November 29, 2010 | | Comments 36

Mr Zhang Szechuan Restaurant on Victoria and 40th Ave, Vancouver

If you are into hot and spicy food … and if you like Sichuan food, this is a restaurant that can stand up to all the other Sichuan restaurants in town.

I haven’t seen much written about them on the internet except for a brief take-out post on Parker Pages. That’s the beauty of it … being able to discover a place like this quite by accident.

It was the day after the 1-inch snow “storm” when Suanne and I decided to take a drive and look for food that will warm the body. We did not have anything in mind but of late our focus had been on Victoria Drive. We had covered a lot of restaurants already in Richmond and it’s harder to mine the city for golden finds.

But Victoria Drive among all streets in Vancouver is still ripe for the picking. There are a lot of places we did not have the chance to check out yet. What we had in mind was some soupy food (like Pho, Taiwanese Beef Noodles or hot pot) or something spicy.

As I was slowly driving past the intersection with 41st Ave, we caught a glimpse of pictures of the dishes outside of Mr Zhang Sichuan Restaurant. We parked our car right in front of the restaurant to get a closer look.

It looked good and appears worthy to check out.

It was bright yellow inside. We are a bit dismayed to see that they have rectangular tables and booth tables instead of round tables. I mean, any authentic Sichuan restaurant worth its salt chili must have round tables. Well, at least one or two of it. But it is all smaller tables — mostly for four seats, some with six.

We went in as they were just opened for the day at 11 AM. It was freezing cold that we kept our jackets on for a good part of the meal before the whole restaurant warmed up.

They have the posters above pasted on the wall in several locations in the restaurant. It is the same set of dishes that we saw outside by the window.

Go ahead, click on it so that you can see read this better. This is all in Chinese unfortunately.

This is obviously their specialties and their signature dishes. We know we need not look further than this poster menu for our choices for the day.


The menu which is printed in thick plastic page (not paper!) is pretty impressive. Their prices are much cheaper than other more established Sichuan restaurant. Sichuan dishes in many restaurants are generally more expensive running easily into $15-$25 dishes. The prices in Mr Zhang is certainly much cheaper. Many dishes are below $10 and even the more expensive ones are $15-$16.

So yeah … we were impressed with their prices. You can click on the picture above (and below too) to blow it up bigger.

They have more handwritten specials pasted on the wall. We can’t read it at all but we know some of you who could would like see what they are.

Can someone try to translate roughly what the items are?

I know it is sometimes frustrating to see the specials written in Chinese only. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy or anything like that to discriminate customers but still I think they should make the effort to translate them. Translating poetic Chinese dish names are sometimes not the easiest thing to do.

Perhaps what we as customers could do to encourage these restaurants to provide English translations is to ask them repeatedly why is it that they don’t provide English versions of their menu. Shall we collectively go about doing that?

I like this restaurant. It is the small things that count. Not many restaurants will serve you free peanuts along with the tea. Their free peanuts is both sweet and salty which is quite pleasant. It is even crunchy as though it had just been fried.

The waitress, who constantly switches from speaking in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, told is that they give away free pickles for delivery only.

We asked her who is “Mr Zhang”. She pointed to the handsome picture of the man on the poster menu (the 4th picture).

Mr Zhang is the owner and the chef who had opened this new place about 1 year ago. She told us that Mr Zhang is a good chef and that he does not use MSG or chicken base for his cooking.

The Stir Fried Pork Belly ($13) is one of Mr Zhang’s signature dishes.

It smells so good as it was brought to the table. We instantly knew it was … going to be good and it was very good.

It is not too spicy that the chili overpowers the whole dish and kills your taste bud. It does have a hint of Sichuan peppercorn. The waitress asked us if we wanted to have it “da la” (big spicy) but we said regular is fine.

The pork belly is thick nice pieces as you can see from the picture above. It has a nice crispy texture and a smoky taste.

The green onions and chili complemented the pork belly so well that it has “a role” in the dish. Normally we will sweep away the chili and concentrate in the pork belly but we found that we enjoyed having them together. Nice!

I am writing this out of sequence, is that alright?

The appetizer we got was the Wonton in spicy Garlic & Peppers ($5). We like this type of dish and often order this when we see this on the menu.

The wonton is served with a fiery red sauce. The looks is deceiving. It was not as spicy as it looked. I like the smooth texture of the wonton wrapper.

The waitress actually came back a few minutes after taking our order and said that she wants to recommend us to try this dish.

She said that many of her customers like this and moreover it is only $3 for a small order.

“$3? Sure” we said.

On the menu, this is called the Vermicelli with Sour Spicy Sauce. It looked very spicy but actually it is just vinegarish. The “vermicelli” looks more like Chan Chuen Fun which is a flat glassy translucent noodle. I think they just translated it to vermicelli because it is made of rice.

