I am surprised.
This restaurant had flew under the radar for so long that am surprised why there are not more reviews written about them. The only blogger who wrote about Kalvin’s Restaurant is Kevin of 604foodtography. The reason was because I was taken aback on how busy this place was when we visited. The food is very good.
I think after reading this post, some of you will be making your way there. I hope you do. It is worth the trip across town.
I kept asking myself why would a restaurant this popular was hardly written about? I don’t have the answer why. Maybe it is the name, you reckon? I mean, with a name like Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant, it could be easy for people not to give them a second glance. Moreover, the front of the restaurant does not shout out who or what they really are.
The name outside the restaurant says Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant. Deep in their soul, it is actually a fabulous Taiwanese restaurant. Maybe the chef was originally from Sichuan. Maybe that is the name it got started with and they did not bother to change the signboard. However, the take out menu and even the name in Urbanspoon dropped the “Szechuan” word from the name.
One consistent comment I read was that you need … a reservation to dine here. We were there for dinner before 6:00PM and with reservation.
By 6:30PM people WITH reservation were already waiting for their table. The video above might not show the entire picture but there were people milling by the door and at the counter inside the restaurant by that time.
Good thing we got there early. If you can’t stand the crowd, you best come before 6:oo PM. The picture above was taken at about 10 minutes before six. By 6:08 PM the restaurant was already full. EVERY table had a reserved sign.
The thing is Kalvin’s is a small restaurant. We had been here eons ago. Way before the days of chowtimes when we did not care much about food. So that visit did not leave any impression on us then.
The restaurant has 6 large round tables and 2 small round tables. It is tight as they try to fit as many people as possible. As a matter of fact Suanne and I was hemmed in and the only way we could get out was to ask the next table to get up for us.
That guy in white above … do you think he is Mr Kalvin? He was out chatting with apparently regular customers before the rush began.
Kalvin does sell frozen dumplings too. It was in a fridge at the back of the restaurant. We did not notice anyone buying it but am sure it is not a small deal item here.
Service was good, considering all the people they had to serve. We did not have to wait long nor did we have any problems flagging them down for what we needed. They even came by once to change out our plates with clean ones.
We had a long look at their menu. There are so many dishes that we wanted to order but we can only eat so much. There were only three of us that day because Arkensen was away on a camping trip. Yeah, Nanzaro missed his ko-ko and we could tell. LOL! He spent the entire time alone playing the PlayStation or on his computer. The house was a bit quieter too.
Before we went to Kalvin’s we asked Kevin for recommendation. He gave us a few of this favourite dishes which we duly ordered, plus one or two. We were gawking at the dishes of the neighboring tables which looked really good. We told ourselves we will come back next time.
The take-out menu above is similar to the dine-in menu. You can click on them to show it larger. Of particular interest is the one on the right most … the section that says “Pre-Orders”. Yeah, next time we come, we will want to try the pre-orders. The pre-orders require a one day advance notice.
There are also several specials written on the wall. Unfortunately, it is all in Chinese. While I am sure they will translate for me when asked (they speak good English), we’ll leave it for next time.
We had the Red Fermented Deep Fried Pork which is just $5.00.
It is served with three pieces of deep fried pork which is cut diagonally into smaller thin slices.
Nanzaro loves this and ate most of this. We let him since he enjoyed it so much. We can taste the fermented flavour which is kind of like winery taste. The batter was light and gives a distinct crunch. Thumbs up.
This is one of those dishes that was recommended by Kevin. He called it the “first dish under the pork section”. Goes to show how well he knows the menu here. LOL!
That “first dish under the pork section” is called the Fondue Spicy Pork with Organ Stew. There are two sizes. The large one is $18 while the smaller one (above) is $10.
We asked the waitress if this is served with pork blood because we don’t eat that. I am sure it is a delicacy to many but it is not something we enjoy. That’s all. The waitress said yeah, the dish have red blood cubes. However, she said that they can serve this with tofu instead.
So I said, “oh, white blood?”. She got confused for a second before catching on the joke. “Yes, white blood”, she repeated to me.
This came served bubbling hot in a small hotpot. Lovely. I like the spicy “jhup” (sauce) which was quite spicy as we asked for it to be so. The intestines were soft, just as soft as the tofu. Nice dish but definitely not for those who does not like internal organs.
I like Pork Stomach soup and so we got that. This is is with Sour Vegetable. The small bowl is $5.50 while the larger portion is $10. We got the larger version but it ended up being too much for us. We could only finish 1/2 of it and had the remainder packed to go.
This is a simple soup, simple but flavourful. It only has sour vegetable, pork stomach and the soup. The soup does look strangely greenish.
It was the sour vegetable which gives the soup the greenish colour.
The pig stomach has a nice chewy texture as we expected it to. We hoped there were a lot more pork stomach pieces in this but as it was, it was a lot of soup.
The Sanbeiji. I like the name. It translates to Three-Cup-Chicken. This is a very popular Taiwanese dish and is considered by some to be the litmus test for a true Taiwanese chef.
We had the small order which is $10.50 (large is $20.00) and it is served in a claypot.
The reason why this is is called three cup chicken is that the main ingredient to make the sauce is three cups … of rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil.
The chicken is with bones and skin. Lovely. There is a certain element of crispness to it and yet when you tear into the meat, it reveals a nicely cooked-just-right and soft meat.
My best part? The “jhup”. The dilemma was alternating between the jhup here and the jhup from the pork (white) blood and intestines stew. These two jhup must not mix. LOL. They need to be eaten with just white rice and nothing else.
What I also like here is the whole garlic, ginger, basil and star anise. Bitting into each of these gives a sudden burst of twist to the already excellent jhup.
Look at above (clickable if you want to show larger). That lower section is their lunch special. They look unexciting. I’ll stick to their main menu to tell the truth.
This place is cash only.
We also ordered the Deep Fried Bun but when we checked with the server, she told us she forgot to put in the order, so we cancelled it because we already had too much food.
Again, service is good as they do fill up our tea and change plate despite the business (as in busy-ness) of the restaurant.
Frankly, the restaurant can just ignore the “chowtimes effect” because they already are so full of business. So you really need to plan ahead more if you go anytime soon. Call for reservation to be on the safe side. Get lots of people so that you can order more.
Hmmm … chowdown anyone? Maybe Kevin, the master of Taiwanese cuisine, could organize? :-)