S&W Pepper House (Crystal Mall)
Writing a food blog has some excellent perks. For me, the best one is meeting people who know their way around the vastness of local Chinese cuisine. During last week’s luncheon at Alvin Garden, I was lucky enough to be seated beside fmed. He is the creator of Vancouver Chowdown and is also a contributor to Foodosophy under the handle GastronomyDomine. He is literally a walking guide to the best of Asian food in the Lower Mainland. In the midst of a discussion on Vancouver’s best Chinese restaurants I asked him what his favorite Szechuan spot was. Upon his mention of S&W Pepper House, I gathered the troops for another Friday lunch.
S&W Pepper House is located beneath the food fair in Burnaby’s Crystal Court. I’ve had several dozen quick lunches in the food fair…never venturing downstairs where the full-sized restaurants reside. My only indication of S&W was the small a-frame sign on the sidewalk with no restaurant in sight. After a great tip and some investigation, we navigated the inner labyrinth of the mall and may have discovered the best Szechuan food in Burnaby.
The Fried Peanuts with Cilantro and Chili are insanely delicious. This is the kind of dish that vegetarians need to advertise. Not that I’d ever convert, but this would give me one good reason to.
S&W’s Hot and Sour Soup. Not too spicy, a nice hit of vinegar and a tonne of shrimp! Not everyone’s favorite version but IMHO, very solid.
Gai Cai in Garlic Sauce.
Deep-fried String Bean with Minced Pork and Pickled Vegetable.
The two dishes above are what are known as vegetables. They are apparently supposed to be good for you. They were nowhere near as good as this:
This is chilified heaven in a bowl! The simple name, Boiled Beef with Assorted Vegetables, doesn’t do this incredible dish justice. If I were writing the menu it would be more like Hot & Tender Chili Beef in Happy Sauce. When I ladled some of this over the Fried Peanuts and some rice I came close to approaching Nirvana. Giggidy!
Although the Boiled Sliced Fish with Assorted Vegetable was extremely tasty, it was basically the same as the beef version. Next time we’ll go with a more contrasting choice. The Guizhou Style Fresh Tilapia with Cilantro & Chili here is apparently the “single best culinary reason to fly to Vancouver” according to Conde Naste magazine. Just check out this Vancouver Sun article.
Fried Lamb with Cumin & Chili. This is a very well made dish. A huge portion of tender lamb, fried to perfection and really well seasoned. Unfortunately, I can’t stand cumin in Chinese food. I find it overpowering and too perfumey…just like caraway seed in European cuisine. A personal taste…everyone else seemed to love it.
Another incredible dish with HUGE flavors is the Kung-Pao Chicken. This plate disappeared almost as soon as it landed on the table.
I must say, I’m becoming more and more proud of Burnaby and it’s excellent variety of Asian cuisine. This past month has been loaded with a string of some really great meals. Cannot wait to find the next one…