Monday, November 10, 2014

S&W Pepper House 西南風


Unintentionally spending an unproductive day from grabbing a breakfast snack at Mancakes (which was good), then going for mediocre dim sum in Richmond at Red Star but having to rush back to Vancouver, followed by a scare of Xu's Wonton House permanently closing which resulted in us trying North Meixi for a couple of unpleasant dim sum dishes, to walking around Crystal Mall afterwards because we needed to kill time before eating dinner. After all this, I just wanted to go home! I hate unproductive days and it was pretty much having to come back to Vancouver that caused the hiccup in our plans, sigh.

The good news is, killing time by walking around Crystal Mall was not so bad because it was worth it in the end to have dinner at S&W Pepper House. We did not even have to circle around for parking this time too! S&W Pepper House offers authentic Szechuan cuisine and the restaurant uses dried chilli peppers as well as Szechuan peppercorns, therefore no BS chilli oil and soy sauce only!

Walking in, the restaurant looks very simple and there is no decor, however the place is fairly clean. There is a nice chilli oil and dried chilli pepper aroma, but in a good way and not "greasy" whatsoever. As for the seating arrangements, there is one table suitable for large parties and booth seating arrangements along the wall. The owner and staff were also friendly and inviting!


SLICED PORK IN GARLIC SAUCE ($8.95).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The pork belly is thinly sliced but could have been thinner and is not comparable to New Szechuan Restaurant's at all. In addition, the pork tastes dry and chewy. As for the sauce, there is a rich garlicky flavour along with a tangy vinegar and a medium level of spiciness.

Underneath the slices of pork belly, there is a handful of cold and fresh tasting bean sprouts. I am not a huge fan of bean sprouts including when having bun bo hue, but I really like these! The bean sprouts taste very refreshing and slightly tangy from the sauce. The sauce overall could taste more flavourful though.

GARLIC GREEN BEANS AND EGGPLANT ($11.95).
Rating: 2.5/5.
The vegetables are well executed, where the bean sprouts have a nice soft crunch and the slices of eggplant taste tender as well as juicy. A lot of Szechuan cuisine restaurants prepare dishes more oily than needed, but the level of oiliness is good here.

RICE, LARGE ($4.00).
Every table ordered a bucket of rice so we did the same instead of ordering a fried rice. The rice is served in a stainless steel bucket to ensure it stays warm.

SPICY CRISPY PRAWNS ($16.95).
Rating: 4/5.
Every time we order prawns, I always have to ask if the restaurant uses actual prawns or just shrimp, then if it is shell-on which I prefer, and if the prawns are small or large. In this case, the staff mentioned the prawns are large but they are actually small. Fortunately though, the shrimp is so good! The butterflied shrimp are just cooked and taste very buttery. There is a mild spiciness and a tingling sensation from the Szechuan peppercorns. Furthermore, the shrimp has a rich char from a good wok seasoning and heat. To date, I have probably only mentioned wok seasoning like three times, because it rarely happens in the restaurants I have tried! Under the butterflied shrimp, there are also fresh cuts of peeled cucumber.

BOILED SLICED FISH WITH ASSORTED VEGETABLES ($13.95).
Rating: 3/5.
This is a fairly well prepared dish, where the slices of basa taste tender, flaky and buttery. In addition, the "sauce" tastes of dried chilli peppers, Szechuan peppercorns, chilli bean sauce and a light dash of chilli oil. The sauce is not too oily at all and there is a mild level of spiciness, along with a touch of sesame oil.

TOTAL: $60.15 + TIP $9.85 = $70.00.

S&W Pepper House exceeded my expectations, the food is well cooked and the staff are friendly. Most of the Szechuan dishes I have tried in Vancouver are fairly bland and the dominate flavour is chilli oil which is not very pleasant, but S&W Pepper House uses dried chilli peppers, Szechuan peppercorns, chilli bean sauce, sesame oil and chilli oil. Furthermore, none of the dishes are too oily. With regards to level of spiciness, we were not asked if we wanted the food to taste spicy or not but the staff did ask other tables. The dishes we ordered appear to have a controlled mild to medium level of spiciness and usually I would prefer more, but it was not needed this time because the food is actually tasty.

As for the service, the staff and owners are very friendly. The waitress refilled my hot water a few times without having me having to ask, and usually those who drink hot water instead of tea are overlooked. Also as we were walking out after dinner, I took a photo of the interior and BF told me the owner actually waved and smiled at us!

POSITIVES
- Quality ingredients
- Genuinely friendly staff and owner
- Good food does not need to be spicy
- Nothing tastes too oily like other Szechuan restaurants

NEGATIVES
- Pork belly could be thinner and tastes dry
- Less than twelve tables

LITTLE THINGS
- Spicy crispy prawns are recommended
- For those who want spicy spicy food, ask
- Reservations are recommended for large parties

Food: 3/5
Service: 3.5/5

S&W Pepper House 西南風 on Urbanspoon

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