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Great Szechuan in El Cerrito

Civil Bear | Oct 27, 2008 02:09 PM

Finding ourselves missing out once again on the extra dry duck at Ranch 99 in El Cerrito, the wife and I decided to try nearby Great Szechuan for the first time. Not sure what to order, I decided to see how their Cumin Lamb stacked-up against China Village. Then a fantastic smelling fish dish passed nearby and we were told it was Spicy Boiled Fish. After a short debate on the likelihood of enjoying the taste of boiled fish, the smell won-out and we ordered that as well. Feeling extra hungry from sitting in the hot sun all afternoon (Cal/Ucla game), I asked the waiter for some advice on an appetizer. Turns out they are famous for their Spicy Mixed Beef, so we go that too.

It was nice that the ap actually came out as ap (rare for Chinese restaurants, no?), and once we noticed it was a cold dish we remembered that we had tried the version Great Panda a while ago. We were not fond of the GP version, but this one was much better. Succulent and very tasty slices of lean meat, and not so spicy that your tongue goes numb and can't taste anything else.

Next came a large portion of Cumin Lamb. Though I believe the cumin flavor and quality of lamb was slightly better at China Village, the red & green bell peppers and onions were perfectly charred, which provided a very nice (almost sweet) flavor to the dish). Very nice.

Last came the Spicy Boiled Fish, which was apparently "boiled" in red oil. This was a huge serving of perfectly poached cod swimming in red oil with aromatic veggies like celery, leaks, and bok choy nestled below. Thankfully it was not as spicy as it looked, and tasted great. Better than the version I had tried at Zone 88 in SF, IMO.

All in all, we had a very satisfying and tasty meal, with tons of leftovers. Although perhaps not quite on par with China Village, we would not hesitate to go again, especially with guests as the large portions probably lend themselves better to large gatherings.

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