WHAT KIND OF SZECHUAN PLACE DOESN'T SERVE ANTS CLIMBING A TREE?!? That should have been a sign...
I was very excited to try this new Szechuan restaurant which opened this week in River Edge. It was a disappointment. While not quite bad, I just can't see myself returning here when the Chengdus (1 and 23, of course) and impressive (but slightly more expensive) newcomer Lan Sheng blow this place out of the water.
OK, let's start with the good... the place is very nice inside. Nicer than the Chengdus, and much larger than Lan Sheng. The owner and staff were kind and friendly, and there were quite a few people dining in.
Here's where it goes downhill...
I ordered Dan Dan noodles, and crestfallen that they didn't have my favorite Ants Climbing a Tree available, I ordered something called "Noodles with Minced Pork in Soybean Paste", thinking it might be similar to Ants Climbing a Tree.
The two dishes looked and tasted exactly the same, except the soybean paste dish was $1.00 more. The sauce was OK, but the noodles looked, felt, and tasted like thick, overcooked spaghetti. If you think you're going to get noodles like the awesome thin flat rice noodles the Chengdus use, forget about it. They also put scallions in the soybean paste dish, even though I asked them not to. To be fair, they did omit the scallions in the Dan Dan noodles, but they also omitted the bok choy, which was present in the second order I got for someone else.
I also tried the chicken braised with chestnuts. I asked the server taking my order (in front of the owner) whether the dish had scallions or onions in it. "I don't think so," the server replied. I should have gotten a more definitive answer.
When I got the dish home, scallions were swimming everywhere. The sauce/gravy and chestnuts were OK, but the chicken pieces were small, bony, and limited in number. The dish came with only a small side of rice too.
So, even with a 15% off Grand Opening special I was disappointed with what I spent for what I got. I can't see myself returning anytime soon with the better options available.
What I can see myself doing in the near future is paying visits to the Chengdus and Lan Sheng and thanking them for doing Szechuan cuisine right, for fair prices. (And asking them to open restaurants in Northern or Central Bergen County!)