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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Tongue-Numbing Lunch @ Golden Szechuan Restaurant

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Golden Szechuan Restaurant is amongst one of Ying's favourite. Ying always has this obsession of eating spicy food. The more painful her tongue gets, the more pleasurable she finds the experience. One of these days, I will develop a stomach ulcer chasing her dream with her. Golden Szechuan Restaurant has been around for many years and we come back year after year. Its management seems to have changed over the years. They shift their focus from a family oriented eatery to a  higher scale diner. The price has drastically gone up as well compared to the last time we were there (a year ago?). For example, their good value lunch special is no longer available.
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Now this is actually their second location - with their first being located in Vancouver. The original Golden Szechuan (or "Old Szechuan" in literal translation) was on Broadway and Burrard - close to the Future Shop there, and home of Posh now. It had been mainly a hotpot restaurant - featuring the famous tongue-numbing Szechuan hotpot base. Ying recalls that it was one of the first "authentic" Szechuan restaurants that opened in Vancouver and her family had been very eager to try it. In fact, they frequently went there to buy the hotpot soup base ($8 or so) and had their own hotpot at home. The restaurant became quite popular, so they expanded to Richmond in its current location beside Tom Lee in what used to be Knight and Day across from Yaohan. Eventually, the Vancouver location closed down and they no longer offered hotpot. Oh, one more thing, this place was voted as best Szechuan/Hunan restaurant in the Diner's Choice of the 2011 Chinese Restaurant Awards.

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The ambience of the restaurant is above average. The walls are lined with oriental-themed décor . The big red lanterns are a nice touch. There is a large black and white mural of a bridge in old Chengdu that Ying's mom would love to take home. Servers, dressed in Chinese traditional clothing, greeted us promptly upon arrival. We were quickly seated and asked what tea we would like. I am not a tea person, so I just picked chrysanthemum tea because I know how to say the words in Mandarin (菊花茶). The bad news is, they are now charging 5 bucks for tea (which tempted Ying to just sit there until she drinks her $5 worth).  The menu is no boring textbook as it is full of colourful pictures and much thought was put into organizing it. 
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The Above pictures depict one of my favourite traditional Szechuan dishes -- 夫妻肺片 (literally translated as husband and wife lung pieces... who came up with this name anyway?). Apparently, this dish used to be sold by street side vendors in Szechuan. Originally, lung pieces were actually used. (See Wikipedia) Nowadays, the meat is upgraded to cow stomach (very chewy), beef shank and sometimes tongue. The Golden Szechuan version consists of thinly sliced shank and cow stomach mixed with, hot chilli oil, Chinese celery, peanut flakes and garnished with cilantro.  
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The second dish that came is 红油炒手. This is really a boring dish. Essentially, it is dumplings mixed in with hot chilli oil with green onion and garlic sprinkled on top. It is good value however. At $5.50, you get 12 pieces of carbohydrates and meat. I have nothing against that but it gave me no surprises.

I am not sure whether this is a Szechuan dish as I have had this in Cantonese and Shanghai restaurants before. It's pretty much a Chinese steamed bun fried in hot oil so the outside is crunchy but the inside  remains moist and chewy. When dipped in sweet condensed milk, it makes for a good and filling dish. It's best eaten when hot and crunchy. The particular selection here is commonly named "Golden Steamed Bun" (金丝卷) in reference to the toasted outer appearance. There is also a non-fried "Silver" (银丝卷) counterpart that is commonly served as well. I prefer this one as the crunch really gives it a better texture.  IMG_7488 copy
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The dish above was the marinated beef noodle soup - 五香牛肉面 ($5.95). Honestly, not much to say about it. The beef was well-marinated and flavourful and the noodles were cooked al dente. The broth was flavourful and not too overpowering. It's quite a generous portion size for the price. As you can see, it was also garnished very generously with cilantro - much to Ying's disdain. With me being the loving, considerate boyfriend that I am, I scraped all of it on the spare dish so she didn't have to have any. ;) 

We have also visited this restaurant for dinner, but more on that another time. One thing to note, if you order anything with "market price" marked, be sure to ask for the actual price at the time of ordering or you may get a nasty surprise! I think some of their barramundi (桂花鱼) dishes are in the ~$60 range.

The Yummies:
  • Very pleasant ambience for dining
  • Attentive staff - good service
  • The noodles/snack dishes are good value
The Yuckies:
  • No complimentary tea :( Maybe I'll ask for water next time
  • Ordering from the dinner menu can become very expensive very quickly
  • Ying thinks that they are not as authentic as their Szechuan neighbours across the street at "Little Szechuan" or Golden SPRING Szechuan Restaurant 

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