Last Sunday, nearly 150 of gourmand/politician Dennis Flannigan's friends dined for a cause: to help keep Tacoma Szechuan in business and in the South Sound.
"They're struggling," the Tacoma Democrat said. "They're determined not to let their food be Americanized. This is real and remarkable food."
Flannigan is such a fan of the Chinese restaurant (and so opposed to it possibly moving to Seattle) that he organized two dinners on Sunday: for $30 per person (plus tax and tip), diners in two sold-out seatings enjoyed 13-course meals.
I was there. I pretty much agree with Flannagan. But I'll let the politician have the floor:
"They have trumped Seattle with extraordinary Szechuan cuisine," Flannigan said. "I want them to succeed. I want them to prosper. I want them to be there when I want Chinese. There is something to a great restaurant that is beyond food and service quality. It is when a restaurant becomes a home, a soul center for friends, fans and even strangers."
So why is the restaurant struggling?
"They are in a primarily Korean food paradise," Flannigan said, noting its location in Tacoma's International (read: Korean) District. "People don't look for them there, and, today I learned while they have a land phone, you can't get their number by dialing 4-1-1. They didn't sign up for that service. Perhaps because they're unsure of getting orders correct over the phone, or knowing how to give directions. But one result is they don't get found in the phone book, or by calling Information. We both know that hurts business."
Tacoma Szechuan is owned by three sisters who emigrated from China two years ago: Min Xie, Min Qin Xie, Min Jie Xie. On Sunday, the sisters, backed by chef Wei Zhong, sous chef is Ge Li, impressed the house.
Here's what we ate: hot and sour and wonton soup; egg rolls; savory pork dumplings; steamed and fried crab; kung pao chicken that was tender and intensely spiced with peppercorns; mixed veggies; hand-cut flat noodles that were both tender and meaty; Mongloian beef that melted like butter in my mouth; crunchy nuggets of fried flounder with fried green beans; fried rice; spicy/smoky tofu in tomato sauce; and two desserts: sweet potato fritters and black sesame rice balls.
Taste for yourselves:
Tacoma Szechuan: 9601 South Tacoma Way, No. 102, Lakewood; 253-581-0102