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Mystery Diner: Szechwan reinvents space, keeps cuisine

Szechwan serves a delicious blend of Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese cuisine, such as the House Special Lo Mein and Crispy Sesame Chicken.
Szechwan serves a delicious blend of Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese cuisine, such as the House Special Lo Mein and Crispy Sesame Chicken.

Reenforced and renovated, Szechwan restaurant in downtown St. Charles is back, bringing with it the same delicious fusion of Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese cuisine.

After having closed in 2011 due to a structural collapse, which caused part of the building to sink nearly two feet, Szechwan reopened over the summer with reinvented flair. Seated on the second floor of a building dating back to 1910 (117 W. Main St.), the renovated space includes a new fully-equipped bar, booths, a built-in buffet, an elevator and heightened views of picturesque downtown St. Charles.

The only thing that has changed about the menu is that you can now place orders online.

Seated at a booth overlooking Main Street, our waiter, who served me at a previous outing to Szechwan, assumed we wanted the lunch buffet at ($9.95) and when we decided to order from the menu, he tried to save us money by saying that the lunch buffet was a better value because it offered most of the items on the menu.

His honesty was much appreciated, and I expected nothing less from Szechwan’s great service and friendly staff.

I decided I would hede his advice on another visit, because the House Special Lo Mein ($13.95) with shrimp, beef and chicken had my name written all over it.

The House Special Lo Mein was a recommendation on my previous visit – and – yes, I ordered it a second time. My dining companion ordered the Crispy Sesame Seed Chicken ($12.95), served in a tangy brown glaze with a side of white rice.

We also ordered the Crab Meat Won Tons ($5.95) – deep fried and flaky dumplings served with crab meat and cream cheese.

Since the Won Tons took a little longer than expected, an employee came over and told us that we could help ourselves to the won tons at the buffet, and that they would be her treat. At that moment, our won tons arrived. But we appreciated the gesture – something I think restaurants should take into account, and do more often. Trust me, customers notice, and WILL come back.

The combination of the Won Ton’s flaky fried dough and creamy filling was delectable. We ate them one by one – some with a smattering of sweet and sour sauce and others with soy. They tasted great both ways.

Wood floors running through the wide-open space, which can accomodate 125 guests, as well as windows that stretch the length of the high ceilings, give Szechwan a open-air vibe. And I love a great view. Don’t feel bashful about asking a waiter to raise the blinds for a better look.

With bellies full, we took a minute to peruse the bar area, where you can see a glimpse of the Fox River.
On our way out, we quickly inquired about whether or not the restaurant still served its famous Mai Thai’s ($5.95) – a secret recipe that blends fine rums with a special mix of juices.

A woman working the front counter affirmed.

“We still make the best Mai Thais,” she said with a radiant smile; and a contagious laugh.

I happen to also concur. As cocktails go, the Mai Thai is king, and Szechwan’s Mai Thai’s are pretty fabulous.

Before traversing the stairway to the outside world and back into the unforgiving weather, I eyed a spot perfect for decompressing after a long day at work. I could visualize myself seated at a corner table in the bar facing the river and nursing a Mai Thai while dreaming of blue skies, sunshine and warm weather.

Address: 117 W. Main St., St.
Phone: 630-513-1889

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed.The diner visits different restaurants and then reports on the experience.

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