Szechwan Palace - COFCO

Good eating in the Valley of the Sun
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chrislee
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5 years ago

Looking through, I couldn't find a thread on Szechwan Palace so here goes.

1st Visit

A couple months or so back, after our girls got out of ballet practice on a Friday night, we went to go grab a bite with a bunch of ballet parents & kids. I think there were about 17 of us. We were turned away at a couple places because they didn't have room so decided to hit the Chinese Cultural Center.

We ended up hitting Szechwan Palace. I'd never been there when some of the crew had been making visits in the olden days pre Miu's. We had a great meal. Had some American Chinese food ordering going on (as Szechwan Palace does have an Americanized Chinese dishes section) but we were able to grab a few standby dishes and actually made a good number of new Szechwan fans.

Back then we had some water boiled fish, yuxiang eggplant, green beans, salt & pepper fish, walnut shrimp & I don't remember what else. That said, we really enjoyed it as did most everybody.

I think my 9 yr old daughter had won ton soup for some reason that night.

Family Meal Tonight

Well with my 9 yr old turning 10 today, she chose to go back to Szechwan Palace for her family birthday dinner. She's a bit under the weather but she was wanting some more won ton soup.

So I think there were about 15 of us tonight (about 1/2 adults & 1/2 kids). Had some vegetarians & had to watch the spice for the kids so got a variety of dishes.

Being of Cantonese heritage, Miu's was my 1st real exposure to Szechwan so that's the main thing we all had to compare it to. The overall consensus was that it was pretty close on just about everything. Meaning it was pretty dang good.

Order & feeback:
  • 2x cucumber in garlic sauce - definitely saltier & possibly more garlicky but I think it made them a perfect compliment to the Tsing Tao.
  • 3x scallion pancake - don't know if the scallion pancakes were quite as flavorful but they were hot & crispy. Big hit.
  • Steamed buns - pretty nice dish. Almost had the look of XLB with no soup.
  • Wonton in spicy & chili sauce - these were great. One of my faves at Miu's and still loved these.
  • Dumplings in chili sauce - not bad but I love the texture of the wontons so much more that I probably wouldn't order these again.
  • Dan Dan noodle - not bad. Didn't enjoy quite as much as Miu's.
  • Twice cooked pork - not bad.
  • Green beans with bacon - really dug this. Hadn't had this before but the family suggested it. Pretty universally liked.
  • Beef with onions - again, not as epic as Miu's in the height of their Cantonese but tasted good.
  • Spicy lamb ribs - these were pretty spot on.
  • Water boiled fish - this also was great.
  • Yuxiang eggplant - this wasn't quite as good as our first visit to SP but still good.
  • Eggplant in sweet bean sauce - didn't get a taste of these as it was for the veggie folk.
  • 2 Mapo Tofu (1 w/pork & 1 veg) - didn't try but got high marks from both tables.
  • Vegetable chow fun - also didn't try as it was at the veggie/kids table.
  • Beef chow fun - and missed this one too but I do have leftovers that I'll certainly be downing.
  • 3x won ton soup (1 for the bday girl & 2 to go) - one of the people this was for was my pop (born in Canton & restaurant all his life) - I stopped over later as he was eating & he said it was actually surprisingly pretty good. High praise from him.
Sorry for the lack of pictures but it was craziness with the family.

Former Miu's Cantonese Chef Spotting!

Another interesting point to the night was that we recognized the Cantonese chef from the early Miu's days. One of his friends cooks there and he was helping out. Says he does a bit now.

Couldn't get all the details but it sounds like he's working on another gig. Someone tried to steal him out of town to CA but he has family here so luckily that didn't work. I know he was last spotted at Henry's Taiwan after a stint at Phoenix Palace. It sounded like he moved over to Henry's Private Kitchen when that opened but that just recently closed.

Man I hope he lands a spot where he can do his thing. Of all the Cantonese around town, his cooking was definitely my pop's favorite of recent days.

Szechwan Palace
www.phoenixszechuanpalace.com
668 N. 44th Street (COFCO Center)
Phoenix, AZ 85008
602.685.0888
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Christina
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4 years ago

I had a killer lunch for my first time here. Loved it, especially the ma po tofu. It's a win-win since E gets to order his type of dishes (he liked the pork fried rice and pineapple chicken) and I get to have my Sichuan fix.

I overloaded on the chili-oil dishes, but couldn't help myself. Their version of Dan Dan noodles was very good, although I would have loved some of the saltiness of preserved Sichuan vegetables, but that's a personal preference.



Like Chris, I really liked the texture of the wontons in the chili oil.



Their ma po tofu for me was absolutely perfect and just the way I like it - soft silken tofu, flavorful sauce with just enough potato or corn starch to thicken slightly, chunky slices of leeks, ground beef, and, at my request, lots of ground Sichuan pepper.



When I asked for 'extra' pepper, the waiter said "you must be Chinese". When I mentioned I was half Vietnamese, we had a nice conversation about how he loves Vietnamese food too because he used to live in San Jose. ;)

Anyways, I am no longer sad because Miu's is such a long drive for me. Can't wait to explore more of the menu .
Last edited by Christina 4 years ago, edited 3 times in total.
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Skillet Doux
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4 years ago

Christina wrote:Their ma po tofu for me was absolutely perfect and just the way I like it - soft silken tofu, flavorful sauce with just enough potato or corn starch to thicken slightly, chunky slices of leeks, ground pork, and, at my request, lots of ground Sichuan pepper.
This is really heartening, because I know we share both a love for and a taste in ma po dofu, and Szechwan Palace was the once the site of the Worst Ma Po Dofu I've Ever Had (By A Large Margin). They've been so on-again off-again over the years, that I really hope these recent reports mean they're really really really on again.

