Yelp threw a Chinese New Year party like none other at Szechwarn Garden last week and I was lucky enough to attend with 40 other Indy adventures. A night of what seemed like endless authentic Chinese dishes and sake drinks to sample, good laughs and conversation was had and this is my attempt to recap it all to share my experience with you.
Szechwan Garden is located in Lafayette Square, an ethnic and cultural mecca of restaurants and grocery stores in Indianapolis. While I’ve raved about the international marketplaces before, sadly I have not dined in this area of town as much as I would like. Last time I came through here it was to visit Spice Nation (another awesome Yelp event), which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was my first time dining at Szechwan Garden but it certainly won’t be the last.
Yelp always throws great events, but I was still impressed with what Brittany put together for us. 4 large round tables that sat 10 or so were located in the back of the restaurant, which is huge, almost as if it becomes a dance floor at night. There is a large chandelier and colored lights above it… just saying. Karaoke, anyone?
Each place at the table had a Yelp sweat cuff, regular wooden chopsticks and nice black plastic chopsticks, a white fold-out fan and a red and white fan from the Sake sponsor company. Our fans were adorned with Chinese symbols by a visiting college student. Here she wrote Happy New Year for me, which I promptly took a photo of:
Twinkle saved me a seat at her table and the two of us got comfortable as we waited to see what would unfold for the evening.
First, while we were enjoying our fans and hot tea, we sampled Sake from Gekkeikan. One was like champagne, bubbly and dry, while another was dry and sweet. We sampled 6 throughout the evening and I enjoyed all but one of them. I’ve only tried sake twice before that night, but this sampling has opened my mind up to trying more of them.
Then the food arrived. One lady ran back and forth from the kitchen to our tables all night long, starting off with Pork Sesame Dumplings in a savory and sweet sauce that were so soft and velvety they melted in your mouth. How could one begin a meal here without them?
After we quickly grabbed up the dumplings, the Popcorn Chicken arrived. Placing the bowl on the top level of the table, we could easily grab the glass and move the dishes around so all 10 of us could try them. I enjoy the sense of community that it brought to our dinner. We had to take turns and make sure we didn’t move the table while someone was using it!
Popcorn chicken was slightly sweet, slightly spicy and ultimately really good. Sautéed chili peppers were served with the chicken so you could up the heat level if you chose to. That was a common theme here – while dishes were spicy, they were tolerable, and you could always make them hotter with their prepared hot chili sauces.
Between the Popcorn Chicken and the next dish was a barrage of sake tastings. Our event sponsor was so sweet – she would say “would you like a sample?” and I would just put a big grin on my face and say “yes, please.”
Two more dishes were presented that I did not catch the name of. One was a beef and noodles stir fry where the noodles were short but wide (top of the picture below), and the pork and vegetables dish (bottom of the picture below) had a thick sauce that had the right sweet to heat ratio. Thin strings of pork made it a dish that was easy to eat with chopsticks. Both were great, but the beef and noodles lacked in visual appeal.
(In the middle was a bowl of spicy tofu in a light sauce with vegetables. Two vegetarians sat at our table and us meat eaters politely passed on the tofu as we noticed it was the only all-vegetarian dish presented aside from the steamed white rice).
After that (yes, there’s more) we tried Roasted Green Beans and Pork, which provided a pop of color to our plates. Each bean had a slight roasted char on them and were coated with a soy sauce glaze that offered just enough salt to elevate the simple vegetable. Pork was tucked underneath of them but at this point I was feeling full and decided to pass for someone else to enjoy.
That is, until this beauty showed up.
How could I deny myself a taste of this steamy bowl of Spicy Szechwan Beef with Bok Choy? I piled a small hill of rice on my plate so I could pour some of the sauce on top and not have to lick my plate in front of strangers. Thin slices of beef were tender and cooked perfectly, while the bok choy had a mysterious crisp to it despite being submerged in what I’d like to call the perfect spicy beef sauce.
Okay, that’s everything. I’m about as exhausted writing about all of these dishes as I was after consuming them. Though as I type I’m reliving the memories and it makes me desire a trip back to Szechwan Garden to try more authentic Chinese dishes from their expansive menu.
Many thanks to…
Brittany and Yelp Indy for making it a lot of fun to be a Yelp Elite member. I can’t help but love a girl who loves Indy as much as I do,
Szechwan Garden for offering us such a great exposure to their restaurant and passion,
and Gekkeikan for sharing several of their Sake’s with us to enjoy with our meal!