New here, so hopefully this post meets all the guidelines and all that.
A few friends and I went to Yan Flower in Downtown SC yesterday (down Pacific, past the Metro if you're going towards the beach). The place recently opened at the same location Szechwan Garden was until about two weeks ago. The new owners definitely cleaned up the place a bit and the food has changed significantly and in my opinion, is much better. Unfortunately, the selection is still typical Chinese-American fare, but speaking as a Chinese-American, I like it anyway.
My group ordered potstickers, fried prawns, sweet and sour chicken, Mongolian beef, Sichuan eggplant, Ma Po tofu, pork fried rice, and combination chow mein. The potstickers were decently average- nothing too exciting, but still pretty good. The dough was pretty thin, which may be a definite advantage for many people (including my friend, who hates thick dough on potstickers). Personally, I like thicker dough because I like to consider potstickers as pastries rather than dumplings, but most people seem to disagree with me. The fried prawns were excellent. Unlike other restaurants in the area, you could actually taste the prawn, which was flattened out, tails removed, and fried to a crisp in a bread crumb batter.
The entrees were quite excellent too, and did not suffer from gloppy sauces thickened with cornstarch to a slimey mess. On the contrary, the majority of their sauces were thin and flavorful. The sweet and sour was quite excellent, and remained crispy even after being in sauce for a while. My friend, who loves Mongolian beef, thought that the Mongolian beef was the best he's had in Santa Cruz. It was very tender, and full of vegetables and mushrooms. One interesting thing Yan Flower does that I haven't seen elsewhere is that they include whole cloves of fried garlic in their dishes rather than minced, which does make a big difference, in my opinion.
The fried rice and chow mein were decent if not oustanding. I liked the flavor of the fried rice personally, and it reminded me a lot of the kind my grandmother used to make. It was also not too greasy, which is definitely a plus.
I think the only dishes I was not so impressed with were the Sichuan eggplant, which was not spicy enough for me, and the Ma Po tofu, which was not at all like Ma Po tofu should be (spicy and rich). The owners seem to be Cantonese, and I think that it is possible they really are better at making traditional Cantonese dishes and Chinese-American dishes than they are at doing Sichuan cuisine.
All-in-all, I enjoyed my dinner very much, and I will definitely return, if only to help out a starting restaurant that did not seem to have too much business. The service was excellent, and the server was a very nice lady who even offered us fried cream cheese wontons on the house (which were quite delicious if you like those). My friends and I will definitely return. I took a glance at their lunch specials, and they seem to be a great deal- the prices range from $3.95-$5.95. I'd definitely recommend the place, if you like Chinese-American food.
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