The context of this review: I'm from Montreal, where we appreciate extremely rich food - whether it's buttery, greasy, sweet, spicy etc... Also, when I review Szechuan restaurants here in Toronto, it's based on the context of Szechuan restaurants in Montreal i.e.) Crysanthemum, Pappillon de Chine, Village, La Perle, Piment Rouge. Although there are dozens of chinese restaurants on every corner of the GTA, less than 20% make the grade. I tried at least 50 chinese restaurants, and for 40 of them, I would never go back. When it comes to Szechuan food for Westerners, they are supposed to be over-the-top rich, crispy, greasy, saucy etc... That's the point. We eat it in intervals - about three times a month to keep it as a treat. If you like new-aged, health-conscious dining, with no oil, salt or spice, and no taste, please look up topics like "best bread in GTA" or "best cottage-cheese NY cheesecake in TO", go to Bayview Gardens for your szechuan food, and don't read my posts.
We headed down to Vaughn Mills last Thurday to try Szechuan Szechuan, as we have heard a lot about it on the internet. Tried the Wonton Soup, Spring Rolls, Hunan Dumplings, Potstickers, General Tso Chicken, Palace Shrimp, Vegetable Fried Rice.
First off, I found the concept of this place wery unique and wierd at the same time. Fancy decor, lavish dishes and slightly high prices, while seating people in a cafeteria style room. Unless you're in a booth or seated in their nice dining area upstairs, the main floor eating area feels like a food court setting. Also, having people in beach-wear coming from the mall to dine is a bit of a turn-off for my taste. The food also all came together - they brought us all appetizers and entees at the same time, like they wanted us out of there. We enjoy the slow-paced dining experience, and that was not our cup of tea.
Let's get to the food (in order of dining):
1) Spring Rolls: 0 out of 5 stars. Absolutely frozen. You can't convince me otherwise. They tasted like they were taken out of a frozen box, re-fried and served on $40 chinaware plate. The taste was that of re-fried leftover, and the stuffing tasted like it was made for President's Choice. The plum sauce was definitely from an industrial bottle, poured into a $20 cuppette that matched the spring-roll plate.
2) Hunan Dumplings: 2 out of 5 stars. The dumplings were gummy and the peanut sauce was a thick paste. They placed a half teaspoon of peanut paste on each dumpling. They were edible and nothing really that negative about them, but compared to any Montreal Szechuan restaurant, they weren't even close.
3) General Tso Chicken: 5 out of 5 stars. Super-phenomenal. The chicken was 100% pure quality white chicken breast, lightly battered and deep fried to a light crisp. The sauce is different than I had ever tried, but still phenomenal. I call it "sweet spicy asian BBQ" flavoured sauce (with szechuan peppers and spice, of course). The dish is slightly spicy (most TO restaurants don't serve this dish spicy at all - but I've had spicier than this one in Montreal). Some chow-hounders called this dish too candied. I totally disagree. We just had GT Chicken at Asian Legend on Midland 2 weeks ago, and they served us candy. As we bit into the chicken, it felt like biting into the tootsie pop to get to the center. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the candied version, but I really have to be prepared for that dish again. Back to the GTC at Szechuan Szechuan - their chicken is 20% as candied or "crispy" as Asian Legend. I'm already addicted. This dish could be served in any Montreal Szechuan restaurant !!!
4) Palace Shrimp: 5 out of 5 stars. Best Szechuan shrimp dish I ever had. Larger than usual shrimps, medium battered, deep fried (to a more candied level than their G.T. Chicken, I'll give you that) - with the most outstanding sweet chili-szechuan sauce slathered all over the shrimp. Absolutely heaven. The waiter expected the dish to be too spicy for us, but we like spicy, so he's probably used to caucasians (or Canadians, as chinese people call us) complaining about the spice. I call it 4/10 on the spicy scale, so it's not too spicy for me (for reference, suicide chicken wings are an 8/10 for me). Already addicted. Better shrimp dish than any I've ever had in Montreal (and that's humongous praise coming from me).
Summary: I will definitely be back. We're already addicted to their chicken and shrimp dishes and I'm also going to try their spicy peanut chicken next time as well (I'll have room for it since I'm cutting two appetizers from my next order). Next time, I'll make sure to be closer to wearing beach clothes than the dinner jacket I was wearing. (Their website makes it seem like "Piment Rouge" downtown Montreal, in the Windsor Hotel).
I'm still looking for the complete package - an upscale szechuan restaurant with a full menu of outrageous dishes where I could be comfortable in a dinner jacket, where they bring the food in an ordered sequence for a complete dining experience - but for now, this place has two outstanding dishes that I'll be back for.
I'm adding the rest of my Szechaun reviews below.