HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >

Discussion

MSP New Szechuan restaurant where China Jen (Roseville) was - anyone tried it?

I was over at the Fedex/Kinkos in the strip mall off Snelling across from the Roseville SuperTarget (same mall that Outback Steakhouse is in) when I noticed that there's a new Szechuan restaurant in the spot where China Jen used to be.

It wasn't quite dinner time yet but I was curious and stopped by the restaurant and got a take out menu. The decor has been done up a notch compared to the bare bones look that China Jen used to sport with more subdued lighting and some new paint schemes. To my surprise, the menu looked like it mirrored some of the items that Little Szechuan and Tea House in Saint Paul have - cumin flavored lamb, dan dan noodles, some of the cold appetizers that Little Szechuan offers as well as a myriad of other authentic looking dishes.

I don't know how long this restaurant has been open as I seem to recall that China Jen closed sometime this summer (??) but am curious as to whether any Chowhounds have given this new restaurant a try and how it stacks up to the plethora of Szechuan places that seem to have sprung up in the last 24 months or so.

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

China Jen Restaurant
2193 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I just saw it the other day, too. This place just opened recently. A friend of mine who is actually from Sichuan province in China ate there a few days ago and said the food is very authentic, and plenty spicy hot.

    13 Replies
    1. re: KCMPLS

      I am sad to hear China Jen closed as I recently read that they are the only place in town to carry Shanghai soup dumplings but excited that we have another choice for Sichuan cuisine as there have been alot of mixed reviews lately on the current top spots-Little Sichuan/Grand Sichuan, Teahouse, and Tian Jin.

      -----
      China Jen Restaurant
      2193 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

      1. re: dave43

        And the name of this new place in Roseville is??? Yangtze in St. Louis Park has soup dumplings (at least on their weekend dim dum menu) but they are not very good. Grand Sichuan and Tian Jin serve up up Americanized fare and cannot be compared to Little Szechaun or even the Plymouth Teahouse -so long as you avoid the Teahouse buffet.

        1. re: scoopG

          Scoop,

          I'm surprised on your assessment of Grand Szechuan. The same chef you used to rave about at Little Szechuan, Chef Luo, now heads up GS.

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

          1. re: dave43

            Maybe it's being confused with Grand Shanghai??

            -----
            Grand Shanghai Restaurant
            1328 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

          2. re: scoopG

            The sign on the window of this new place just says "Szechuan" - my first thought was that it described the cuisine and maybe they were going to put up another sign with the name of the restaurant. However, upon getting their takeout menu, the name of the restaurant itself is "Szechuan"

          3. re: dave43

            I was really sad about China Jen, too. I didn't get there as often as I wanted to, but I always thought the food was good. I hope the new place is good.

            Dave, funny, that G.S. perhaps isn't as good as L.S., even with some of the same people. Maybe the info we've been getting about the "chef" who defected from L.S. to start G.S. wasn't really a "chef" but just someone in the kitchen. Or maybe he doesn't have good sourcing connections or business credit the way the owner of L.S. does... Or maybe he's already found he has to compromise authenticity to meet the tastes of the customers in his neighborhood, that kind of thing. I haven't been to GS yet, so, I can't really say.

            ~TDQ

            -----
            China Jen Restaurant
            2193 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Good points. And although it may be one and the same person, he has certainly dumbed down the offerings. Smallert portions at higher prices to boot if I recall. I certainly found a world of differences between LS and GS. Also the apparent decline of Tian Jin is further evidence (to me at least!) that there was never a true Chef in the kitchen to begin with. I can see service issues arising if the owner is away but why should the kitchen suffer?

              1. re: scoopG

                So let's see, scoop and tdq, if you like the place, the chef can move somewhere else and the food can be horrible but you will make excuses like poor sourcing for the chef. But another place, if you didn't like it to start with, never had a chef. Is this some advanced food math I don't get?

                1. re: faith

                  Faith, I haven't made any comments or speculation about the quality of the food or chef at Tian Jin, now or ever really, nor have I used the word horrible with respect to any of the restaurants mentioned in this thread. Horrible is a word I seldom use on these boards.

                  But, I am mystified why L.S. was getting glowing feedback (notice my use of "perhaps" as in "perhaps G.S. isn't as good" and allowing for the possibility that it is as good or better?) and G.S. isn't, if, in fact it's the same guy in charge of the kitchen in both cases. What could explain that if, indeed, it's true? It doesn't really make sense to me...

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Here's two potential explanations for good food at LS, bad food at GS and same head chef:

                    1. People change. Maybe it's the same guy at GS as at LS but he's burned out and just phoning it in?
                    2. Maybe the guy wasn't the reason for LS success?

                  2. re: faith

                    Little Szechuan is the best Chinese restaurant I've found in the Twin Cities to date. I panned Tian Jin in my review (based on two visits) and asserted from the get-go that there never was a Chef in the kitchen at Tian Jin - merely cooks serving up Americanized Chinese. Oh and red and green bell peppers in just about every dish I tried. Yawn. Grand Szechuan in Bloomington is a meh place serving up mostly Americanzed Chinese fare. Dave says the Chef behind Grand Szechuan was from LS and before that, The Teahouse. That may be the case but he has dumbed down the offerings in Bloomington. He's also serving smallish portions at high prices IMO.

