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Sep 13, 2009 01:20 PM

"More traditional food. Lower prices." Szechuan House, Timonium

The above was what my server said to me when I asked about the new (around for about two months) "Night Owl" menu at Szechuan House.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, the name "night owl" doesn't mean anything, since you can order from the menu at any time. It offered very low priced dishes on not so small plates. I think the most expensive item was $6.50.

Except for one dish, some sort of pulverized, highly spiced pork over rice, we were very happy with everything we ordered. That included Spicy Chinese Sausages, served with leeks, crispy tofu, and something called "cold slow" which was a "Chef's choice," and included spicy tripe, spicy cucumbers, soy beans with teeny tiny anchovies, and some sort of seaweed.

And, while I can't recall if this has always been on the "Countryside Taste" part of the menu, we also had the Manila clams and ginger soup, which was incredible. Very simple preparation of whole clams in a gingery broth with scallions. Perfect.

Finally, while this isn't one of those frustrating "secret menus just written only for people who speak our language" type of thing, please note that I only found the menu while waiting for a table. It was posted near the fish tanks. I found a stack of paper copies of the menu near the register. You may want to pick one up on your way to your table.

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  1. They added the new menu with the new late-night cook, and he has multinational experience--I think they said his being Thai explained the Pad Thai on that menu. Their intent was to attract a late night student crowd, similar to Paul Kee and XO Taste's approach. The Pad Thai is much better late at night, when the day staff does it, it's OK, but weird. They made a crispy tofu version for me last week late that was pretty good. It's very nice to have non-Double T/Towson Diner/Nautilus 1am alternative. I think the cook and his server wife are looking to make new things, so new dish requests are welcomed.

    14 Replies
    1. re: chowsearch

      Thanks for the info. They are always so rushed at SH that I never feel as though I can ask them questions. I'm just delighted to have more "traditional" foods to try. And, good to know that the new cook may be Thai. That goes a long way to explaining that one of these thing is not like the other, feeling I had when I saw the pad thai on the menu, right along with the congee. I also think the menu included kimchee to help round out those East Asian offerings a bit....

      1. re: baltoellen

        I had the chicken with dry bean curd off of the "Night Owl" menu, it was tasty but not spectacular.

        1. re: hon

          Yea they are open to like 2AM now I believe. I think I went there a couple months ago. The place has been there for years. It is still nothing to write home about and I wouldnt go back. Maybe nice for some delivery for the drunken/stoned Towson kiddos or hopsital workers but otherswise blah.
          And such, I don't think the meat (ie: beef/chicken) is of good quality. On the tough/chewy side in my opinion. as first poster said "most expensive item $6.50" or in more general terms inexpensive ..I suppose, you get what you pay for. Again, blah...

          1. re: Woof Woof Woof

            WoofWoof - Are you saying you tried the new "Night Owl Menue" and were not impressed? I too have been underwhelmed with there regular menu, but if this Night Owl thing is different I'd want to try it.

            1. re: jfish

              For over a decade, SH has been my go to place for Chinese-American and more "traditional" offerings. (Of course, this was all pre-Grace Garden which changed the landscape, but I'm in Towson a lot more often than in Odenton....)

              Anway, I, too, would like to know if Woof Woof Woof has tried the "night owl" menu.

              1. re: baltoellen

                If I lived closer to SH I would go more, however the food and the crowds don't seem to merrit much effort, in my opinion. Grace Garden on the other hand has proven worth the drive. What would you recommend trying from SH that might change my opinion?

                1. re: jfish

                  I mentioned the clam ginger soup in my post. It's on the regular menu, in the back in the "Countryside Taste" section. SH somehow manages to have the best snow pea tips I've had anywhere. And, they have a fantastic baby bok choy with mushrooms dish. I'm not a vegetarian, but thinking back over meals there, the vegetable dishes have been standouts.

                  1. re: baltoellen

                    Thanks. I look forward to a better informed visit.

                    1. re: jfish

                      Every afternoon the servers sit around mountains of freshly-delivered snow peapods and string beans they trim while gabbing.

                        1. re: hon

                          Their "paper-wrapped chicken" which is little drumsticks soy-steamed in foil comes out in like three minutes.

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          Yes the food is all the same does not matter the time of day. How would the quality of food (Chicken/Beef) be any different be it 12 in afternoon or 12 at night?
                          I am certain the chicken and beef they serve for lunch and dinner is 100% the same they offer on the "Night Owl" Menu. Well, perhaps Vegan/Vegatbles are the way to go. Either that or just be prepared to chew ALOT :)

                          1. re: Woof Woof Woof

                            Many cultures with very strong culinary traditions (e.g. Chinese, French) built their cuisines from "poor quality" cuts of meat and offal, which, lovingly treated, become pure magic.

                            While there is a LOT to the idea of quality ingredients, treated with a light hand (e.g. original Italian cuisine), there is also the ability to make any ingredients sing. So if the late-night chef at SH pays more loving attention to these chewy (perhaps lots of connective tissue that need long gentle heat?) pieces of meat, the dishes could indeed be better at night than in the day.

                            Thanks for the report, Ellen! I definitely am going to head back for another taste.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. I need to try this night owl menu the next time i go up there. Overall i think this place is still the best in the area by far. I do however find that the general tso's chicken is inconsistent and sometimes comes out really crisp and juicy and other times it comes out dry but still crispy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: baltoeatery

            The late cook does the day food too, but differently. The day staff does his menu too, but not as well, like wet pad thai. So expect more inconsistency--but it's never bad, just different line cooks' interpretations.