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MSP: New Restaurant(?) - Grand Szechuan in Bloomington

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I did a search, and didn't see this listed anywhere...

Grand Szechuan in Bloomington - at the NW corner of France and Old Shakopee - in the Cub strip, near the opposite end. 10602 France Ave S. - looks like it just opened.

We went there for lunch yesterday and tried the lunch specials - a Kung Pao Chicken and a Double-Cooked Pork. Lunch specials were $8 (although they gave us a mystery 15% discount on the check) and included:

Hot and sour soup - not incredible hot or sour, but a pretty good soup
Salad - a bowl of lettuces (not iceberg, or even romaine) with some kind of gingery/sesame-y dressing - it was nice
Egg Roll - not bad, but I've come to really prefer the Vietnamese-style egg rolls
White Rice - Um - it was rice...

The entrees were both very good. Even though it's probably not the most challenging thing on the Szechuan menu, I like to order Kung Pao just to weed out the complete hacks. I'm happy to report, Grand Szechuan passed the complete hack test - there were no carrots, corn, celery, lima beans, peas, or any of the other things I've found in my Kung Pao over the last few years of ordering it in Minnesota, It was "purist" Kung Pao - chicken, dried peppers, peanuts, and a few scallions. Tasty, although not incredibly spicy - we'll work on that next time. The double-cooked pork was also good - thin slices of pork, with green and red peppers, in a mildly-spicy sauce (once again, we'll work on that next time). Both entrees were good starts, especially since there were off the lunch special menu.

What got me a little more excited, though, was the rest of the menu. Looks like a full-fledged encyclopedia of Szechuan dishes. Here are some examples:

Ma La Pork Tripe
Chung King Chili Chicken
Elder Sister Diced Rabbit (with bone)
Jelly Fish with Scallion Sauce
Mouth Water Chicken (with bone)
Beef in Szechuan Chili Broth
Ma Po Tofu
Milky Crispy Shrimp

Now, I haven't tried all of these, even at other restaurants, but they look like some that I've seen in other Chowhoud-verified "real" Szechuan places. There's a huge selection on the "Szechuan Specials" menu - quite a few are vegetarian, too.

Like I said, we've only been there once, but I'll definitely be checking it out a few more times over the next few months. If anybody's interested in a particular dish, let me know - I've got the menu sitting here in front of me.

Give it a try...

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  1. It is my understanding that the opening of this place was the result of a walkout/staffing changes at Little Szechuan on University which I (and possibly some others) reported - albeit with very few details, some weeks ago. A friend who is connected to the local chinese community got wind of it and based on that i originally mentioned the changes on a LS thread, but had no details on what happened or what the walkers-out would be doing. Just a few days ago i had heard about this new spot, so thanks for reporting in.

    Its good to know that the menu has all the makings of a good place, and ill be interested to hear further reports of their execution.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast

      that is good to know because that area is almost a wasteland

      1. re: tex.s.toast

        The kitchen cooks walked out of LS in St. Paul in June and placed an add in a local Chinese newspaper announcing such.

        1. re: scoopG

          My wife and I were inspired to give this place a try Saturday night. First surprise was the long line at 7:30 pm. The place was packed with Asian customers, probably because Grand Szechuan advertised heavily in Chinese newspapers and offered a 15% discount until Aug 31. I saw only one Caucasian table (fellow Chowhound?). The hostess told me they've only been open for a week.

          Service in Chinese restaurants can range from incredible efficiency to awful. Grand Szechuan is closer to the awful side. Lots of waitstaff were available, but they lack efficient work processes. I saw waiters carrying 2 glasses of water from the kitchen to a table, then back to the kitchen. They don't seem to realize that stopping at a second table would save a trip to the kitchen. It took the hostess 5 minutes to write down our name and give us a number. They need an experienced manager.

          With just the two of us, we couldn't order much. Here's everything we ordered.

          Dan Dan Noodles - Not bad. Not as good as Teahouse East, but far better than Teahouse West. Decent flavor, not overwhelmingly spicy.

          Sweet and Sour Soup - Stay away. In general, stay away from the first two pages of the menu which lists courses only in English. The rest of the menu has dishes in both English and Chinese.

          Pea Tips - Very tough, we exceeded our daily fiber requirement. These are not a Szechuan specialty, so it may not be fair. (Mandarin Kitchen continues to have the most tender pea tips, even though the same distributor probably supplies all Chinese restaurants. I think they must blanch them first before stir fry.)

          Crispy Duck - They were out of duck with taro, which is authentic and traditional. The crispy duck was very moist, but a little bland. This dish usually comes with dipping salt, but did not here.

          Tea - Never offered us tea, which is strange giving the overwhelming Asian clientele.

          Take Away - Apple West is a wasteland, so we can't afford to be picky. The food has possibilities, but the staff is overwhelmed by the success of their advertising. I plan to wait three months and try again.

          1. re: scoopG

            This makes sense - I knew the Kung Pao tasted familiar. I've only been to Little Szechuan a few times, but that's where I'd tasted it before.

            Good to know there are professionals in the kitchen. The lunch wait staff were fine, if a little unorganized, but there were only 5 or 6 yables full when we were in there. From the posts below, it looks like things get jumping in the evening. Good to hear.

