Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tea House Website
In the spirit of yesterday's culinary triumph, I decided to stick with a Szechuan theme for lunch today. I went to Tea House, which is an authentic Szechuan style Chinese restaurant, which I have been to several times before. I've always loved the food here, but it's not for the faint of heart, or mouth rather. Szechuan food can get rather oily, spicy - oh, and delicious. Yes, it's definitely not something you'd want to eat a lot. Some of the dishes are very oily and fatty, and have a sinus searing sensibility. But hey, we only live once I guess.
Everything I've ever ordered from Tea House has been delicious, and today was no exception. The Hot Pot with Calamari and Tofu was amazing. It was carried out with the standard metallic pot with the Sterno brick placed in the chamber below. The fiery stew was bubbling, and beckoned my chopsticks toward it, wanting so badly to be eaten. I had no problems abiding. Yes, there was quite a bit of oil, but you can skim it off if you so please, as it all floats to the top. Everything was cooked perfectly; the squid wasn't chewy, as is so often the case with bad Chinese, and the tofu had soaked up the delicious sauce, and tasted heavenly.
Food: 8
I love the food here, but I have to dock a couple points because of the excess oil. Other places I've been to don't use this much oil, and I think they got a little fat happy. That's OK, at least it tastes good.
Service: 10
The server we had was incredibly friendly, and extra attentive. It seemed like whenever we needed something, his "waiter" senses tingled and he came rushing over to tend to our needs. He deserves a perfect 10 for his efforts.
Ambiance: 7
The decor is nice, nothing too fancy. There's the typical Chinese lpaper lanterns strung from the ceiling, and the also typical Chinese art placed on the walls. Otherwise, it's fairly plain and not all too jaw dropping.
Overall: 8.5
I love this place, hence the multiple trips. My dining companions enjoyed their meals too, although one of them did say they preferred the food from the Saint Paul location over the Plymouth location that we visited today. I'm not really sure which I prefer, but you can try for yourself. I've been to both, and I had very similar experiences, although I prefer the interior at the Saint Paul location over the Plymouth location. It's a matter of personal preference, really.

Friday, April 17, 2009
Tonight, I ate at "Little Szechuan," which is officially the first restaurant I will be reviewing for this blog. This place is located in Frogtown, on University and Western. The neighborhood is minorly off-putting, as is the outside of the restaurant. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that a restaurant should never be judged by its exterior.
Inside, Little Szechuan is very well kept, and there's a very welcoming atmosphere. Inside, we're greeted by a cheery young lady who shows us to our table. Without any delay, our server comes over with a steel pot with oolong tea. After scanning the extensive menu, I knew at that point my dinner companion and I were in for quite treat. I ordered the Tofu with Shrimp and Wild Chili (or 山椒虾仁豆腐 if you will), and my friend ordered the Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, which is actually an appetizer. Our server, on a side note, was very friendly and attentive through-out the entire visit, and he deserves some sort of commendation.
Our food arrived, and it was love at first sight. A large portion of tofu and sizeable shrimp was placed in front of me, which was surrounded by a luscious looking broth, with evident pieces of ginger, garlic, and spur chilis throughout. The tofu had soaked up the rich flavor of the broth, and the slight burn of the chilis, which were hot but controlled. I'm a sucker for sinus searing food, and was expecting it a bit hotter, but I wasn't upset. The perfectly cooked shrimp and well seasoned broth well made up for the lack of chili induced palate pain. The serving was very large; for sure it was large enough for two full meals, as I am content at home now with a container of shrimp-y, tofu-y goodness awaiting my next stomach growl.
Overall, I had no complaints and I left with only good things to say about my experience.
I've decided I have to have some sort of rating scale for my reviews, so I'm employed the standard 1-10 rating system, one rating for service, food, ambiance, and an overall score.
Here are the final scores for my "Little Szechuan" experience.
Service: 10
You can get no better service than what we got at Little Szechuan. The food came quickly, our waiter was attentive and polite, and our check came promptly after finishing.
Food: 8
Although the food was great, I wasn't completely bowled over. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though.
Ambiance: 7
Nothing too fancy here, the inside was nice, but nothing to write home about. The outside was very uninteresting, but as I said, this isn't important as you only see it as you're coming and going.
Overall: 9
I would love to visit here again, as there are many dishes on the menu I found myself wanting. Little Szechuan just scored itself a new fan. Yay!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This blog will be dedicated to my adventures in dining, whether it be at a bistro in France (yeah, right), or at a sushi bar across town. My goal is to eat at every restaurant in the country. I find it more motivating to have seemingly unachievable goals than to have unimpressive ones. More realistically, I hope to start by recording my trips of every restaurant I eat at in the Twin Cities (MN). Having grown up eating every cuisine you can think of, I have acquired a taste for virtually anything edible.
From here, I wipe the slate clean. As far as this blog is concerned, I have never gone out to eat in my life. From this point on, every restaurant I dine at will find itself being reviewed right here. I hope to, in due time, have an archive of reviews for every restaurant in the Twin Cities, both for my use, other Twin Cities locals, or potential out-of-towners looking for 3rd party insight. I hope to open eyes, as well as palates, to the vast array of cuisine that the Twin Cities has to offer. Minnesota seems to slip by a lot of people's radar when it comes to cuisine. There are so many hidden treasures in this fair state that many are unaware of. Consider me the "truffle sniffing pig" of the cuisine world, helping to unearth value and quality in places most wouldn't bother searching.
As of this post, I will begin my adventure through the Twin Cities' restaurants, keeping all that are interested informed of my discoveries.