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.
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.
Mondays: 5 PM to Midnight
Tuesday to Sunday: 11 AM to Midnight