With the opening of Szechuan Place, the San Fernando Valley finally has a restaurant serving true, Sichuan-style Chinese food. That means folks in the SFV can get a taste of the spicy yet nuanced cuisine that has become the rage of the San Gabriel Valley.
Despite what you might have been led to believe, the Valley is hardly a Chinese-food wasteland. Sure, Americanized Chinese fare still dominates the overall landscape, but in and around Northridge alone, one can find xiao long bao, dim sum and northern Chinese items. While these might not make one forget the San Gabriel Valley, it still ranks the Valley way ahead of the Westside.
Szechuan Place employs a chef trained in Chongqing, with menu sections devoted to regional specialties. Among the selections on the 51-item entrée section are dishes of intestine, kidney, pig’s blood, duck tongues and bullfrog. There’s also Chongqing-style Chicken, la zi ji, the pepper-topped fried chicken that originated in the former Sichuan capital. You’ll find popular Sichuan-style dishes that one normally sees only in the SGV, such as fish in chili oil or beef with crispy rice. Another section of the menu is devoted to Chongqing signature cold dishes, with “bobo” chicken (served here in a bowl instead of a tureen of skewers) and Chongqing cold noodles among the eight items. And, of course, there is mapo tofu and dan dan noodles.
The cold appetizer table has steel tubs filled with a variety of vegetable and meat dishes, which also might mark a first in the Valley. Szechuan Place's large menu has a Cantonese section as well as Americanized-Chinese food, but that would probably be missing the point.
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This is the third Szechuan Place, the first location being in the far western county outpost of Agoura Hills and a second just across the Ventura County line in Newbury Park. If you live in the San Fernando Valley or further out, does this mean you shouldn’t make the trek to the SGV? Of course not — the SGV has an unparalleled Chinese restaurant scene of staggering proportions that truly should be experienced. But it’s nice for Valley denizens to have a place to enjoy spicy ma la and da la flavors without having to drive like a demon from valley to valley.
Szechuan Place, 9250 N. Reseda Blvd., Northridge; (747) 202-2754.