        2. We went to Grand Szechuan today for lunch. For reference, we're very familiar with eating at Little Szechuan, and lived in SF for a bunch of years, so have a pretty decent basis for comparison. Tried some of the usuals:

          - Chung King Chili Chicken. I felt that this was very close to Little Szechuan. Spicy, maybe a little saltier than LS, but still good.
          - Milky Crispy Shrimp. This is generally my wife's favorite from Little Szechuan. She did not like this version as much as LS, although I still liked it. The sauce was a little darker / milkier than LS. The LS sauce seemed a bit more vibrant. Shrimp were really well cooked, however. Broccoli seemed a little more of an afterthought (slightly over-steamed) but still good.
          - Szechuan Green Beans -- These were good, but again we felt they were not *quite* as good as LS. LS seems to let their beans "blacken" a bit more than our dish at GS. The GS beans were fresh, though, and you could taste the bean flavor. Good dish, just not as much "wow" as previous experiences with this dish at LS.
          - (weekend Szechuan "snack" special) Sweet and Spicy Noodles. *Really* spicy, not sweet at all. Noodles looked homemade, chewy. Good as a small bite but way too spicy to eat by itself. I probably won't try this one again. Actually I ordered it because I did not see Dan Dan noodles on the menu until later, when I realized that I had just missed them.

          Don't read too much into my nitpicking... Grand Szechuan is far above almost all other Chinese restaurants in the cities; the slight negative comparison to Little Szechuan is simply because that seems to be the bar that has been set. In general I liked G.S. a lot better than Tea House West, both in food and decor.

          Our service was very good. Friendly waiters who seemed to help each other out. (Multiple people took our dishes, bill, filled our water, etc.) We were one of only two non-Asian tables in the place.

          Anyway, if it truly has only been a week or two that they've been open, then they're doing great so far. I will definitely be trying them again.

          9 Replies
          1. re: chrismpls

            Has anyone been to Little Szechuan since the split?

            1. re: MrSlippery

              Can anyone verify that Grand Szechuan is being run by the former Little Szechaun staff? I was under the impression they would be reopening in the same area off of University in St. Paul. If this is true then it would be nice to have a PURE Szechuan restaurant in the western suburbs. I love Tian Jin but it really isn't a 100% Szechuan restaurant.

              1. re: dave43

                Grand Szechuan is staffed with the former kitchen staff of Little Szechuan and run by former Little Szechuan Head Chef Luo. I haven't been to Little Szechuan since the rift, but Chef Luo (he's from Chengdu), his wife, and several other kitchen members were the heart of the fantastic cuisine there, so I can't imagine it's as good now. Any experiences to the contrary?

                1. re: jmofro

                  My husband and I ate at LS sometime in July. At that time, we knew no more than that the head chef had been replaced. We ordered 3 dishes and found the flavoring to be different. We also felt that all the dishes were sloppily put together both in terms of cooking and plating. But, we attributed our observations to "We are being hyper-sensitive to any sign of change because we didn't want any change. It must be all in our heads." Another thing we found strange was that none of the wait staff we were familiar with was there, and this made us wonder if the ownership had changed. Our conclusion was, "Let's not go back until we hear reports of 'all is well again (or better)." I guess that is not happening (anytime soon.) We are glad to know where we should go instead.

                  1. re: Ms. Fennelbulb

                    It was the entire kitchen crew at LS that walked out in early June and placed an ad in a local Chinese newspaper announcing such.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      Ate there this weekend. The space is decorated nicely. I had the Fish Fillet in spicy broth. It was good. It wasn't very hot even after I asked for it to be hot. I was told the Owner/head chef was actually cooking which was surprising as the dish didn't seem to be on par with what I remember from LS. I also had the Pork ear in Chili sauce which was very good.

                      1. re: dave43

                        Thanks Dave! I may be back in town for the Gopher-Air Force game on campus (I refuse to say TCF) and will try to check it out....

              2. re: MrSlippery

                Yes, I've been there twice and since I go at least once a month I noticed a difference. I had not heard of the split but the dishes were coming out all wrong. I sent two back each time. One for lack of salt and the other for lack of flavor at all. The waitstaff told me that the chef had received a complaint about the food being too salty so he was toning it down but a friend in the Chinese community told me that the Chef left over an argument and started Grand Szechuan.

                1. re: G039260

                  I made my second visit today, had the Chung King Chicken. It was gooooood!

            2. Checked out Grand Szechuan for lunch today.

              I am a veteran of Szechuan at Tea House (Plymouth) and Tian Jin (Chanhassen), but I decided to act naive with the (very young) waiter for my first visit to Grand Szechuan to see how it went. Other than saying that I like spicy stuff I played dumb. Right away he recommended my usual favorite Asian dishes of Beef (or Pork or Shrimp) with Szechuan Chili Broth and Chung King Spicy Chicken, stating that these dishes are listed at the top of their respective sections of the menu for a reason. I watched as some of these and other dishes went by en route to other tables, all looked & smelled fabulous.

              I went with the Beef with Szechuan Chili Broth. Very similar to the Boiled Beef with Szechuan Spicy Sauce at Tea House and Tian Jin. The GS version has slightly thinner sauce, but the spice level and portion size were very impressive! Even without my asking for extra spicy (like I usually need to do anywhere I go) it was just enough to start a little bit of the nose running and forehead sweating. Very tasty, lots of tender beef, and just the right amount of the correct veggies. Very happy stomach!

