Restaurant: Lao Sze Chuan
Location: 152 S Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA 91204. Phone number (818) 552-8888
Date: February 28, 2016
Rating: A little Americanized
Regular Hedonist Chevy has been trying to get us to go to this new “hipster Szechuan” in Glendale since it opened.
Lao Sze Chuan is from China by way of Chicago, but this branch is located across the street from the Americana mall in Glendale.
It’s not as “home style” in decor as the SGV joints.
And the menu is a mixture of Szechuan and other more generic popular Chinese dishes.
We had a great private room that was sealed off, large, and quiet.
2009 Ariston Aspasie Champagne Brut Millésimé. Bitter citrus carries through to a slightly austere finish.
Cold garlic cucumber. Normal enough version of this Chinese classic starter.
From my cellar: 2011 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault. VM 90. The 2011 Meursault is quite beautiful, even if it shows some tightness from its recent bottling. White peach, pear and spice notes all wrap around an energetic frame. I very much like the way the 2011 opens up in the glass. The Comtes Lafon Meursault is now a blend of various parcels, mostly Clos de la Baronne, En la Barre, Luraules and Crotos.
Shanghai Style Jellyfish with mustard. Not a lot of flavor.
2011 Greenlip Wine Sauvignon Blanc. 84 points. Some petrol, but not a particularly good wine. Way too light to stand up to Szechuan too.
Cold Spicy Beef Tendon. Nice dish. Good Szechuan chili oil flavor and a bit of peppercorn numb.
1995 Schloss Schönborn Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Spätlese. 93 points. Beautiful golden color, nose incredibly fresh, elderflower, ripe peach, slate, no oxidation. Depth of flavor with high acid, fresh with long lean finish. Could not believe Michael Jordon was playing baseball when these grapes were harvested… it’s holding up well.
Dan Dan Noodles. Of the “chili oil” variant.
Mixed up. Noodles themselves were over-cooked but the flavor was good, with a little mala. Not as nutty as I like.
From my cellar: 2004 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese. GV 92. #1; COLOR-nice golden; NOSE-burnt BMX tires meets peaches, apricots & pears; spritzy; TASTE-beautiful bluestone; gorgeous dried Apricots; viscous & oily; gorgeous peach juice; very polished; great, great wine; very delicate; nice floral aspects; subtle cactus juice & on the finish; a concoction of Cantaloupe & dandelion dancing on the back-end; very complex; great balance of acidity & fruit; great structure; absolute elegance at it’s finest; DS-92; GV-92
Numb Taste Wontons. Not as much flavor as these should have.
Spicy Cabbage. Great dish with a lot of mala from the excellent house chili oil and a nice bit of crunch.
Lao Sze House Fried Rice. A bit of everything. Solid. Not too fried.
Crispy Shrimp with lemon sauce. White guy Chinese, but still nice and tasty. Guilty pleasure.
Same dish with sauce on the side — not nearly as good.
1995 Bieche Vouvray. Sweet and tangy. Pretty good, and a good pairing.
Eggplant with garlic. Decent, although I’ve had much better versions of this dish.
Tea Smoked Duck. Pretty good. Looks like Peking duck but this had a smoked flavor. Not as characteristic as the best versions I’ve had, but good.
Ma Po Tofu. They said there was even no pork in this version, which is odd. It had the correct chili oil mala flavor, although it wasn’t super spicy. The chili oil here is pretty good.
2012 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 93. Opaque ruby. Potent, mineral-laced raspberry and cherry aromas are complicated by suave floral and spice qualities, picking up white pepper and cola accents with air. Seamless, round and sweet on the palate, offering intense red berry preserve and floral pastille flavors with a touch of allspice. Finishes sappy and precise, with velvety tannins and a late jolt of cherry compote.
House Spicy Beef. Fried to oblivion, but very tasty.
2008 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 91. Bright ruby. A heady bouquet displays fresh red berries, sandalwood, dried flowers and a hint of baking spices. Creamy in texture, with lively acidity lifting sweet red and dark berry and candied rose flavors. Becomes sappier with air and finishes with very good clarity and lingering spiciness. Avril thinks this wine will surprise people with its ability to age.
Lao Sze special pork chop. A really tasty sparerib covered in Szechuan goodness.
Szechuan Style Boiled Fish. Drowned in Szechuan sauce. Fish itself was a little mushy.
Mixed Hunan Style Vegetables. Mediocre. And not too Hunan.
Combination Chow Mein. Fried noodles with everything. Tasty enough.
Szechuan Chili Hot Pot with lamb. Good stuff with a nice chili oil and cumin flavor and crispy vegetables. Good amount of mala numbing here too.
Cumin lamb. Soft lamb. High quality meat, so not a bad version of this classic.
Shrimp Lo Mein. Not too exciting.
Szechuan String Beans. I’ve certainly had better versions of this dish, but I’ve had far worse.
Various ice creams. Green Tea, Plum, Strawberry, Lychee, and Black Sesame. I loved the three fruit flavors. Nice texture.
And the plum was insanely good, with a fabulous finish.
Overall, Lao Sze Chuan beat my expectations slightly. It is Szechuan, but it’s not seriously hard core about it. Food-wise, I’d say they are middle of the pack as SGV Szechuan restaurants go. The ingredients were pretty fresh, and the meat better than many SGV places. The location is good too, and there is some decor to the build out. Prices are reasonable. Service was great too, better than you’d likely get at a more authentic spot. Very nice servers and they did a great job staging stuff. They didn’t charge us corkage and even gave us a regular discount (as Chevy lives across the street and goes all the time)! A+ for effort.
Now somehow, mysteriously, Lao Sze Chuan has been voted “one of the best Chinese restaurants in America.” Or at least it garnered a real reputation in Chicago. This isn’t hard to imagine as real Szechuan is probably nonexistent in Chicago. Here it’s just fine. Good even if you live in Glendale and don’t want to drive down to the SGV. For me, since Glendale is actually slightly further (in terms of driving time) than the SGV, I’d only go if meeting friends.