***update 9/23/10: Not as good as it used to be***

With a generic name like Szechuan Gourmet 135-15 37th Avenue, Flushing, NY 11354, you have to make sure you are going to the right one. (We went to one in Manhattan that we did not like that much.) Of course, check the address first, but when you get inside, you’ll know that you’re in the right place when you see a record number of spelling errors. We started laughing at the menu that has the word “menu” shown as two separate words, then moved on to the Ma Paul Tofu and countless others. They also have the name of their own restaurant misspelled on the inside of the menu.

Menu as two words

Never-the-less, they are serious about Szechuan food. The flavors are authentic, spicy, and characteristically on the salty side. This is not a restaurant for those dieting. Make sure to start with some of the appetizers that are drenched in the red hot oil that Szechuan food is known for. The thin slices of conch are served room temperature, just enough bounce yet easy to bite through.

hot oil conch

The pork belly, poached, then thinly sliced is also drenched in the hot oil, lightly sweetened, and topped with a ton of minced garlic. This one is also served room temperature and won a glowing gold star from my brother and I. You have to go to Flushing right now just to get this dish.

Thinly Sliced Pork with Hot Oil

Jelly Fish Heads with Pickled Vegetables is a cold appetizer. I didn’t care for it because the pickled vegetables were a bit bitter and overwhelmed the jellyfish anyway.

Jelly Fish Heads with Pickled Vegetables

Red Oil Dumplings is a must anytime you step into a Szechuan place. They are small pork dumplings in a pool of red oil, soy sauce, sugar, and minced garlic. It’s very similar to the pork belly dish, but this red oil sauce is to Szechuan food as tomato sauce is to Italian. By the way, we asked the restaurant for a plastic container and collected all the left-over red oil from each dish and took it home. I suggest you do the same.

Red Oil Dumplings

Asparagus with preserved vegetable bits is a nice light dish, a break from the heat.

Asparagus with preserved Veggie Bits

Another great non-spicy dish is the Smoked Pork Belly with Rice Cakes. It’s like Chinese bacon with the most perfect rice cakes that were a little caramelized at the edges. My mom added extra rice cakes and it’s worth the $2. This one was my second favorite dish and it’s tied for first place in Lon’s eyes.

Smoked Pork Belly and Rice Cakes

Back to spicy, these fried chicken pieces with chilies is pretty hot with lots of ginger. Many pieces have bone which I like but Lon doesn’t. Note also that you’ll have to pick out the ginger pieces which some people do eat, but most don’t because they are pretty large pieces, meant to be there to impart flavor.

Fried Chicken and Chilies

The Dan Dan Noodles are another essential Szechuan Dish, minced pork and some spinach on thin chewy noodles with the famous red oil. The spice is heightened with the numbing effect of Szechuan peppercorns. This is the real deal.

Dan Dan Noodles

The Shrimp with Pickled Cabbage had a unique tang to it. I liked it except for the slight bitterness again from the pickled vegetables.

Shrimp and Pickled Cabbage

Silk Squash with Silken Tofu is a very light dish with very soft textures, nothing particularly interesting. My aunt Helena is a vegetarian and she likes very mild food.

Silk Squash and Silken Tofu

The Whole Fish covered in Minced Pork and Preserved Vegetables was the other one that tied for Lon’s favorite. I have to agree that the sauce was incredible. The preserved vegetable added a very interesting flavor and saltiness. The fish was a tad over-cooked in parts but I’d give this one another chance for sure.

Minced Pork Covered Fish

The Tea Smoked Duck was much more tender than most we’ve had but a little weaker in tea strength.

Camphor Tea Smoked Duck

The Hot and Sour Wontons weren’t as sour as I expected them to be. My mom loves anything with vinegar but they didn’t interest me or Lon that much.

Hot and Sour Wontons

The Three Mushroom Noodle Soup was another vegetarian dish for my aunt and Sophia. It didn’t taste like anything though.

Three Mushroom Noodle Soup

The Pork Belly with Leeks is a simple and aromatic dish, with a controlled amount of Szechuan peppercorns.

Pork Belly and Leeks

Lon and I felt so satisfied by this meal. The majority of the food was stellar, making it so easy to ignore the few I didn’t care for. I still can’t get over the fact that the bill came to $175.13 for 11 people, making Szechuan Gourmet one of the best bang-for-your-buck restaurants in NY.

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