Perhaps you’ve heard of the Chinese tea ceremony, a graceful interlude of pouring, sniffing, sipping? Well, the juicy bun ceremony is a little less aesthetically endearing — more like hip-hop than ballet — at least, as enacted last week at Szechuan Spice. The new Lyn-Lake eatery replaces Zen, incorporating its stylish, soothing décor but offering food that’s a lot less laid-back — like, say, the Shanghai mini juicy buns.
Manager Jenny Shi hails from Shanghai, while her husband, Chef ChangFu Xue, comes from China’s southwestern province, Sichuan, whose spicy dishes dominate the kitchen’s lengthy menu. But Shanghainese cuisine gets a nod, too, as in those mini buns, so aptly named “juicy.”
Here’s what’s supposed to happen. When the buns arrive, each diner carefully scoops one onto a porcelain spoon, careful not to pierce the wonton-skin wrapper, for the interior is filled with a lovely, well-seasoned broth that — trust me — squirts all over wherever you failed to place your napkin.
Here’s the drill, as instructed by our swell server: Raise the spoon to your lips, bite off a corner, inhale the hot and tasty broth, then spoon in a little of the accompanying vinegar sauce, livened with strands of fresh ginger, to flavor the little pork meatball within, and finally, pop the concoction into your mouth. Well, many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as they say.
Anyway, it turned out to be our favorite item of the tasty assemblage we ordered, followed by another, easier to manage app, the scrumptious Shanghai scallion pancake. Its crisped shell hosts a textured interior laced with tasty green onions, all set to slosh with soy sauce.
No, no, no, declared our waiter when someone proposed the Orange Chicken. “You can get that anywhere. Try the Chung King Spicy Chicken.” Blessed by his guidance, we did, and enjoyed the mélange of deepfried chicken nuggets snuggling with squares of sweet peppers in gravy jumping (and oily) with peppercorn oil and dried chili peppers.
But wait, it gets even better. Thanks to our server’s guidance, we ordered the Boiled Fish in Szechuan Hot Spicy Sauce and greedily inhaled the delicate seafood, accompanied by equally generous pillows of tofu in a modestly creamy but ever-so lively broth, boldly, deliciously, flavored with yet more chilies.
Next, the Mongolian lamb? The Cumin lamb? Oh no, the Szechuan Lamb, as our server — a young man of strong persuasions — instructed. We concluded with the addictive Szechuan green beans stir-fried whole with chili peppers.
I’ll be back. I’ve got my eye on the eggplant in garlic sauce; the crab and asparagus chowder; the spicy pork intestines — well, maybe not so much.
3016 Lyndale S.