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

              2. re: dave43

                Dave43 - I seem to remember from my visit last month that the Teahouse restaurant in Maplewood/Saint Paul had soup dumplings on their menu.

                1. re: spahkee

                  They call them mini-juicy buns. And they are soup dumplings.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. We dined there tues nite. I ate earlier so just had two appetizers.
                The dan dan noodles contained no flavors i enjoyed and have had better wonton soup.
                My son ordered their pork belly expecting a thick slab and received a plate of thinly sliced fatty bacon. We asked the waiter what up and was told this is how pork belly is served in their part of China. He proceeded to tell us we should have ordered a whole fish to split as this is a speciality. Great timing TYVM

                1. I ended up getting take out there last week and I have to agree with Sharpshot's comments. I got the scallion pancakes, an order of the mapo tofu and an order of the won tons in hot Szechuan sauce. Ok, granted, takeout chinese probably diminishes the flavor but I was disappointed with all 3 items in terms of the flavoring.

                  - Scallion pancakes - China Jen used to have great ones that were obviously homemade. Tea House in White Bear also has home made ones that taste like ones that I have had off the street in Taiwan and Malaysia. However, these pancakes looked like ones that came from the frozen compartment at your local Asian grocery store (Shuang Her, Double Dragon and United Noodles carry them) and then deep fried. If they weren't frozen, they sure didn't have the crispy layered quality that the home made ones have had.

                  - Wontons in Szchuan sauce - again, wontons tasted frozen and commercial. None of the thin skin and flavorings that I'm used to at Tea House.

                  - Ma po tofu - in continuation of my observations on my first 2 dishes, the ma po tofu that I get from Little Szechuan has the mind numbing Szechuan peppercorns that's juxtapositions itself with the silky texture of the tofu and other flavoring. This one - bland, no peppercorns - tasted like mapo tofu that I have had at other twin cities restaurants that don't necessarily proclaim themselves as Szechuan. It would have been acceptable but didn't meet the level of complexity, flavors etc that live up to the other Szechuan restaurants that I enjoy.

                  First impression: give this place a miss unless you're in a pinch and just happen to be in the vicinity. Note though that Little Szechuan is about 10 minutes away and likely worth that extra drive.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: spahkee

                    I went to Little Szechuan again last night and to say that I was pleased is an understatement. Everything was there, the earthy, the woodsy, the oily, the numbing, and the burning.

                  2. RUN DON'T WALK TO THIS PLACE. Wow, I was just coming on here to start a new threat about this place. We went on Friday night. Yes, it's called Szechuan. Cannot figure out why people are so snarky about it. Only two people on here actually reviewed it, and one only had the Dan Dan Noodles (which were amazing).

                    I've eaten in the Grand Sichuan restaurants in New York zillions of times and in many Szechuan restaurants in Flushing Queens (saying this to give me any little bit of cred). This restaurant compared incredibly favorably with this. My dining companion and I both thought it better than Little Szechuan (but not by much). Those Dan Dans were incredible. We also had the hot Chinese pickles (in wonderful red oil).

                    Guys, this place has Chengdu Spicy and Aromatic Pig's Blood, Szechuan Spicy Frogs, and an extensive (and perfectly spiced, based on what we ordered) Szechuan hot and cold appetizer menu. The Szechuan menu itself is extensive.

                    Please try this one for yourself. I'm sad about how this thread devolved into weirdness bc this post will surely get lost. This place was amazing.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jeanmt

                      Such opposing reports on this place, between yours and, sharphot's, and spahkee's... I guess I'll have to get out there to judge for myself, asap. I wonder if they are open for Thanksgiving?

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        jeanmt has me interested in Szechuan. When you start throwing terms like Chengdu Spicy and Aromatic Pig'a Blood around you are soooo speaking my language. I know where I will be dining this Saturday.

                      2. re: jeanmt

                        And you are basing this on having eaten two menu items - Dan Dan Noodles and Hot Chinese Pickles? Or did you have more? I know of only two Sichuan restaurants in Flushing (Little Pepper and Spicy and Tasty) plus one food stall (Chengdu Heaven.) In Manhattan Grand Sichuan (St. Mark's branch) has its fans but Szechuan Gourmet is probably tops. I will certainly give this place a shot on my next visit.

                        1. re: scoopG

                          Sorry, I know it sounds like I only ate two things. I also had Chengdu Mungbean Noodles (which I admit had a slight taste of brown sugar; not used to that in this dish and didn't care for that addition). Also had Fish with Szechuan Wild Chili Peppers (good, but not overwhelminingly spicy, as some have noted. But very good); and Fish Filet with Bean Curd Flower (ditto).

                          Yeah, Spicy and Tasty and Little Pepper. I'm the biggest fan of the Grand Sichuan in China Town, followed by Chelsea and the the one in Midtown.

                          1. re: jeanmt

                            Now it sounds like you had a whole feast! This is one of those occasions where I shouldn't be reading chowhound because it's making me hungry.

                            I only wish their scallion pancakes were better. I loved China Jen's, but, it sounds like this place is worth investigating. Especially if the dan dan noodles are good, (although, it sounds like sharphot didn't like them...)

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              An update: The dan dan noodles weren't that good as leftovers. They had a kind of stroganoff-y taste almost. (And yeah, the scallion pancakes were those the-same-the-world-over mediocre ones. But the four-year-old liked 'em.