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

Updated 21st Oct 2014; This restaurant has relocated to Crystal Mall.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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 … (more…)

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Multigrain Salad

Following the knife skills workshop, Ian proceeded with a grain workshop.

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In this workshop, Ian introduced us to four grains, i.e. Couscous, Bulgar, Quinoa and Kasha. Ian showed us how to cook the different grains and we got to taste the texture of all the grains which is lightly dressed with olive oil and salt. Most of the grains can be cooked like pasta but the nutrients will be lost in the water. So, if you cook it the pasta way, save the water to make stocks.

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A good place to buy such grains is Galloway’s Specialty Foods.

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The grains are used along with some fresh vegetables, herbs, seeds and dried fruits to create a healthy multigrain salad.

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The above are some of the vegetables and herbs that were prepared from the knife skills workshop.

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Couscous is the easiest and quickest to prepare among the 4 grains. All you have to do is … (more…)

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