Long’s Chinese Food (成都川菜)
Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
I was zipping down 17th Ave near 14th St SW not too long ago when I saw that Thai Bistro (formerly O Shima, formerly Mt. Everest’s Kitchen) had changed hands yet again to become Long’s Chinese Food. But what piqued my interest was that the Chinese name of the restaurant translates to “Chengdu Sichuan Food” (note that Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province), and a small sandwich board in front of the restaurant read [in Chinese]: “Sichuan people, Sichuan flavours, Sichuan passion.”
It’s well-known that Szechuan Restaurant is my favourite restaurant in the city, so I really wanted to see whether Long’s could give it a run for its money! I rounded up B., my sister and my friend, Eat North co-founder Diana Ng, to give the place a try.
We arrived about an hour before close on a Thursday night, and though the place wasn’t hopping, we were glad to see that we weren’t the only ones there either.
Service was a huge issue – our server spoke ZERO English; she couldn’t even understand it when B. asked for water. Fortunately, my Mandarin is passable and we were able to order our food. Aside from the language barrier, while the food did arrive quickly, when we opened the teapot to indicate that we needed our tea refilled, we saw our server standing in front of the counter looking at her phone. I get that we got there pretty late, but tea and water are crucial when it comes to eating spicy Sichuan.
Everything on the menu was under $20. As we flipped through the large selection, we were given complimentary spicy pickled carrots, cabbage and cucumber (酸菜) to whet our appetites. Having been used to the sweet pickles of Cantonese restaurants, the salty, spicy vegetables were definitely not what I expected. Too salty for my taste.
It was very difficult to not order all my Szechuan Restaurant staples like Spicy Bean Jelly Curd (川北涼粉), Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐), Dry-Fried Green Beans (乾煸四季豆) (which weren’t on the menu anyway) and Dan Dan Noodles (擔擔麵). (Please note since I usually order in Chinese I might not have the exact English translation.) We did cave and get the Braised Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (魚香茄子) and Boiled Fish in Spicy Soup (水煮魚), but otherwise were pretty happy to be trying a few new-to-us dishes.
The boiled fish in spicy soup is a recent addition to our Sichuan repertoire, and part of the reasons I like it is it’s one of the few ways that B. will eat fish! At Long’s the dish is bold and spicy, and in addition to the fish, loaded with cabbage and bean sprouts. Though it’s heavy on the chilli pepper, I feel that it’s too lighthanded on the Sichuan pepper – there isn’t that floral (some argue “soapy”) note that lingers on your tongue.
Braised eggplant in garlic sauce is one of my favourite Sichuan dishes, and in my opinion, the best dish of the evening. The eggplant was the perfect texture – soft, but not soggy, and the sauce was just the right balance of garlicky, spicy and sweet, though again, lacking in the Sichuan peppercorn department.
We were glad that we ordered the braised tofu in soy sauce (紅燒豆腐) instead of our usual Ma Po (tofu with minced pork) as the mild dish gave our tastebuds a bit of a respite from the fiery fish. Fortunately, mild doesn’t mean flavourless. The medium-firm tofu held its shape in the yummy savoury sauce.
Last (and admittedly least) were the steamed pork ribs with rice flour (粉蒸排骨). Diana chose this one because she’d “heard of it” but never tried it before. In this dish, marinated spare ribs are coated with a coarse rice flour and steamed. The pork was fall-off-the-bone tender, but there was an off-flavour in the coating that I couldn’t quite place my finger on (taro, maybe?), and we didn’t like the soggy, gritty texture of the outer coating. We didn’t even bother taking leftovers of this home.
For me, I think it’s safe to say that Szechuan Restaurant still holds the number one spot in my eyes, though I’d definitely give Long’s a try again for my other favourite classics, particularly Dan Dan Noodles (Long’s does a dry version, like Han’s in Chinatown, whereas the version at Szechuan Restaurant is soupier.) They also have an $8.95 lunch special which includes soup, entree, veggies and fruit, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing me pick up some takeout one of these days.
Long’s Chinese Food
1448 17 Ave SW
Calgary AB T2T 0C8
Open for lunch Mon, Wed-Sun. Open for dinner until 9:30 PM Sun-Thu, until 10 PM Fri-Sat. Parking available behind restaurant (access on 16th Ave SW).