This is a very appetizing and refreshing dish. In Cantonese, it is “hoi wai”. What is a good English translation for “hoi wai”?

It has cilantro and julienne cucumber. The chopped peanuts added the extra crunch to this dish. I recommend you try this “hoi wai” dish as an appetizer.

Yeah, we got a lot of appetizers, didn’t we? This is the third one.

This dish is called the Vinegar Peanut Dish ($4). We got this because it was on the poster menu. On hindsight we should not have ordered this because we already had the salt-sugar fried peanut as the free appetizer already.

So this is more of the same thing except that this one has vinegar at the bottom and some cubed tofu too.

The peanuts were very crunchy. What I like best is that I can feel the texture of granulated sugar in the sauce. Yeah, it is vinegarish and sweetish at the same time. A nice dish to munch on while waiting for your main dishes to come.

This dish above is also on the poster menu. I am not sure what this is called but it is the dish in the middle on the second row.

This dish is $12. It has a noticeable cumin flavour to it and served on a large bed of cilantro. I love cilantros and so this is delightful to me.

The squids are nicely charred. It also has an intense/strong flavour. It is so intense that you really need to eat this with steamed rice.

Despite all the chili it is not too spicy.

The other item on the poster menu is the Egg Crepe Wrapped with Chinese donut ($4). It doesn’t look like what it’s on the poster. The poster looked more like delicious Tian Jin Wrap from O Tray but instead it was served differently — less eggs and more youtiao.

But the Chinese donut is not like the usual ones we normally see. This youtiao is doughy and not as crispy. It also has a sweetish sauce which adds to the flavour of the eggs and youtiao.

This is a dish that you don’t see a lot of around.

The lunch was for two persons, just Suanne and I. We ordered way too much dishes for two people and of course it also meant we had some packed to go.

I am sure that Mr Zhang is a restaurant that Sichuan cuisine fans would enjoy. Besides the usual Sichuan dishes, they have quite a few good unique dishes that will appeal to the adventurous in heart.

We had only tried a subset of the dishes on their poster menu. We had barely started looking into their main menu. Moreover, there is also those hand written specials pasted on the wall too … the ones we can’t read.

We shall return.

Mr. Zhang Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Business Hours:
Mondays: 5 PM to Midnight
Tuesday to Sunday: 11 AM to Midnight

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  1. TimeToChow says:

    I have tried this place for lunch. There is a bbt stall at crystal mall that serve the crepe( Jian Bing ) that is affiliated to mr. Zhang. The other cxm stall with the owners from Shandong has better jian bing. But otrays is still the best.

  2. grayelf says:

    fmed tried this place back in Jan 2010 and had one good and one bad experience there so I kind of took my cue from the second and never went. Perhaps it is time to test the waters again? Thanks for the update, Ben.

    • fmed says:

      Ah yes – It was in Jan (not the summer) when I tried the place.

    • Ben says:

      LOL, why is it that I am NOT surprise that fmed had been to Mr Zhang before? I think fmed is seriously addicted to the spiciness in Sichuan and Hunan food. Yeah … me too. I had Sichuan yesterday and had Sichuan again today. :-)

  3. fmed says:

    I tried this place last summer a couple of times right when it opened. During my second visit, I ordered the laziji and a couple of other things…and everything came out muddy-pasty tasting as they had used powdered and stale Sichuan peppercorns. I haven’t been back since. It may be time for a revisit.

    As TTC mentioned above, it is somehow affiliated to the BBT stall just to the left of the escalator at Crystal Mall. The Jianbing there doesn’t hold a candle to O’tray’s very good version.

  4. fmed says:

    BTW that “Vermicelli” dish is often called Liangpi.

    • Ben says:

      Fmed: Is this what it is called, liangpi? I am confusing this with fenpi. Someone educate me the difference between liangpi and fenpi … and whatever-pi there are? I think that “mien” means wheat noodles … “fen” means rice base noodles … but what is “pi”? Ben

      • fmed says:

        Oops…yes it is Fenpi (typing too fast). “Pi” is “skin”. Fen pi is made with starch noodles (“fen” = rice, bean, potato, etc starch) and Liang pi (“cold” “skin”) is made with flour that still contains gluten. Starch flours are made by washing out all (or most) of the gluten. Starch flours which contain very little gluten are nearly transparent.

  5. grayelf says:

    I think laziji is 1000 chili or Chong Qing chicken, right? So good when done well, drool. Looks like we are heading to Mr Zhang’s tomorrow night!

