LOVE The Noodle Shop in San Mateo but they are Hunan, not Szechuan.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: calvarez

                                      What dishes do you recommend at Classic Sichuan?

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        We really liked the shui ju yu and the cumin lamb. We also got a noodle and greens dish - I was expecting equal parts noodle and bok choy, but it was almost entirely noodles with just little tiny shreds of seaweed-like greens - can't remember the name, but it was excellent.

                                        1. re: calvarez

                                          Update: After going back recently, I'm going to have to un-recommend Classic Sichuan Restaurant. It's definitely above-average for "Chinese food", but not for Szechuan. They rely too heavily on basic red pepper flakes instead of Szechuan peppercorns - so the effect is quite spicy but not the distinctive mala flavor.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Oops, meant Yunnan. But they do have a "Hunan smoked pork" dish on the menu which is the best incarnation of that I've ever had.

                                          1. re: calvarez

                                            With the new-ish chef at Z&Y, they've added smoked bacon to the menu in several dishes. Yunnan rice cakes come with smoked bacon, dao miu (pea shoots), and picked mustard greens, speckled with bits of fresh (if I recall correctly) chili. I like the combination even more than Bund Shanghai's rice cakes with spinach and bacon across the street. Z&Y also offers the smoked bacon stir-fried with leeks.

                                      2. This place just opened July 1st, 2009. If you give it a try, hope you report back

                                        El Cerrito: Happy Golden Bowl - Seriously Szechuan ... Dim sum, house-made noodles and much, much more