Still Hot After All These Years: Kalvin’s Szechuan

We haven’t eaten at Kalvin’s Szechuan for at least 8 years. Back then we didn’t know what dishes to order so we weren’t really thrilled. We recently came back with friends who are better at navigating the menu than we are, and left the restaurant happily stuffed!

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Even though it says “Kalvin’s Szechuan” on the awning, they’re actually mostly a Taiwanese restaurant. That explains a lot about the food.

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Someone needs to translate this chalkboard menu into English. I’m sure it lists great stuff that’s not on the regular menu…stuff that I’d totally be into but just don’t know the name of.

Anyways, this meal was a very different experience for us because Nikki, Yosef and Imeka quite forcefully and deliberately ordered all the food. It was refreshing to have other people take care of the ordering. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I think I just sat there grinning and gripping my camera with excitement, nodding at all the suggestions they were throwing out.

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Cold Shredded Seaweed with Garlic and Herb. Texture a bit too soft and not enough seasoning. Not quite terrible but not worth ordering again. Can’t win ’em all…

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Spicy Pork Ear. Asian people are the original nose-to-tail eaters. This version is good, dressed in oil and spices, but I also like the Vietnamese version which is pickled and served cold 🙂

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One difficulty with Chinese restaurants is that the menu descriptions sometimes have NO RELATION to what actually arrives at the table. We definitely ordered this dish but I can’t find any matching dish on photographs of the menu nor their takeout menu. Closest thing would be Crispy Salty Peppery Chicken…but that doesn’t even mention the fried basil leaves, which I liked. This dish has that typical Taiwanese breading of sweet potato powder instead of wheat flour, which gives Taiwanese deep fried foods that distinctive delicate-yet-crunchy texture. Juicy chicken meat inside. I’d take this over “popcorn chicken” any day.

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Shredded Fish with Yellow Chives. The fish was probably basa but as a whole it tasted good as a lighter counterpoint to our other dishes. Tastes good with rice. But then, what doesn’t taste good with rice? 😉

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Standout dish of the night: Red Fermented Deep Fried Pork. Same sweet potato powder coating as the fried chicken, but inside were strips of pork marinated in a funky and delicious nam yu (red fermented bean curd). The pork inside looks like it could be char siu (Chinese bbq pork) but trust me, the flavour is totally different.

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If you like funky stuff like natto or blue cheese, this dish will totally turn your crank! That red fermented tofu gives a fantastic layer of aroma and flavour. We all loved it so much, Yosef ordered another plate with a grand wave of the arm, like it was nothing! 😀

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This was our one “vegetable” dish, Vermicelli & Minced Pork in Chili Sauce. I don’t understand why this was listed under “vegetable” on the menu. Can you see any vegetables? Aside from the green onion? 😛

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Not to worry, this was definitely the dish we wanted. Slippery, elasticy clear noodles sitting in a mildly spicy broth, with little bits of ground pork. Very Asian, very comforting, very tasty. Goes great with rice, in that double-starch sort of way. Similar to how Korean people like eating jap chae with rice. Very textural. Slippery is also a texture, right?

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Chicken with Three Spice, otherwise known as “Three Cup Chicken”. Another table favourite, with chunks of bone-in chicken smothered with a thick, flavourful sauce. I swear I could detect a delectable sweetness, like hoisin sauce or something, melding with all the other flavours. Three Cup Chicken is supposed to only contain equal parts of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, and I haven’t had this dish enough to compare different versions, but I think this was a sweeter rendition.

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Diced Chicken with Peanut and Chili Pepper. So yeah, three chicken dishes in the same meal…there ain’t no rules! This was a nice contrast to the Three Cup Chicken. Different flavour and much spicier.

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Of course we ordered rice by the bucket and went buck wild. Sauce, meat, rice…all shovelled into your mouth. Love it.

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Chicken and Bamboo Shoot in Hot Pot. A lighter but still flavourful dish to round out the meal. If I was dining with my family, this would’ve came at the start of the meal, but again, with friends there’s no pretention and no rules!

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The white chunks of bamboo shoot were the cleanest and lightest-tasting bamboo I’ve ever eaten. Bamboo usually has this funky essence (which I love) but this bamboo was a surprise.

Some stuff to try next time: we saw a few tables getting the succulent-looking Pork Shank in Brown Sauce. Imagine a whole pork shank, braised until the meat, fat and skin are all meltingly tender, and served in a glistening brown sauce. If you forget to pre-order, there’s always the Pork in Brown Sauce with Pea Tips, which is cubes of pork belly cooked in a similar fashion.

(OMG I have to fast for a blood test as I’m writing up this post, and this is killing me!)

Glad to see Kalvin’s Szechuan still busy and in-business after all these years. An underappreciated gem that I’ll appreciate more from now on!

Kalvin's Szechuen Restaurant 松林居 on Urbanspoon

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6 thoughts on “Still Hot After All These Years: Kalvin’s Szechuan”

  1. You tried almost all of my favourites at Kalvin’s — I’ve been known to double order the fish with yellow chives dish just so I have some to take home. The noodle dish is also called ants climbing a tree, I think. I heart Kalvin’s.

  2. Mung Bean is a vegetable? It’s usually what’s used for the glass noodles/vermicelli.

    The only time all the Chinese school I was forced to endure comes in handy. Some of the things I can read off that Chinese only menu (not in order):
    -Bean Frangrant Seabass
    -Spicy Stinky Tofu
    -Luffa Stirred fried with clams
    -Golden Sand Fried Rice
    You also snagged one of the items on the Chinese only menu: the fish with chives for $12.99.

    The pork shank you spotted is probably the $22 item on the same menu. The last 5 items on that menu are must call ahead and reserve dishes. The pork shank, a chicken soup, a fish head dish, some sort of shrimp dish and the famous Buddha Jumps the Wall dish. I’m curious about the shrimp dish and Buddha Jumps the Wall dish.

  3. If for whatever reason, you find yourself desiring a portion of their crispy salt and peppery chicken and are coming alone, there’s actually a version that comes with rice, some vegetables, and your favourite basil leaves! It’s a perfect size for one person for lunch

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