Looking forward to hearing more :-)
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
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Christina
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4 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:
Christina wrote: This is really heartening, because I know we share both a love for and a taste in ma po dofu, and Szechwan Palace was the once the site of the Worst Ma Po Dofu I've Ever Had (By A Large Margin). They've been so on-again off-again over the years, that I really hope these recent reports mean they're really really really on again.

Looking forward to hearing more :-)
Just re-read that on SkilletDoux. How disappointing! Yes, this was anything but flat. So good! Next visit I plan on trying some more of my Sichuan favorites - Chengdu or Chongqing chicken, fave veggie dishes like the potatoes, eggplant, cabbage, one of the water boiled dishes, etc .

Your take on the cumin lamb was 'pretty good', I see. Good enough to be worth ordering when I revisit? It's usually another favorite.
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Skillet Doux
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4 years ago

Frankly, at this point it's been so long and it was so inconsistent when I was going there that I'd ignore what I wrote entirely. It's why I never posted about it here. Given how variable they were then, I'm not sure anything I tried in 2010 is relevant to 2014.
Dominic Armato
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ericeatsout
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4 years ago

Reading this thread has made me really, really hungry.
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Skillet Doux
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4 years ago

So come on out, Eric! When are you free for lunch? Let's get a gathering going.
Dominic Armato
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bharbeke
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4 years ago

Some family and I were in the neighborhood this weekend, and we stopped into Szechwan Palace. We had two adventurous eaters and two who were less so, resulting in a mostly American order. We got the spring roll appetizer, orange chicken, beef lo mein, and Yangzhou style fried rice.

Everything was done well, and the Yangzhou fried rice was extremely good. Portions were plentiful, and we ended up with two full meals of leftovers. The Yelp reviewers say that the cuisine is authentic. All I can say is that it is delicious. Give it a try if you're in the COFCO area.
Brandon
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3 years ago

Oh boy, I hate saying this but...blech. I had heard Szechwan Palace was very hit or miss. Last night was definitely a miss for my first time there. Got seated promptly, menu looks good...things are off to a decent start. Except for my quality of photos from a Galaxy S3 that aren't even oriented correctly.
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Water-boiled beef
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Probably the only thing that I got and thought was OK. It had the appropriate mala sensation from the peppercorns, beef had the appropriate texture but tasted a little burnt almost (?). Not sure if that description makes sense but the dish had a bitterness to it. Overall, acceptable though.
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Scallion Pancakes
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Alright, these were basically inedible. They were incredibly overcooked and greasy to the point where when picked up and trying to eat, like a piece of pizza, it was necessary to rip off pieces. It almost tasted like someone had overfried them about 10x longer than necessary. It's truly bizarre what happened here and nothing like any scallion pancake I've ever had.
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Dumplings in chili oil
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I just....don't know. I am a dumpling lover. I gobble up the pot stickers from Trader Joe's happily. Trader Joe's > Szechwan Palace by a long shot. First off, the chili oil looked more like some colored oil with a few red pepper flakes in it. It was increidbly thin and the only heat involved was a tiny bit of raw chili burn at the end of eating. The dumplings were not well constructed. 4 of them were stuck together in the chili oil when brought to our table. The wrapper's were lumpy in some places and just such a flavorless dish. I don't understand how chili oil goes so bad.

Not pictured: Dan Dan noodles. Devoid of flavor but edible overall.

I should add, my fiance and I were dining together. He basically eats anything and typically, unless it's a 32 oz ribeye, the best dish of the year, or raw chicken, the answer is always "it's good". In this case I got a "this isn't very good". His sichuan experiences include Miu's a few times back in the day and one place in Irvine when we lived over there. He's certainly not picky so that should say something as well.

So ultimately, I guess it really must be very, very hit or miss. Because last night was full of misses but it looks like there are some others with some decent experiences. Next time I get a sichuan craving though, I'm going to try out some more dishes at Dinghao which showed a lot of promise.
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azhotdish
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3 years ago

That's really too bad - I've definitely had some inconsistencies, but never a meal that flat-out disappointed. In fact, I had quite a nice lunch there back in April.
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dumplings in chili oil
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spicy cucumbers
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cold pork belly
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Joel
@azhotdish
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3 years ago

To be fair, it was pretty packed on a Sunday night so I assume they must be putting some decent food out. That scallion pancake was just SO wrong I can't wrap my head around it.
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exit2lef
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7 months ago

Szechwan Palace has closed its doors. This may be the final nail in the coffin for the Chinese Cultural Center as originally conceived. Fortunately, far more Asian dining options have emerged along Dobson Road in Mesa and Chandler.

https://www.azcentral.com/story/enterta ... 336165002/
davejaz
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5 months ago

I heard that the cooking staff from Szechwan Palace has landed at Asian Fusion Cafe in Tempe in that corner of Rural and University.
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exit2lef
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5 months ago

davejaz wrote:
5 months ago
I heard that the cooking staff from Szechwan Palace has landed at Asian Fusion Cafe in Tempe in that corner of Rural and University.
Good tip. I've mean meaning to check out AFC for a while, and this is yet another reason.
PHXeater
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5 months ago

exit2lef wrote:
5 months ago
davejaz wrote:
5 months ago
I heard that the cooking staff from Szechwan Palace has landed at Asian Fusion Cafe in Tempe in that corner of Rural and University.
Good tip. I've mean meaning to check out AFC for a while, and this is yet another reason.
PFN lunch?
Nam
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4 months ago

Went to that AFC what feels like 3ish years ago, felt like pretty standard fare, but thats a long time and memories fade. I'd join in if there's an outing some weekend!
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