You enter into an outer lobby where you are greeted by a floral display
Also their Special board. This one written in Chinese.
Pat hit the nail on the head with his opening line. This is not your typical Indianapolis Chinese Restaurant. You know the restaurants. They all have the same menu, the one with steamed or fried dumplings for $4.95 and a $7.95 lunch special with egg roll and soup. The only variant being the name on the menu. That is not to say you are going to get the same meal at all the locations. You hand the same recipe and ingredients to 3 chefs you will more than likely end up with 3 different tastes. Chefs are, if nothing else individuals.
This place deals in the “nasty parts”. Lungs and intestines. You know the stuff that is never mentioned in “polite” Restaurant society. They even offer a small plate of Beef Offal with Turnip. However this is not what drew me here. It was Dim Sum. Small plates of different foods, typically dumplings or balls steamed or fried. However before I go into my dumpling lunch I must mention our lunch guest, Bob, a friend from school. He was in for a visit from North Carolina. He likes hot food. Very hot food. He ordered a diced chicken in chiles and ordered it as hot as possible. He ate it without even breaking into a sweat.
Lou’s menu is a big book loaded with amazing pictures. I scanned their carry out menu,which is very big as well. This will be posted on Zomato for anyone interested. As for the Dim Sum they have their own menu,complete with pictures. The prices range from $3.65 to $4.95 with the most coming in at $3.95. My first dish was a Stuffed Eggplant.
This was my favorite. Beautifully cooked eggplant stuffed with what tasted like minced shrimp and pork in a nicely textured dressing. It was covered with a sweetened soy sauce. As I said it was my favorite. For some reason it reminded me of Thanksgiving.
These Shrimp Balls were very interesting. They had the standard saltiness of a shrimp paste yet had the airy texture of a Southern style dumpling. I think I would have enjoyed them more with a dipping sauce of some sort. Something other than soy, hot chile oil or packs of sweet and sour sauce.
I have had Short Ribs at other Chines Restaurants before. The sauce may differ but they always have one thing in common. They are always chewy. The rib is never cooked long enough to become tender. I believe this is my first time for this type of sauce. It had a decent flavor and a slight pepper bite however it was a bit gelatinous from the corn starch. They served a goodly amount so I took them home and was able to “salvage” them with just a little effort. So the bones were there.
This was the oddest one for me. I have had shrimp and pork dumplings before but never like this. Other places served them like the twisted sort of ubiquitous dumpling you see at most other joints. As you can see these are far from small and twisted. These are large and dense. The filling is in a cavity inside.When you cut them the minced shrimp and pork is cradled like soup in a bowl it doesn’t come gushing out like jelly in a donut. The walls of the dumpling are about a quarter of an inch thick and the inner most half appears to be only partly cooked. The whole thing is chewy and the inside most of all. The filling was tasty enough but the dumpling had a sweetness to it that I found to be incongruous with the filling.
I enjoyed my dumpling lunch. Any issue I had was with my selections. The House upheld its end I may have just picked the wrong things for me. On weekends they bring in Dim Sum carts; like dessert carts in a fancy French joint. Now that I will definitely try.
Looks pretty mundane doesn’t it. After all it sits in the middle of a sprawling strip mall. Surrounded by a bunch more. Don’t let its appearance fool you. There is a nice little buffet behind those doors. One with an amazing array of Chinese food. It even has freshly prepared sushi. All for $6.95 at lunch and $9.95 for dinner.
This is the first hot line, with about every Chinese tidbit you would want.
Pat and I were shameless in our gluttony. The Chinese food was very well prepared and everything stayed crisp and hot. They never overloaded any one item, relying on frequent restocking to keep the table intact.
The sushi was nicely done as well. The selection of rolls were rather average, as they bring out the “fancy” rolls at dinner. However they were very tasty. Of course the use of rice and nori was abundant. I don’t think you can expect yellow tail or salmon for 6 bucks.
This is the second hot line. Pork and chicken were well represented as well as various veggies, in the form of egg rolls, pot stickers and General Tso’s contribution. I would guess they had more than 30 different items on the steam tables. Plus the sushi and deserts and salads. They even had calamari rings and surimi wrapped in bacon.
This is the salad station. It also had fresh melon and puddings. They even had ice cream in a little freezer. Of course I didn’t see that until we were leaving.
This was the desert station. Little petits fours and cookies and macaroons. I know none of these were house made, but they were really pretty tasty. The ones with sprinkles were flavored with coffee.
This was one of the better buffets I have eaten at. The marrying of skillfull cooking and ready made items made it a very memorable lunch. I honestly think it’s phenomenal that it is only $6.95.
There are three or four Szechwan Gardens in Indianapolis. That is why I specified the one on Lafayette Road. I cannot imagine any actual foodies, that don’t like Chinese food. I recall watching a television program (on the food network. Naturally) talking about Chinese food restaurants in the United States. The commentator remarked that were more Chinese restaurants in the US than McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell combined. They also showed one of the proprietors who commented. “Americans love Chinese food because they don’t know how to cook it.” Pat and I were discussing this at lunch with our server, and I remarked that I understood the technique of stir fry, etc. it was the sauces that I found mysterious because I didn’t know what was in them. To which our server replied “neither do we.” So, on that note, let’s do lunch.
As you can see from the extensive menu. This joint is the real deal. The sort of place where you go to get your Chinese food freak on. Pat likes it because he can usually find something with no onion. Still, he usually plays it safe. Today he ordered pork with garlic sauce.
I was like a kid in a candy store with all this new stuff to try. In Spain there are tapas. In China they have Dim Sum. Assorted small plates and dumplings meant to share. With dim sum , the pace and order of your dining is determined by the cook time. The dishes are brought out as they are completed. My first small plate was Short rib with Honey Sauce.
The pieces they used were small with big bone and as much cartilage as meat. You had to work at it but the slightly sweet sauce made it worthwhile. Besides, I rather enjoyed the slight “tooth” the cartilage offered. Besides, beef cartilage is supposed to be an effective pain reliever for arthritis. My next dish was Baby Cuttlefish in Curry Sauce.
I have had squid and octopus before, but this is the first time for cuttlefish. Since all three are cephalopods, I figured it would have similar flavor, fitting somewhere in between. I found it to be more assertive than octopus. That could be because of the curry sauce. The dish had a slightly odd flavor I could not quite describe. I am not even sure if I liked or disliked the dish. I would be willing to try the fish again, perhaps in a different sauce. Next one up was Chicken Feet in Special Sauce.
Admittedly, chicken feet are probably an acquired taste. as you can expect they don’t have a lot of meat, but to me it’s about the skin. If you like the skin on fried chicken you might like chicken feet. This particular chicken didn’t have real crispy feet but the sauce it was in was.. well.. special and good. Moving on to the deep-fried pork dumpling.
These were exceptional. A light and airy dough filled with shredded pork. It offered a sweetness more than that of just the pork. I think these dumplings would be right at home with any sort of barbecue sauce or hot sauce. I think they are definitely a must try. Lastly, we come to the Pan-fried Turnip cake.
Asian turnips have the flavor similar to a daikon radish. I have been eating them regularly, as a snack or raw in salads. So I was curious to see how the heat might change the flavor. these cakes had a slight sweetness; that could be due to the addition of heat or the recipe. Once again, this should really be on your list of things to try. If you go there.
So. I don’t know about the other Szechwan Gardens in town but I’m of the opinion if you want some Chinese food Lafayette Road is where you ought to go.