              About the place itself: Very big, about 2x the size of the Plymouth Tea House and 3x Tian Jin. No buffet, menu only. The greeting & seating came with ice water, a tea cup, and chop sticks. I was not given or even offered a fork (I am an Italian guy so it's not like they assumed I didn't want a fork because I'm Asian...)
              The menu has a few of the obligatory Chow Mein & Fried Rice type items for typical Minnesotans, but most is dedicated to Szechuan specialties. Plenty of non spicy items also (although I really don't see the point :-)
              Prices are right in line with similar places. Beef/Pork dishes $12 bucks, Chicken $11, Seafood & Lamb slightly higher around $14. But again the portions are huge - two people could have easily dined off of the one beef dish I had today.

              Bottom line: Highly recommended! I can't wait to go back and try the Chung King Chicken!

              4 Replies
              1. re: mtmazz

                Scoop,

                Hopefully when you go the owner/head chef we still be cooking. They said he would be cooking until the restaurant was established. Also if you are going to the Gopher game you have to check out Pagoda which is only a couple of blocks away. I had their dim sum recently which I believe to be the best in the Twin Cities.

                1. re: dave43

                  Hi Dave. I really haven't tried any of the non-spicy dishes, but judging from their hot stuff I'd say just about anything on their menu would be great. I have had non-spicy Scechuan dishes at Tea House & Tian Jin, so based on that for non-spicy recommendations in general I'd say try the double cooked pork, chicken & mushroom, or a noodle dish - especially with seafood. I'm sure they can "tone down" or adjust the spice level onmost anything too, the staff seems very accomodating and helpful. Good luck!

                  1. re: mtmazz

                    Very helpful. Thanks much.

                2. re: mtmazz

                  What non-spicy items would you recommend for a wimp?

                  I know you probably didn't try those, but what does your intuition about the place tell you?

                  This place is near where my mother lives, so a trip there is in our future.

                3. My family and I went to Grand Szechuan for a nice lunch on Saturday - no lunch specials on the weekend, by the way.

                  As soon as we sat down, some manager-looking guy came up to the table and explained to us how this was a "very special Szechuan-style restaurant", but if we weren't interested in the Szechuan dishes, there were some more traditional (Minnesota-like) dishes on one of the pages. I guess we had that look about us. There were quite a few Asian-only tables seated. When I told him I was thinking about the Chung King Chili Chicken, he warned me again about the spiciness, but I chalk it all up to politeness - not some anti-Minnesota condescension :-). Service was great - multiple waiters working together.

                  So, even though I was warned, I ordered the chili chicken. My wife ordered the broccoli with fish sauce, and my son ordered the orange chicken.

                  We also ordered, from the "Szechuan Snacks" menu - only available on weekends from 11:30-3:00, the "steamed mini buns (6)". I put quotations around that for two reasons: 1. they were much more like dumplings than buns, and 2. there were probably about 12-15 of them - a whole steamer basket-full. They were good, but were really much more like round, sausage-filled dumplings. They were good enough, but if I'd known they were dumplings and not "buns", I'd have ordered the Chengdu Spicy Dumplings instead.

                  The orange chicken was very flavorful - not overly sweet, but sweet enough, and just a hint of spiciness. Even the broccoli (Broccoli?! That's nature's poison!) was pretty good (for broccoli). The fish sauce was well-seasoned - hard to describe - kinda fish-saucy - with, again, just a touch of hotness.

                  Then we come to the Chung King chili chicken. It was also good - dry - little sauce - with onions and green and red peppers - and salty, but not overly so. But, as others have mentioned, well, just not that hot. I think they got a wimpy batch of dried peppers. There were tons of them in the dish, all crushed up to release the hotness, but I ate a few of them whole, and the heat just wasn't there. And the numbing of the Sichuan peppercorns was completely missing (I forget - is that the "ma" or the "la"?). I had this dish at South Legend in Milpitas, CA a few years ago, and couldn't feel my lips for an hour after I ate. I was looking for that -but only got a pleasantly spicy, and tasty, chicken dish.

                  So, all the dishes were very good - especially compared to most in the Bloomington area - and we'll definitely be back to try more. It's a great addition to the lunch rotation...

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: greghoffman

                    I stopped by Tian Jin in Chanhassen last night and had their Chung King Chili Chicken. I prefer it over Grand Szechuan's.

                    While TIan Jin's wasn't any hotter (spicier) than Grand Szechuan's, it did have an abundance of whole Sichuan peppercorns, and gave me that nice numbing sensation, and added lots of flavor. The Tian Jin dish also had, in addition to the chicken and green/red peppers, lots of sliced garlic and what appeared to be bamboo shoots (?) - just a couple, though. The chicken was in larger chunks, too - I think that kept it just a little moister.

                    Once again, there were a ton of dried hot peppers in the dish, but they just weren't that "hot" - maybe it is just a wimpy year for peppers...

                    1. re: greghoffman

                      Tian Jin...IMHO, has the best Chung King chicken in town. I agree with you on the spice level. I think Little Sichuan sources hotter peppers then TJ. GS didn't blow me away the one time I was there. I would assume they would keep their same suppliers that they had at LS but who knows.

                      1. re: greghoffman

                        Odd, I found no evidence in my two visits to TJ that they were using Sichuan peppercorns, which are usually roasted and then ground - not used whole. Dried red peppers are only hot if you eat them. Often they are cut open and de-seeded to better control the heat level. And I found TJ put red and green bell peppers into every dish they made for me!

                        1. re: scoopG

                          There were definitely whole sichuan peppercorns - fried nice and crisp. You could see both the little black "seeds" and the husks, and the "ma" was definitely there.

                          No idea if they use it in anything else, but it was in the Chung King Chili Chicken.

