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Szechuan Bistro

1010 W. Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 752-8889

Szechuan Bistro at Memorial and Western

About twenty years ago I discovered what authentic Chinese food was all about by visiting Chicago, the nation's capital, and the west coast. At the time I was puzzled about this type of food not being available in Oklahoma City. Today, though, there is not only authentic Chinese food increasingly available in the city, but there is more variety than ever before.

The Insights Guide Book of China recognizes four major styles of Chinese food, with Sichuan cuisine being known for its fiery hot spice levels along with its traditional cooking styles including the use of hot pots to slow cook the meals (see the page about Asian Food for a discussion of the different Chinese cuisines).

To my knowledge Szechuan Bistro is the first restaurant in the city that has enough variety and authenticity to call it Sichuan style. Some of the Chinese restaurants in the Asian District have authentic Sichuan dishes, and for years I went to Lotus Mandarin in Warr Acres for some of their dishes. Szechuan Bistro, though, is what I would call a "full service" Sichuanese restaurant with a good variety of dishes. Szechuan Bistro has some "American style" dishes, primarily on the lunch menu, and what I have tried has been good (but of course not as exciting to me as the Sichuan style food). Not all of the food is spicy, and not even all of the Sichuan dishes have a high level of chile heat.

Special menu
A special menu is available daily at Szechuan Bistro (this day they had a special on frog legs)

On my first visit to the restaurant I observed some traditional Sichuanese dishes being served to other tables, and when I asked why I did not see these dishes on the menu the staff said they were on the "Chinese menu." I was then given the second menu, but now everything has been combined into one menu. They do have daily specials on a board, though, which are definitely some of their more authentic Sichuanese dishes.

Chinese eggplant in clay pot
Chinese eggplant in clay pot

Chinese Eggplant In Clay Pot was one of the selections from the Chinese menu that I think makes a good starting point for trying the food. Not only do I enjoy this dish, but I have ordered it at two other restaurants in the city as a comparison. Chinese eggplant is a vegetable I enjoy quite a bit more than the American version, I think because it has a firmer texture and of course a different flavor. The sauce was what really made this an excellent dish, as had been the case with the ones I had tried in other restaurants. I cannot say the sauce at Szechuan Bistro was better than the others, but I would say that all of them were about equally good. The menu said it came with pork, but my dish was just the vegetables and the sauce. The manager told me after I asked about it that the English had been incorrectly translated on the Chinese menu and that it was just an eggplant dish (the ideal with items from the Chinese menu is to order them family style so that tables can order meats, vegetables, etc. and share all of them). I did not have a problem with the way it was prepared except that the one I had ordered at Chow's did come with pork, and mainly because of this fact I thought it was slightly better than the one at Szechuan Bistro.

The eggplant had been marked with a red chile indicating that it was a spicy dish, but to me it really had a barely noticeable heat level (the same was true with the eggplant dishes I had ordered at other restaurants). I was informed, though, that some of the dishes were considerably spicier.

Dan dan noodles
Dan dan noodles

One dish which is much spicier is Dan Dan Noodles, another item which turned out to be vegetarian. In this case I was rather surprised that a simple noodle dish could have enough flavor and substance to be a main dish. The sauce was what I really liked, and tasted very much like the Sichuan style sauces I have had in Seattle. In fact, some Sichuanese food is made with a heavy oil that gives it a distinct flavor, and the dan dan noodles had a hint of this oil (but really not very much compared to other dishes I have tried). In fact, I think this dish is a very good way to get an introduction to Sichuanese cuisine, or to try a new dish. The dish is quite spicy, a fact which was omitted from the menu, but the waiter warned me about it. For me the medium spice level was just about right.

Hot and sour soup
Hot and sour soup

The Hot and Sour Soup was very good, and is one of the soups available with the lunch specials (to me this soup is a natural with Sichuanese food). This soup is full of the mushrooms and other ingredients traditional with hot and sour, and to me this is one of the best in Oklahoma City.

Dry wok lamb special
Dry wok lamb special

The Dry Wok Lamb Special was one of several specials that were meant to be shared family style, but I decided to tackle this one on my own. I found out it was actually not too large if someone is hungry, and it was something I'm glad I got to try (I do not know where else I would be able to order this dish). This was a moderately spicy dish that was full of vegetables, and a good amount of meat. The flavor was good, and I would just say to try one of the specials if you get a chance.

Pork with garlic sauce
Pork with garlic sauce on the lunch specials

Pork with Garlic Sauce was one of the lunch specials, and I chose it because this dish was one of my favorites at the now closed Lotus Mandarin in Warr Acres. It turned out to be a good lunch special, but not as interesting as the other dishes I have had at Szechuan Bistro (it was the cheapest, though). Although the waiter said some of the choices on the lunch specials are American style dishes, I believe this was not. The sauce was not sweet as is done with "American style" garlic sauce, and the vegetables were what I was expecting. It just did not have the taste of the Lotus Mandarin version, though, and it is not surprising to me that each restaurant would prepare the dish their own way.

Chicken lettuce wrap
Chicken lettuce wrap

I also sampled the Minced Chicken in Lettuce Wrap which seemed to be a larger serving size than most in the city, as well as having lettuce that was very fresh and green (despite the way it looks in the photo). This had very good chicken and a very flavorful sauce, and is something I would recommend except for the fact that items from the Sichuanese menu are really the ones that stand out from what you can get at other restaurants.

One feature that I think is important to mention is that Szechuan Bistro has a very comfortable atmosphere. It was clean, I liked the tables, and everything was a positive (such as the music, the service, the prices, etc.). I asked if they could prepare a Sichuan style dish I had orderd in Seattle that was not on the menu, and they were not able to do this. This in itself, though, is not really a negative for the restaurant, and I have to say that this has proven to be an excellent restaurant for traditionally prepared Chinese food.



Cuisine: Chinese Sichuan
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking

Most Recent Visit
Aug. 14, 2015

Number of Visits: 4

Best Items
Dan Dan Noodles, Chinese Eggplant

Special Ratings
Dan Dan Noodles:
Chinese Eggplant:
Dry Wok: Lamb
Pork in Garlic Sauce:
Minced Chicken in Lettuce Wrap:
Hot and Sour Soup:

Restaurant Menu
Szechuan Bistro menu

Restaurant Web Site
Szechuan Bistro

Aug. 19, 2015 : Authentic Chinese Lunches in OKC