  6. TimeToChow says:

    I did go there partly due to the 8gtcc. I’d heard the chef/owner may have been from Shandong. Actually the server was from Shandong but the chef was from dongbei iirc. But my memory isn’t realiable.
    I liked some aspect of this restaurant. On that day I specifically ordered lu Cai and came out somewhat dissapointed. I think a chowdown with dongbei and Sichuan items will be nice.

  7. LotusRapper says:

    I go to the London Drugs on Victoria @ 41st fairly regularly (also to get Kent’s Kitchen take-outs and baked goods at Maxim’s all in the same plaza). So many times I wanted to poke my head in at Mr. Zhang’s, maybe even for a quick lunch bite, but I can never do it just by myself, need at least 3-4 dishes in one sitting to properly sample a new resto.

  8. grayelf says:

    I was checking out the menu in preparation for tomorrow night and the prices are pretty good. I love how the last three pages are called Canadian Favorite Dishes — I don’t think there are more than three things I’d consider ordering from these pages, especially in a Sichuan joint :-).

  9. grayelf says:

    Okay, I give — which numbers are the laziji and the pork belly??

    • LotusRapper says:

      Grayelf:

      La Zi Ji/”Peppering Chicken in Sichuan Sauce” is on Menu 3 “Chicken & Duck” section, item #42

      Pork Belly …. not sure which one Ben ordered. But they’re on Menu 2 “Pork” section, likely Signature Stir-fried Pork Belly/”Braised Pork in Spicy Sauce”, item #25

  10. Thomas says:

    Woah, this December chilly chilli Chow Down sounds like a fine idea. That pork belly looks awesome.

  11. Susan says:

    Oh my god that pork belly looks wonderful! Those dumplings look awesome as well. It’s lunch time here and I am waiting to go out to lunch, so all that food is making me very hungry indeed!

  12. Alleycat says:

    Hi Ben,
    I just wanted to recommend a restaurant if you like Szechuan cuisine. It is called “Szechuan House” on Imperial Street near Metrotown. I myself am from Sichuan, and I feel that the food here is quite authentic compared to the other Szechuan restaurants in Metro Vancouver. It is kind of a hole-in-the-wall place.

    http://www.yelp.ca/biz/szechuan-house-burnaby

    • Ben says:

      Hi Alleycat: Thanks for the recommendation. Suanne and I was asking ourselves where next to go for Sichuan food since we had not had Sichuan for some time already. So this does come in handy. I checked the reviews of this restaurant in Dinehere and there were some strange reviews (i.e. the restaurant fighting with the customer!). Some reviews were bad and some were positive. We will check it out nevertheless. Ben

      • Lissa says:

        I went to Szechuan House last January. I think I enjoyed some dishes and some not like the hot oil fish in tons of dried chilli. Overall, not a bad experience.

  13. [...] had been a long while since we had Sichuan food. The
    last time was at Mr Zhang. It was a good meal at Mr Zhang and we
    enjoyed it a lot. A few people did go after I published that
    [...]

  14. Shmoo says:

    We tried Mr. Zhang’s recently. My over-all impression was mixed, although we ordered a little strangely.

    First thing, the restaurant was very generous to us, and gave us two free dishes. These were not just little saucer items, or small plates. There was a full serving of shredded potato, and a full serving of extremely meaty (and tender) braised pork bones. It was really nice of them, especially considering we were only 4 people.

    Of the dishes we ordered, the water-boiled fish was very different from the one at Szechuan House. It was broth-based, rather than oil-based. It had more complexity of spices, but was not particularly hot. (I think they were going “easier” on us than necessary. But also, their dried chillies were simply not very spicy, even if you just sat and ate chillies.) I enjoy both interpretations of the dish, but they are entirely different.

    We also ordered the noodle sheets and specialty pork belly, and both were tasty. (Again, the chillies were oddly un-hot.)

    Finally, we ordered a pork belly and sour cabbage hot pot (酸菜白肉鍋?) because we were sort of craving it and happened to see it on the menu. Actually, this one was really good (though probably not very Sichuanese). I hadn’t had this dish in a long time, so I can’t offer any head-to-head comparisons. I did like the wide starch noodles in the soup. I hadn’t had those in ages.

    So. Did I enjoy my meal? Yes. Did the dishes taste good? Yes. And the restaurant was friendly and generous, too. And yet, there was something just slightly flat about some of the dishes. It was subtle, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

    I’ll be curious to try them again to see what things are like on a second visit. And to be clear on the next visit that we are okay with anything the kitchen churns out, just in case they were being careful with their flavours because we were new, non-Sichuanese, customers.

    • Ben says:

      Thanks for the detail report on Mr Zhang Shmoo. A few people I know went to Mr Zhang after I posted this review and they did not find the food good. I thought the food was unique and I enjoyed it a lot. So until today I am just wondering why the vast difference of opinion. Ben

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