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Friday, 24 February 2012

New Spicy Chili Restaurant (小四川)

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Uncle Tom is a long time friend of mine from back in pharmacy school. Since his birthday is coming up, we used this as an excuse to bring together all the old time buddy old pals from pharmacy school and have dinner. Now I have no idea why Uncle Tom is our uncle.. as he is only a year older than me and a few months older than Rich, but oh well~ We had originally planned to meet up for karaoke before dinner, but I was informed the previous night that Uncle Tom actually had to work that day. Typical! Since we wanted to try something new, we opted for New Spicy Chili Restaurant (小四川 - literally translated as Little Szechuan). This place has been around for a few years. My mother and I started coming here when it first opened. For a fact, the owner is from Szechuan because she spoke to us in Szechuan dialect before. When it was first opened, this place is known as Golden Spring Szechuan Restaurant. I suppose to distinguish itself from Golden Szechuan Restaurant (老四川), which is on the same No. 3 Rd, this new name is better. Finding a parking spot here is an absolute nuisance! The parking lot is small to begin with. To make matter worse, they are mostly reserved parking spots with orange cones on them if they are empty. One side of the parking lot is a narrow dead end. When you discovered that there is no parking, you have to turn your car around in a very small space. In short, the parking experience is absolutely horrid. I'd rather eat my hair than to park there again.
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The interior remains pretty much the same over the years. They are not aiming for high scale dining and they don't hide that. Nevertheless, the place is clean and has sufficient room between tables that you don't feel jam packed. The atmosphere was relaxing but to some people, it may be a bit on the loud side (hey, you are in a Chinese restaurant!)
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I guess the biggest change here was the menu. They finally ditched that old ancient menu and replaced it with  a colourful one with English translations for all their dishes. The first comment Richard made after seeing the menu was that all the pictures were all red (see picture on above left). Yup, we are on a tongue numbing frenzy tonight! The price of the food also upgraded with the menu. It's roughly ~20% more now. The eating utensil is standard in a Chinese restaurant. They use plastic table cloth here... the thin and cheap kind that's disposable after each use (picture on top right). I would have thought that with the prices we were paying, they can at least invest in a washing machine for tablecloths… In fact, when they were cleaning our dishes away, the waitress knocked over a bowl of chili pepper sauce, which quickly slid down the table getting all over Alby’s pants. In their defense, Szechuan food is rather saucy with lots of red colour. It would cost a lot to replace old ones with red spots on them.
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We started with the Stone Pot Tofu Soup (砂锅豆腐汤 – $14.99), mainly in consideration for Rich and a few of the others who aren’t too great with spicy food. In Chinese cuisine, it is noted that soups cooked in stone pots are supposed to have better flavour. This particular soup was somewhat bland, with lots of veggies, black wood ear mushrooms, tofu, and scanty pieces of seafood (1-2 prawns, some squid). Nothing special about this soup, but it was a good relief from the spiciness of everything else!
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IMG_7870 copy Look familiar? That’s right! It’s the third time we’re getting 夫妻肺片 (beef and beef tripe in spicy sauce – $13.99) in the last couple of weeks. We’ve also gotten it at Golden Szechuan and Dinesty. Now Little Szechuan’s offering of this dish is hands down, THE BEST in the lower mainland. I will give them credit for that. They seem to have gotten the right mixture of spiciness and peanut aroma with the right cuts of beef as well. However, at $13.99 it’s also quite expensive.
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The above is another dish that we got for the non-spicy eaters: 樟茶鸭 or smoked duck ($18.99). They served half a duck with the meat neatly cut into small bite-size pieces. The duck is supposedly smoked with camphor tree and tea leaves, which gives it a slightly sweet but smoky flavour. The duck was quite fatty, but the meat underneath is lean, tender and moist. I quite enjoyed this dish, but at $18.99 for half a duck, it’s a bit too pricey for my liking.
IMG_7878 copy Next up was another spicy offering: Spicy Fish Hot Pot (火锅鱼 – $18.99). As you can tell, the broth is laden with spicy peppers, peppercorns, pepper oil and some Chinese pickles and cilantro for garnish. There were also ample pieces of basa fillet floating at the top of the pot. Of course, there’s the usual Chinese cabbage on the bottom as filler, but there was more than enough fish to go around. I liked how they served the fish in a metal bowl on top of a flame to keep it warm. It was indeed quite spicy! Make sure you don’t bite into those darned peppercorns – they can numb up your tongue right away! (though that might be a good thing – so your tongue is saved from the burn from the rest of the flavours…)
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We also got the spicy tofu with meat sauce (麻婆豆腐 – $14.99). Now this is a dish that I can confidently say I can make… as good as how they have prepared it! For a meager pack of tofu and some pork and green onion… this dish was a complete rip-off! I can make it at home with about $2.50 – $2 if the tofu is on sale! Not much to say about it – pretty standard Szechuan food and they kinda skimped out on the powdered peppercorn. Note to self: do not order this again!  IMG_7887 copy
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When the next dish arrived, Rich was aghast at how red it was…or how spicy it was going to be. The dish pictured above is called Szechuan Style Beef ($16.99). It’s Chinese name is actually somewhat deceiving as 水煮牛肉 literally translates into water-boiled beef. It’s anything BUT water-boiled! More like pepper boiled! Spicy ones at that~ If you look closely in the picture, you’ll see lots of hot red chili peppers. However, since the beef has clearly soaked up all the pepper oil – it’s difficult to even spot them. Rich bit into a couple of them by accident and seriously regretted it. Needless to say, this dish made the rice disappear like mad! The beef was tender, and they did serve plenty of it, so I have to say it was one of the better value items of the night.
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Happy birthday Uncle Tom!! You can tell how much he enjoyed his food by looking at this picture~ Finger lickin’ good!

The Yummies:
  • They still have the best beef and beef tripe in spicy sauce in town… hands down!
  • See reason above… and that’s probably the only reason why I will revisit… in all likelihood just for take-out too…
  • I suppose it's pretty accessible by the Canada Line - right next to the Aberdeen stop...
The Yuckies: 
  • EXPENSIVE!! Their price has gone up significantly compared to before… with no improvements in service or décor or food…
  • Thin plastic sheets for tablecloths…
  • VERY limited parking in a very crappy parking lot
  • Even the rice is expensive! $8 for a half-full bucket that definitely didn’t fill us – I only got half of a small bowl so the boys can have a little bit more

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Golden Spring Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon


peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ying Yao said...

Glad to hear you had a positive experience! :)

peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peter said...

Just went to this place. It was full house again.
The menu is full of large beautiful pictures of the dishes. This place is smaller than the Szechuan restaurant near Tom Lee, but just as authentic.

We particularly like these dishes today
-beef and beef tripe in spicy sauce, we agree that it is best in town
-cumin lamb was very spicy and delicious

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