Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
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The Chinese New Year, which happens this week, not only means gifts, an early spring cleaning, and the gathering of family and friends, but, more important, a celebratory feast!
There are two menus at the restaurant: one Chinese and one American. Little red marks on the menu indicate the hot dishes, so beware … or order one if you dare! The authenticity is clear, as the 85-seat bistro gets busy at lunch daily.
At Szechuan, its ambitious chef dabbles with regional Chinese cuisine and brings a real taste of China into Oklahoma.
The bistro offers soft noodles, thin rice noodles, soups, fried seafood platters, sizzling platters and clay pot cooking ($8.95-$11.95). Prices range from $1.35 for an egg roll to a whole snapper at $19.95.
That fresh and crispy snapper was the highlight of our lunch. The chef cooked the firm-fleshed white fish just until it lost its opacity. It was presented on an oval platter — complete with the head, eyeballs intact — then topped with a simple, orange- and pink-hued sweet-and-sour sauce. It was garnished with sliced bell peppers, green onions and cilantro.
Our parade of dishes began with minced chicken in a lettuce wrap ($7.50), followed by a highly unusual beef dish with Sriracha hot chile sauce ($8.50). The thinly sliced strips of beef weren’t overpowering, although they certainly picked up some heat along the way.
Next up, we opted for some gorgeous Szechuan-style jumbo shrimp (eight for $10.95). It came with vegetables that included baby corn, broccoli, water chestnuts, carrots, asparagus and green onions.
We ended with bowls of tapioca cooked in coconut milk, which are complimentary to every diner.
Above all, the staff and setting make everyone feel right at home, and there’s certainly a little something for everyone.
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Photo by Shannon Cornman