Review: China Szechwan

China Szechwan's Menus

By no means am I an expert in Chinese food. I know nothing. But I knew, prior to my first China Szechwan visit, that I had never had Chinese food worth raving about. Ah, how times so deliciously change.

China Szechwan's Cucumbers in Garlic

China Szechwan’s Cucumbers in Garlic

China Szechwan is a new restaurant located in a dying strip mall on the Southwest corner of Ft. Lowell and Campbell. Only a recommendation would lead you to even consider entering. Not because its outward appearance is terrible, but because it’s so easy to pass over as just another Chinese restaurant. What’s interesting is that the owner previously owned a different Chinese food restaurant on the East side, but decided to retire and travel around China. After discovering Szechwan, it was time to give the restaurant business another go.

For starters, they have two menus: a standard American Chinese menu, and the Szechwan menu. I know only of one other Chinese food restaurant that does this in Tucson. It’s called Ba Dar. I’ve heard that a special menu, or second menu, or secret menu is the first indication that you’re in for better than average Chinese. Whether or not Chinese restaurant owners have gotten wind of this and are beginning to use it to their advantage, I know not.

I’m not going to go into all the standard stuff about ambience and service. The lighting is terrible, the art is bizarre and cheap, and it’s noisy. Fine.

China Szechwan's Spinach with Garlic

China Szechwan’s Spinach with Garlic

On our first visit, we ordered Spinach in Garlic sauce. This is fresh, whole spinach, with stems (that were pleasantly edible), with real garlic swimming in some kind of delicious broth. It was perfectly salty, garlicky, and cooked to tender perfection. I’ve never raved about a dish so simple (well, maybe once at Chez Panisse, I did), but this was unbelievable. One for one. Let’s see what else you got, China Szechwan.

Out comes the Twice Cooked Pork. It was a plate of slow cooked pork belly with either celery or leek. Two for two. A salty, rich plate of Chinese pork belly, tender and flavorful as you can only imagine it should be.

China Szechwan's Twice Cooked Pork

China Szechwan’s Twice Cooked Pork

Next up was Chicken and Jalapenos. As in fresh, bright green, spicy jalapenos. This dish was no joke. Bursting with rich, juicy and flavorful chicken and spicy as hell. Not typically my thing, but well done.

On my two subsequent visits, we also tried Cucumbers in Garlic Sauce, Pork with Eggplant, Ginger Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken. So far, every item has been the best I’ve ever tasted of that dish. The Cucumbers in Garlic Sauce is unlike anything I’ve had in a Chinese restaurant. Cold, chopped cucumbers tossed in chili oil with garlic. It’s a perfect starter.

Tucson may not be San Francisco, NYC, or Los Angeles when it comes to food. But, for awhile we were lacking even one great Chinese food restaurant. That is no longer the case.

China Szechwan on Urbanspoon

Adam Lehrman started Tucson Foodie in late 2008 as a way to track his search for the best food Tucson had to offer.
  • Jeff Maltzman

    Thanks for the review, Adam. Good Chinese food can, indeed, be very tough to find, particularly in a smaller city like Tucson that doesn’t have ethnic neighborhoods. I’m now looking very forward to trying China Szechwan based on your recommendation, and that of Mukhi and Roop Singh from the Twisted Tandoor, who also raved about it.

    • http://tucsonfoodie.com Adam Lehrman

      Great to hear, Jeff. Thanks for commenting!

  • dana

    Old Peking also has two menus, one American Chinese and the other Szechuan. Their Szechuan menu is excellent with many of the same dishes you have reviewed here. In the twice cooked pork it is indeed sliced leek, which is partly why this is one of my favorite dishes. I consider Old Peking to be one of the best Chinese places in town and look forward to trying China Szechuan.

    • http://tucsonfoodie.com Adam Lehrman

      I have been there. Old Peking is not bad. Will try again, though.

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