Go out of your way to discover Szechuan Bean Flower

January 17, 2012

By David Hayes

If you’re going to open a restaurant off the beaten path, it better feature food tantalizing enough to draw you out of your way to find it.

Such is the situation with Szechuan Bean Flower Restaurant, tucked way behind AtWork!, located on Locust Street.

Longtime diners will recognize the building that was home for a couple of other restaurants that have since moved or gone under. So, it’s a risk opening a Chinese restaurant in an unproven location.

The current owners have done nothing to address the sparse parking — inside the gated lot are just eight spots, with one dedicated to handicapped drivers. From the outside, it still looks like a setting more appropriate for an Italian or Mexican restaurant. And inside, the décor is rather sparse.

If you go

Szechuan Bean Flower Restaurant

  • 525 N.W. Locust St.
  • 677-8749 or 270-3431
  • Dine in or take out
  • www.szechuanbeanflower.net
  • 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
  • $2.99 for appetizers; entrées $5.99 to $13.99
Restaurant reviews are a regular feature of The Issaquah Press. Reviewers visit restaurants unannounced and pay in full for their meals.

But it’s easy to see where the money is spent — the menu is massive. There are 40 lunch items to choose from and 194 dinner selections. It’s almost as if the cook decided to take a protein — say chicken — and stir fry it up every possible way, from almond fried to vegetable chicken.

But I get ahead of myself.

The lunch special comes with a choice of egg flower or hot and sour soup. My vegetarian dining companion ordered the egg flower and was surprised to find extra morsels of veggies like corn and peas. I went the hot and sour route. I, too, was pleased to discover an actual spicy hot and sour offering. Minutes after the soup was devoured, the heat lingered. Nice.

We both then sampled two orders each — the tofu and vegetables and the stir-fried string beans for him and the Szechuan chicken and the orange beef for me.

His first comment was the dishes were spicy, not hot spicy, but a tasty blend of spices that made him sit up and take notice. His actual words were, “These beans have character.”

However, not being a connoisseur of tofu, he wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be that mushy. The flavor at least made up for the texture.

On the other hand, my dishes were intentionally spicy — I ordered three stars out of five. It turned out to be the right amount of heat, as any more and my tastebuds probably would never have forgiven me.

One problem I have with many Chinese restaurants is how similar everything tastes. Not so with Szechuan Bean Flower Restaurant. The Szechuan chicken had a sharp, welcoming bite, while the orange beef sported a burst of well-blended flavors. The orange, which can overpower the sauce, was blended in nicely.

Even my fried rice stood out — I don’t think I’ve ever had an order that was as fluffy as standard white rice. It just added a nice textural change of pace.

With 190 more options to choose from — including an all-you-can-eat hot pot I’m dying to try (but you have to order ahead of time) — Szechuan Bean Flower Restaurant has plenty to entice return trips. Hopefully the right restaurant has finally found its niche in this out-of-the-way location. Issaquah is big enough to welcome another well-prepared, affordable Chinese meal.

David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237 or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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