When I first moved to the twin cities, I wasn't very adventurous with Asian cuisines. Coming from the beautiful California with well over 6.7 millions of Asian population--that is 40% of all Asian population in the US, it was never difficult to find good Asian food. And it is definitely different living in the Midwest. But life goes on, and I still have to find authentic Asian food to satisfy my cravings.
I have done a fair share of Chinese restaurants here in the metro area. Hong Kong noodles, Grand Szechuan, Little Szechuan, Tea House, Mandarin Kitchen... or maybe Junbo if you have to count that as "authentic"... They are all different, but in the end, no matter what their menus may look like on the first 4 pages, they will always have the "McChinese" orange chicken at the back of it. It's that good.
One of my friends will be going to my native country China for work. I'm so happy for her, but before she goes to China for the first time, I think she should try to eat REAL Chinese food for the first time.
People always say you'll know you are in the right spot when you see many natives eating in that restaurant. It's true somewhat. Part of it may just because there's absolutely nowhere else to go unfortunately. Little Szechuan is a decent Chinese food restaurant. Well thought out menu, with some more adventurous yet original items. Such as the pig's intestines, tendons, duck etc etc. They are all traditional Chinese cuisine, and I can't say how much I love internal organs... Yummm! (muhahahaha!)
红油肚丝 Pork Tripe Shreds with Chili Sauce
Yea, this is some real deal here. Internal organs of the pigs. Served as a cold appetizer. My friends were all pretty shocked to taste a chilled organ dish. Yet for me, it would be pretty shocking to have to eat internal organs as a hot dish. I never noticed this difference before, how interesting.
笋尖肉丝 Pork Strips with Bamboo Tips
My all time favorite Szechuan dish. I love love love bamboo tips/shoots. The pork is marinated and cooked tender. Cooked with brown sauce to give the sticky sweet flavor to this meat dish.
锅仔鱿鱼 Squid in Hot Pot
Not what I was expecting. It was a little disappointing I would say. Just squid in a spicy/kimchi inspired broth. Not very flavorful and there was no other vegetable or mix in this hot pot dish. Only squid and tofu, that's it. It would be a little better if they actually put some spices in it, instead of just a plain chilly soup base. But hey, now we know what to expect next time.
樟茶鸭 Tea Smoked Duck (Half)
Hmmm... Not good. Duck was boney and dry. I would guess the Tea Smoked flavor is actually the exact same recipe as the Crispy Duck recipe. Maybe the Tea Smoked get to sprinkle a leaf or two of tea leaves on top to make it "authentic". But no, this dish is not Chinese. The duck should not be deep fried bone dry to this extend. I have has Tea Smoked duck in good Szechuan restaurants before, and this is far worse than I expected.
三鲜锅巴 War Bar Combination (Shrimp, Beef, Chicken, Mushrooms & Snow Pea Pods)
Just look at the English translation and the Chinese name of this dish. How much longer can a dish's name be? And just how meaningful it is to translate a Chinese dish's name into something that makes no sense? War Bar? What is War Bar?
War Bar is not a Chinese Pin Yin translation. I don't know where did people get "War Bar" from the supposedly "Guo Ba", but hey, whatever works. Guo Ba/War Bar is the Chinese rice crispy, without the marshmallow and the three chef elves. For the War Bar Combo, it would be a mix of sauteed seafood over a bed of the rice crispy. The traditional serving method is to pour the sauteed mixture over the dry and hot War Bar to create the sizzling effect similar to a fresh plate of Fajitas. I have had this dish since I was a kid, and it is still captivating for me to watch it sizzle juzzle... The sauteed seafood is so so. War Bar was pretty crispy and the sauce was good. Worth trying if you have never had it before, or if you are not going to China to get the real deal anytime soon.
Other appetizers that we ordered but not pictured were: 生菜鸡松 Chicken Lettuce Wraps, 川北凉粉 Szechuan Cold Bean Jelly aka Chewy Air.
Everybody probably know what the Chicken Lettuce Wraps are. It tasted pretty good.
Cold bean jelly maybe something new to some audiences here. Basically it's a vegetarian dish, a dish of cold jelly made of green bean and topped with special chili oil. The green bean jelly is made in the same method as one would make tofu from soy bean. It's the same thing, but green bean jelly/tofu comes in different colors and slightly different texture and firmness. Hence, "Chewy Air", since my friends thought the texture was a little "airy", or like, "empty". You will know what I mean when you taste it. Chewy Air is quite a descriptive fit. The chili sauce was amazing. We were just pouring the leftover sauce over rice before the waiter had to take it away...
And of course, every great game has to have an exit strategy. In case none of us like the adventurous Chinese dishes that we ordered, we also ordered Kung Pao Chicken as a back up plan. You can't go wrong, or too wrong, with Kung Pao Chicken right?
Great fun great night with great people. We enjoyed ourselves way too much, more than the food for sure. Food was decent, service was a little slow. The restaurant was jam packed and we had to wait for 30 minutes before getting our table and finally sat down at 7:10 pm. Food didn't start coming till 30 minutes after we ordered, and the last dish (or forgotten dish) came close to 9:30 pm.
I have ordered some other spicier dishes at Little Szechuan before: my favorite 水煮鱼 Fish Fillet in Spicy Tofu Broth I was nice enough to not let my friends try this dish, since I still want them to live with their taste bugs on. Little Szechuan could be hit or miss. You have to avoid ordering certain dishes to qualify this as an authentic Chinese restaurant. Overly commercialized and advertised, it's time to focus back on the food Little Szechuan.