                          1. re: scoopG

                            Scoop,

                            It is the seeds and veins from the peppers that contains the heat not the skins which you find in Chung King Chicken. I have found that all of the spots in Mpls...TH, LS, TJ use whole sichuan peppercorns. We won't rehash the bell pepper debate as all the restaurants above use these also. If it truly is authentic to ground the peppercorns I wonder why all the local restaurants are not doing this? i will have to ask Ryan at TJ why he uses them whole.

                            1. re: dave43

                              Thanks Dave - just returned from the Twin Cities (I did get to Pagoda) and fuller reports to follow. Maybe we are talking about two different foods here - dried hot chili peppers vs Sichuan peppercorns. In many Sichuan recipes the dried hot chili peppers are cut and somewhat de-seeded. This way you can add more more of them. Or they are used whole. The flavor of Sichuan peppercorns is much more intense when they are toasted and/or roasted and then ground. And they use the whole Sichuan peppercorns as well in Sichuan cuisine.

                      2. I stopped in over the weekend and do not think it is as good as Little Szechuan in St. Paul. They may need more time. After being seated I waited 10 minutes before anyone came back to bring a menu. I think they are toning down the spice and heat levels - this may have to do with their suburban location. I had:

                        Dan Dan Noodles - although the noodles were perfectly cooked, this dish was missing bean paste which is usually mixed with ground pork. The addition of sesame paste or oil was not needed and is normally not found in Dan Dan Noodles.

                        Cumin Lamb - not as juicy as LS and a very skimpy portion at $14. LS does it better, cheaper ($1 less) and with a much larger portion.

                        Kung Pao Chicken - large portion and well seasoned but was short on peanuts. Could have used more garlic and ginger. Not as spicy as I would have expected.

                        Stir Fried Pea Tips - they did this very well with very little oil.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: scoopG

                          Scoop,

                          Yes, I think we are on the same page...The dried chili peppers have no heat as they have been deseeded like you mentioned. I have mainly noticed peppercorns whole in the chung king but as you mentioned I would be surprised if TJ didn't ground some of them in the dish. Another dish I get alot is the Fish filet in spicy broth where the Ma is more intense. I have noticed whole peppercorns in this dish also but have never inspected closely to check for the ground peppercorns. Although with all the chili seeds it might be difficult to see. I agree with you on GS's use of heat. Since this restaurant is LS in a different location I don't see why they can't maintain there status as a good sichuan restaurant. I look forward to your Pagoda review and I encourage you to give TJ another shot. Since you like Cumin Lamb, ask them for it dry style. I also encourage you to try one of their none sichuan dishes like Stewed Oxtail and tounge, Mandarin beef with golden garlic, or steamed sliced pork with preserved mustard. These dishes are more adventerous and usually ordered by Chinese but I think they are a good representation of northern chinese cooking.

                          1. re: dave43

                            I didn't do a full blown review of Pagoda. I found Yangtze to be better than Pagoda overall. Sometimes the skin on a few of the har gow or shu mai dumplings were broken - telling me they were oversteamed. But I'd go back to Pagoda on any Gopher game day!

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/646502

                            1. re: scoopG

                              I will have to check Yangtze out...I think it is actually closer to me too. If you find someone who does Shanghai soup dumplings let me know. I have asked everywhere and no one does them. although I did hear Teahouse St. Paul used to.

                              1. re: dave43

                                They're called juicy buns on the Teahouse menu, and I'm pretty sure they still serve them.

                                1. re: dave43

                                  by shanghai soup dumplings, do you mean "little dragon bun"? miss it!

                                  1. re: Ummm

                                    Yangtze has the soup dumplings but they are not so good. Three pieces to a serving (not six) and just not up to snuff if you've had them in Shanghai, Taipei, or NYC. Then again if you have a craving they may do in a MSP pinch...

                                    The long2 籠 in 小籠包 Xiao3 Long2 Bao1 or XLB in chowspeak here means “steamer basket,” not dragon. These are the Shanghai style soup dumplings. So XLB means "little steamer basket buns."

                                    生煎包 (Sheng1 Jian1 Bao1) are often called juicy buns and are a bit similar: tiny mantou like buns filled with a ground pork mixture and lightly pan fried on one side. So I wonder what Teahouse exactly is serving....

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      Funny you say that...I ordered shanghai soup dumplings at Pagoda and they brought buns filled with pork mixture you described.

                                      1. re: scoopG

                                        thanks for clarifying! i forgot it's 'basket'... but since in cantonese basket and dragon sounds the same, that's what came to my mind first.

                                        are there any good shanghai restaurants/food in the twin cities? for "shanghai stirfry noodles (the "thick" noodles), deep fried buns etc?

                            2. Jfood decided to try Grand Szechuan last night and he was horribly disappointed. Please understand that Jfood is not a Szechuan aficionado, so this review is being submitted from a normal person looking for some good Chinese food. He also understands that Szechuan is spicier than his normal choice, but given the reviews and location he decided to give it a shot.

                              He arrived and was greeted with a 10% off sign, which makes him happy. He ordered a basic middle of the road order, fried dumplings, Kung Po Chicken and General Tsao Chicken. He asked for the mild spice range of each.

                              The dumplings were fair at best with the dough pretty gummy. He was also not a fan of the sauce that accompanied the dumplings. The General Tsao was not to his liking as well. It was extremely overcooked and Jfood could not even find the chicken inside the breading. It was similar to eating fried dough. The Kung Po was also so vastly overcooked that Jfood could not even eat it.

