Chili Szechuan, newly resident in the former Green Garden space at 4626 Baltimore, neatly fills the gap between the takeout-only, bulletproof Lucky’s (4710 Baltimore Ave) and the popular, pricier Han Dynasty (3711 Market St). With its varied menu, fresh-tasting ingredients, reasonable prices, and central location, Chili Szechuan will soon be doing brisk business.
I went for eat-in dinner with the family one night, then ordered delivery with co-workers for lunch the next day. The “Chef’s Special” menu offers Szechuan favorites like Dan Dan Noodles ($5.95), spicy/crisp Szechuan Style Cucumber ($5.95), and Mapo Tofu ($9.95), each of which rivals the Han Dynasty versions. Cumin Lamb ($14.95) is just lots of thinly sliced, tender, spice-crusted meat with onion slivers, and the Dry Pot Flavor Jumbo Shrimp ($14.95) packs enough heat to cause temporary but not unpleasant paralysis of the tongue. You can also get the Dry Pot treatment for Fish, Rabbit, Lamb, Frog, Beef, or Chicken, or choose from other Szechuan styles like Pickled Chili Flavor, Salt Backed Flavor, and Tofu Pudding flavor.
If you don’t like flaming spice, there’s the “Americanized” menu. The Sesame Chicken ($11.95) is sweet and gloopy, and the Chicken Lo Mein noodles ($7.25) are dark and tasty. Of the appetizers not marked with hot peppers, the kids liked the flavorful, crispy House Special Chicken ($6.95) and the good quality Boneless Spare Ribs ($5.95), with dipping sauce on the side. The chefs do not skimp on the proteins – there are no extraneous filler vegetables taking up space on your plate. So you’ll want to order a vegetable dish (each $8.95). My co-workers and I tried Eggplant with Garlic Sauce: plump, purple, creamy, perfectly cooked. For lunch, order from the regular menu or get one of the “Combo” specials ($7.25): smaller portions of “Americanized” dishes with a choice of three soups and white, brown, or fried rice. There’s also an eggroll option. My co-workers tried Szechuan Chicken and Cashew Chicken lunch specials – each delicious and a terrific deal.
As with all new ventures, there are some logistical kinks. At the online order portal (www.chiliszechuan.com) I couldn’t input all the variables of the Lunch Special Combos, so I gave up and called it in. My advice for now is to phone or fax. Also you might want to specify that you want rice – we had to ask for it after our eat-in food was served, and it was left out of the lunch order altogether, so we called back and the delivery guy made a second trip.
As for the ambiance of the dining room, I think it’s perfect. Nothing fancy: just clean, warm and pleasant. New, white Ikea dishes. Nice waiter. No music, but I like hearing the drama and clatter beyond the kitchen door. People are coming and going, getting their take out, so wear a sweater for the drafts. Unlike Lucky’s it’s only open ‘til 10:30, and unlike Han Dynasty, there’s no bar, but you can BYO. Be sure to BYO corkscrew or bottle opener, and don’t be surprised to find yourself drinking wine out of ceramic cups. All of these things are good things, in my opinion: at Chili Szechuan, you are paying for the food, and it’s totally worth it.
- JenChili Szechuan 4626 Baltimore Ave Phone: 215-662-0888 Hours: Daily 11:30am-10:30pm Kid-friendly, Delivery, Credit Cards Accepted, Take Out