Szechwan Zen, previously located in the shopping square up the top of William Street, has moved to new premises in Newcastle Street – a place that until recently housed Malay restaurant, Impressive Cuisine. The new place is smaller than before and the menu at lunch somewhat reduced in size and they do not, yet at least have a licence – although byo is fine.
Szechwan cuisine originated in the south west of China and is characterised by pungent and spicy flavours resulting from the liberal use of garlic, chilli, ginger and star anise and the unique flavour of Szechwan pepper – this has an intensely fragrant, almost citrus like flavour which produces a numbing sensation in the mouth – and we do enjoy the style.
Remembering from previous visits to the old place, the size of the serves, we decided to go for just two mains, plus rice – even so we did not get through it all, and my dining mate went off with a full takeaway container for later.
Our first dish, and one we have had before was spicy boiled fish fillets -it came in a large bowl, filled to the brim with oil much tender, juicy fillets of fish, with a thick layer of dried chillies and Szechwan pepper corns floating on the surface. The chillies are to add flavour to the oil and fish rather than eat in their own right – so the idea is to push most of them to the side and spoon the fish over the rice. The fish was as I said wonderfully tender, beautifully flavoured – if quite spicy. We had ordered the small serve – I can only guess how big the large serve was!!
Next a dish of spiced fried squid – luckily this was a much smaller serve than the fish and we were able to get through it – crisply fried squid, topped with chilli, onion and capsicum – the squid very tender and while not overly spicy, pleasantly so.
Szechwan Zen’s move certainly has not affected the quality of the food served – if you like the spicy food of this particular Chinese region you will not be disappointed – remember some of the dishes are very big so take a healthy appetite or a few friends along.