                              So for better or worse this is definitely not a place where Jfood will be rushing back to have a second meal. He was so hoping that the food would be to his liking since there are many times when he needs to work in the hotel at night and take-away is his only choice on the south side.

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: Fudist

                                :-))
                                Maybe jfood should have stated that he was looking for a safe choice versus middle of the road food. Some of their menu items were for much more adventurous szechuan palate.

                                Likewise, Jfood can never understand why people can eat food that makes their tongue feel like an incinerator. Jfood thought it was a tad spicy when he ordered "mild". He cannot imagine what the three "jalepeno pepper" icon food must taste like.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  My meal there certainly wasn't hot nor spicy and lacked anything approaching the desired Sichuan "ma la" (hot and numbing) harmony. Done well it should not burn your mouth to death. General Tso's Chicken is not Chinese, but American-Chinese (invented in NYC by a Hunan chef.) Full chops (ticks!) to Jfood for leaving his normal food comfort zone and putting that GPS system to work.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    I think jfood ran into one of the peculiarities of Chinese Restaurants in the Twin Cities. They tend to be INCREDIBLY inconsistent in quality across their menus.

                                    It isn't at all uncommon for a restaurant capable of high quality to have two menus - one for their Chinese customers, and another for their customer seeking "safe" options. Even the restaurants with one menu will separate the dishes into two sections within the menu, or simply have a section of the menu (or a sign with additional menu items) in Chinese, without translation.

                                    Sadly, when this happens, the "Chinese" portions of the menu are often FAR superior to the "safe" portions of the menu. I seem to recall one restaurant even having one kitchen for the authentic stuff, and another for the "American Chinese" - creating mistimed meals if you made the "mistake" of ordering from both menus.

                                    There exists a sort of "Minnesota Chinese" that native Minnesotans tend to crave, and everyone else seems to find somewhere between a curiousity and an insult to actual Chinese food. (Search the midwest board "Chow Mein" to see what I mean.) When you order "American Chinese" at many of these places, you get their interpretation of Minnesota Chinese.

                                    So, in the end, if you order well (read: authentic and/or adventerous) in these places, you will get an amazing meal. If you don't, you'll get something barely edible.

                                    If you're looking for a place to get "safe" Chinese food, there are a few places that do it well, but they are few and far between. Yangtze sticks out in my mind as a place where you can order something like Sesame Chicken or General Tso's chicken, and walk away pretty satisfied.

                                    But, for the most part, if you're looking for "safe Chinese" stay away from the places that have more authentic (and especially Sichuan) menus. They just don't put in the effort for those dishes that they do for their specialties. They should, but they don't.

                                    1. re: Danny

                                      Thanks Danny for the advice. Jfood does not have any Thai back east and MSP has lots of good nes. So he will stick to the Thai and leave the Chinese to the east coast.

                                      1. re: Danny

                                        There are no secret 'second' menus, mystery handshakes, or sodden winks and nods for Chinese customers in Minnesota or elsewhere to get Chinese deliciousness at Chinese restaurants - at any 40,000 of them in the USA. All Chinese restaurants in Minnesota offer "safe" American Chow Mein, Cream Cheese Wontons, Chop Suey and yes Sesame and General Tso's Chicken cause that's what 95% of the clientele expects and wants. Not so in NYC or the San Gabriel Valley where you would be greeted with a laugh for asking for egg rolls. It is difficult for any restaurant to maintain consistency - that is not a problem unique to Chinese, French or any type restaurant. The key is to get at what truly Chinese dishes they are striving to serve and see how they measure up.

                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          That is simply untrue, scoop. I'll name names.

                                          For a *VERY* long time, Tea House did not distribute their Sichuan menu to American customers unless it was requested. They have two menus to this day. Same with Little Szechuan, and sometimes you still have to ask, especially if you want something to go. Jun Bo has had two menus since they opened as well. (They actually have more than two, there's also a Dim Sum menu that you have to know to ask for. They will cook things to order, IF you know they have a menu, AND you ask them to prep the dish for you.)

                                          Chin's Kitchen has one menu book, but divided into two parts - the first half is American Chinese, then the menu starts again, this time with authentic Chinese dishes. China Jen takes this one step further, as they have multiple pages of menu in Chinese only, at the end of their menu. They also have additional dishes on a white board above the drink cooler - listed only in Chinese. The first time I inquired about the sign, I was told, "Those are things Chinese people like." After additional prodding, I was told what they were, and allowed to order. (China Jen also limits their printed take out menu to "safe" options - one of the great challenges of the place was getting Scallion Pancakes to go. You had to almost beg to see the full menu to place a to-go order. They tried steering Americans to the buffet first, then to the takeout menu, and only after those things failed would they offer up the full menu.)

                                          As for the notion that you'd be greeted with a laugh asking for Egg rolls in NYC - that is laughable. Go spend a day in China Town. You'll have a hard time finding a place that won't serve you an egg roll, let alone a place that will laugh at you.

                                          1. re: Danny

                                            Based on my recent visits to Teahouse (Plymouth), Little Szechuan, Pagoda, Yangtze, Tianjin and Grand Sichuan I saw no second secret menu. Menus are in both Chinese and English. I read and write Chinese and order in Mandarin. Ate at Jun Bo once years ago and since it was terrible will never go back. Little Szechuan has house specials written in Chinese, nothing hidden there. As Jennfier 8. Lee writes in The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, that is a sign one is on the right track in finding true Chinese deliciousness. You will find egg rolls and General Tso's Chicken in only a handful of NYC's Manahattan Chinatown restaurants - the ones for tourists who don't want to venture off Canal street. Not in places hounds go. You will find no egg rolls in Flushing, our second (of four) NYC Chinatowns.

                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              Grand Szechuan does sort of have two separate menus - they're just in the same "book". There are several dishes (Kung Pao Chicken comes to mind) that are even listed twice on the menu - once in the "Minnesota" side, without Chinese translations, and once on the "Szechuan Specials" section, with Chinese translations next to them (or, probably more appropriately, English translations next to the Chinese). I also noticed that Tian Jin had a completely separate menu with no English in it at all.

                                              Even Hunan in Bloomington has a board up on the wall only written in Chinese - I always wonder what I'm missing.

                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                Scoop,

                                                Teahouse in Plymouth used to have two menus. One with americanized chinese food and one with sichuan dishes. I haven't been for more than a year because Little Szechuan and Teahouse II are much closer to home.

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

                                                1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                  I liked Teahouse in Plymouth (but thought Little Szechuan better overall) and ordered off their "main" menu which seemed to be the only one they had.

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

                                            2. re: scoopG

                                              Is there anything on the Grand Szechuan menu I could order if I want authentic and good food but can't handle heat (not because I don't want to but because I physically can't.) Anything?

                                              I ask because it's near my mother's house and the area is kind of a food wasteland.

                                              If there aren't any options, I'll find other places. But if there are, I'd love to know.

                                              1. re: karykat

                                                Really I found the dishes I tried at GS to not be fiery or spicy hot so i think you are safe all around. They are toning it down for suburban Bloomington tastes.

                                                1. re: karykat

                                                  Can/do you eat cumin? I've not eaten at GS but think that cumin lamb is usually a safer bet for those who don't like heat.

                                                  1. re: bob s

                                                    Yes, that works. Great suggestion.

                                                    1. re: karykat

                                                      Karykat,

                                                      Ask them to do the cumin lamb dry style.

                                                      1. re: dave43

                                                        Thanks for this tip. Appreciate it.

                                                        1. re: dave43

                                                          That's how they serve this traditional Sichuan dish - dry, so there is no need to ask for it dry. And it is not spicy hot.

                                          2. Have plans to go there for lunch. Their online menu only mentions Americanized dishes. Are the traditional dishes off menu, or is the website simply incomplete?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: kevin47

                                              I will be going there for lunch soon too. (Mother lives nearby and wants to go.)

                                              What (if anything) can I have of the true Chinese offerings if allergic to bell peppers and kind of a wimp about too much heat. (Know that's a challenge.)

                                            2. TOUCHDOWN!!!

                                              Grand Szechuan in Bloomington

                                              Lousy weather, lots of traffic and Idol on so jfood decided to suck it up and try again. He read the posts and decided to go with some common choices on this thread and the result was one of the BEST Chinese food he has ever tasted.

                                              Dinner consited of:

                                              - Fried Potstickers - Excellent filling with a flavor jfood could not place but felt great to the taste buds. The sauce was different from those he has eaten in the past and he really liked it
                                              - Dan Dan noodles (cold) - Once again, not sure what the ingredients were that made this dish so good, but the only comment would be jfood would have like a little more sauce.
                                              - Chung King Chili Chicken - Given the 2 pepper heat factor on the menu jfood asked for it much more mild, and it still had some heat. The flavors were outstanding with the sweetness of the red peppers .
                                              - Milky Crispy Shrimp - Jfood is still doing cartwheels over this dish and just has to give a WTF was this made from. this could be the GREATEST Asian dish he has ever eaten. The crispiness of the coating, the perfectly cooked shrimp covered in a tangy sauce plus a milky sauce makes jfood want to get up and run back for another portion. A 14 on a scale of 1-10.

                                              Thank You all for this restaurant. YI{PPEE!!

                                              www.ctbites.com

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Interested to try this milky crispy shrimp. I've always known this to be a buffet staple/guilty pleasure type dish. I'd be curious to see how they up the ante.

                                              2. I just wanted to chime in and say that if you've still been patronizing Little Szechuan only to be met with dishes that only vaguely resemble their former selves, do yourself a favor and go to Grand Szechuan.

                                                Last time I ate at LS (this was in January), I got the usual: green beans, Kung Pao Tofu, Chung King Chili Shrimp. Nothing tasted even close. The green beans didn't have much flavor; the tofu had an off, fruity, sweet taste; and the shrimp's normally crispy exterior was gummy.

                                                I went to Grand Szechuan last week, got the same items, and was immensely relieved to find them all the same as old-school LS. I can't speak for the rest of the menu items, however.

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

                                                1. First visit to GS last night. Kung Pao Shrimp was one of the tastiest Chinese dish I've ever had. I'm more of of a Teahouse guy (vs Little Szechuan), it's closer. Wish GS was closer, but will return to try more dishes.

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

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: stymie

                                                    I'm confused on the Sichuan situation currently. There was a poster from New York saying that Little Szechuan was his favorite and the only thing in Minnesota that came close to authentic New York Sichuan cooking. Then the poster said that Grand Szechuan was not good. The Head chef at LS...Chef Luo and his entire staff moved to GS. How could one location be good and the other not? Has anyone that frequented LS in the past and now GS have this same experience? Also can anyone that has been to Teahouse in Plymouth lately comment.

                                                    I would like to hear everyone's thoughts. The only professional opinion I have heard is that Andrew Zimmern (who used to love LS when Chef Luo was there) does not like LS anymore and raves about Grand Szechuan and Chef Luo.

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

                                                    1. re: kriminalrat

                                                      This was about a year ago or so - when I last ate at Grand Szechuan and Little Szechuan and I thought Grand Szechuan was more expensive and not anywhere near as good as Little Szechuan. Have things changed in a year? Andrew Zimmern's (like Jeremy Igger) knowledge of Chinese cuisine is minimal.

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

                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                        Pardon the interruption, folks, but we have removed several posts that discuss the credentials of various food critics. In keeping with our mission, we try to keep the discussion on the Minneapolis-St. Paul board narrowly-focued on the food itself. If you wish to discuss local food critics and their credentials and reviews, please do so on the Food Media and News board.

                                                        Thank you.

                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                          We ate at Grand Szechuan a couple of weeks ago because our friends don't like the orange chicken at Little Szechuan any more. Apparently it went with the chef to Grand Szechuan. That said, my husband and I much prefer Little Szechuan's food to Grand Szechuan's. My kung pao shrimp at Grand Szechuan, while spicier than LS, had about 3 peanuts and very little sauce. To make matters worse, and this we all agreed on, the service was absolutely atrocious. We couldn't get anyone to wait on us to save our lives. We finally flagged down our favorite little waitress, Dee (she used to be at LS before joining GS), who finally took our order when our own waiter wouldn't'/couldn't. It also took forever to get beverages refilled, no one would check on us. We were constantly flagging down other servers because ours would just disappear into the abyss and it's not like they were that busy. Service overall was just awful. I'm not dying to go back any time soon.

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

                                                    2. Grand Szechuan is now in play IMO. They have improved remarkably since my first visit, not long after they opened two years ago. (Or as Bob Dylan once said, maybe I am too sensitive or else I’m getting soft.)

                                                      The Ma La Beef Tendons had plenty of hot and numbing spices. Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce was quite satisfactory with a little too much oil, but the sliced pork belly was first-rate. Shredded Potatoes with Green Peppers was up to the mark and Ma Po Tofu, served with a scattering of black beans and scallions, was splendid.

                                                      On a future visit I will see what they are doing with whole Walleye, more or less the state fish of Minnesota, no?

                                                      Slideshow:
                                                      https://picasaweb.google.com/roswellh...

                                                      -----
                                                      Grand Szechuan
                                                      10602 France Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431

                                                      1. Does Grand Szechuan open for lunch on Saturday (if so, what time does it open?) Thanks!

                                                        -----
                                                        Grand Szechuan
                                                        10602 France Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431

                                                        1. Any more recent reviews? Thinking of going to dinner there. Any must try dishes (preferably from the Szechuan menu, not the Americanized Chinese food menu...) I haven't had Szechuan food before, so don't know where to start (heard of Dan Dan noodles, but don't recall if I have ever had it... ) Thanks!

                                                          17 Replies
                                                          1. re: Ummm

                                                            My favorite on their menu is the "Boiled Beef in Szechuan Spicy Sauce"; I think they and Little Szechuan do it the best of anyplace in town. I also like the DanDan Noodles appetizer.
                                                            I have never had the Szechuan Hot Pot at GS, and they only serve it on weekdays (at the Plymouth location - not sure about Bloomington) but I have heard good reviews of it.
                                                            Enjoy!

                                                            1. re: mtmazz

                                                              Well we'll be going on the weekend, so no hot pot for us this time! Sounds like Dan Dan Noodles is a must try (and I like noodles :) Will keep Boiled Beef in mind! We're choosing this location just because of convenience, since I haven't tried either LS or GS, location wins :)

                                                            2. re: Ummm

                                                              Are you dining solo or with a group? The larger the group the more dishes you can order. If you are solo or two preople, you can also order more and take the leftovers home. Go for balance - among the different proteins for example. Don't order all pork dishes for example. Try to get a green vegie - ask what they might have fresh. Dan Dan Noodles are an appetizer.

                                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                                Thanks, just the two of us for a casual dinner. Good idea about what may be fresh! Do you know if the Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce is a cold or hot appetizer?

                                                                1. re: Ummm

                                                                  I don't recall if the Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce was hot or cold. If I had to guess, I'd say cold! I see they do offer snow pea tips on the menu

                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                    Haven't heard anything in awhile and was planning to go. Is GS still one of the best? Unfortunately my go to- Tian Jin has been very mediocre lately.

                                                                    1. re: kriminalrat

                                                                      I have not been back to GS in a long time. I've liked my meals at Szechaun Spice on Lyndale. Just make sure they you want the real ma-la flavor!

                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/722583

                                                                      1. re: kriminalrat

                                                                        Grand Szechuan and Little Szechuan are at the top of my list these days. Unfortunately my old favorite Tian Jin has been very disappointing lately with service and overall food/ingredient quality.
                                                                        The Boiled Beef (or pork) in Szechuan Spicy Sauce are top notch at GS and LS. The Dan Dan Noodles at GS are also very good (and LS & Tian Jin don't even have them on the menu). I would still vote for Tian Jin or Tea House for the Chong King Spicy Chicken, they do it a little different - less oily, more savory flavor than GS and LS.
                                                                        The newest Grand Szechuan location in Plymouth has all the great stuff of the Bloomington location but is never busy; I hope they are able to stay open (this is much closer to my house than Bloomington).

                                                                        1. re: mtmazz

                                                                          Tian Jin's Chung King chicken has been horrible the last 2 times I've had it. I'm guessing the chef they have currently has no experience with Sichuan cuisine. The quality really nosedived the last year or so.

                                                                          1. re: kriminalrat

                                                                            That's too bad. I haven't been there in several months, they must have changed something. I do remember it was at its most excellent when Ryan was the owner several years ago, but they have declined greatly since he left.

                                                                          2. re: mtmazz

                                                                            Little Szechuan definitely has Dan Dan Noodles on the menu - and they're awesome.

                                                                            1. re: gildeddawn

                                                                              +1

                                                                              1. re: gildeddawn

                                                                                I guess I haven't been there in a while either. I better get out more often...

                                                                                1. re: mtmazz

                                                                                  Tian Jin was indeed really mediocre on my one visit a few months ago. So far I've had no luck with Chinese food in the western suburbs, in contrast to my repeated great experiences with Indian and Korean food. Maybe it's time to give Grand Szechuan a try...

                                                                                  Michael
                                                                                  Michael

                                                                    2. re: Ummm

                                                                      The biggest update to this thread is that Grand Szechuan now has a second location in Plymouth. Every time I've been there for dinner, there has only been one or two other tables occupied. But everything I've ordered has been outstanding.

                                                                      Hopefully they draw a big lunch crowd from the local businesses.

                                                                      It's my go to Szechuan now, just because it's so quiet. It's a nice change from usual large tables of boisterous eaters that you'll find at the other places!

                                                                      1. re: Danny

                                                                        Not to dissuade you from going to Grand Szechuan, but Szechuan Spice in Lyn-Lake is generally pretty quiet as well. I'm always concerned that it's a little too quiet because they're a great neighborhood restaurant and I don't want them to leave.

                                                                        1. re: bob s

                                                                          Had a good lunch at the Bloomington location. Ma La fish was spot on and I was craving pig ears in sichuan sauce. Ate at the Plymouth location a few months ago and it was good as well. Sounds like chef Luo spends more time at Bloomington...at least thats what my server said.

                                                                    3. Thanks for the recommendation - there is indeed good Sichuan in the western suburbs after all. I had the Szechuan Spicy Frog Legs which combined chopped frog legs and green beans in a hot sauce with garlic. I'll have to go back to try more. Even though it's not Sichuan, I started with a cup of hot and sour soup which was pretty good as well.

                                                                      Michael

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: mdg

                                                                        We have been greatly disappointed with our takeout food from Grand Szechuan in Plymouth lately. Dishes that we have loved and enjoyed such as the Chung King Chili Shrimp have been of late either drenched in batter or heavily overly salty to the point of throwing out the dish after eating one shrimp.

                                                                        I don't know if the Plymouth location has lost a chef or if the man behind the Bloomington location needs to pay more attention here but for the time being this Grand Szechuan has lost our business.

                                                                        I may give this location a try at some point in time but it is definitely out of the dining rotation for now.

                                                                        1. re: bkmnus

                                                                          The wife and I went to Grand Szechuan and Szechuan Spice on consecutive weekends for dinner. Both had good food, but Szechuan Spice was clearly the better choice. Oddly enough, SS does not enjoy nearly the amount of business that GS has. I wouldn't hesitate to go back to either one in the future, but favor SS over GS by a nose.

                                                                          I find it interesting that good Szechuan restaurants greatly outnumber Cantonese places here.

                                                                        2. re: mdg

                                                                          My good experience was at the Bloomington location - haven't been to the Plymouth location.

                                                                          Michael

                                                                        3. I wanted to add another endorsement for Grand Szechuan. Coming from Vancouver, we had been hankering for some decent chinese food in the Twin Cities. While obviously not the best szechuan we ever had, we were very happy and satisfied with our meal.

                                                                          They had all the szechuan specialities we have been craving - Dan Dan noodles were good, dumplings/wontons in sesame chili, mapo tofu was great and they didn't skimp on the szechuan peppercorns, and the eggplant in fish sauce was also delicious. If you enjoy spicy, though, tell them you want it very spicy. We asked for spicy and it was rather mild.

                                                                          We haven't tried any of the other Szechuan options in the twin cities (Little Szechuan), but would definitely return to Grand Szechuan in Bloomington. Now if only we could find a place with decent shanghai-nese to satisfy my soup dumpling craving.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: somethingsflesh

                                                                            Something flesh,

                                                                            Try Szechuan spice in uptown for soup dumplings (xlb)

                                                                            Went to GS on my bitrthday and had a great dinner....I would have to say GS and Szechuan spice are tops in town.

                                                                            1. re: somethingsflesh

                                                                              Try Little Szechuan and Tea House.

                                                                              I gotta try Szechuan Spice in uptown some time.

                                                                              1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                                                I recently went to the Plymouth Tea House, and was dissapointed. The menu has gotten significantly smaller. And what we had wasn't nearly as good as it once was.

                                                                                1. re: Danny

                                                                                  I haven't been to Plymouth since they opened over at White Bear and I-94. Did you get the Szechuan menu or the regular menu? Last time I was there, they had two menus.

                                                                                  Try the University location or the St. Paul location. They're both still very good.

                                                                                  1. re: Danny

                                                                                    Danny,

                                                                                    Check out grand Szechuan...it's owned by chef luo who put tea house on the map many years ago. I have had mixed thoughts on Plymouth tea house since he left.

                                                                                    1. re: kriminalrat

                                                                                      I love Grand Szechuan, it is WAY better than Tea House these days. Sadly, in the evenings, the Plymouth Grand Szechuan has almost always been nearly empty.

                                                                                      Jim,
                                                                                      They merged the two menus some time ago - now the merged menu is quite a bit thinner.