Located in an unprepossessing strip mall of Route 27, Szechuan Ace does not seem to have much going for it. I’d passed it dozens of times before giving it a try. I’m glad I did because its food is a match for anything you might find in New York’s Chinatown. I’ve eaten here eight to ten times since my first visit, each time with different groups of friends and they have all loved the food.
Szechuan Ace is a family run restaurant and seems to be staffed by three, at most four, people. They are all friendly though there is a bit of a language problem. There are only half a dozen tables and the décor can best be described as functional. The food, however, is another matter and it is what keeps me going to Szechuan Ace repeatedly. Unlike most other Chinese restaurants in suburban New Jersey, the food at Szechuan Ace is true to its roots and has not been toned down for American tastes. It is authentic.
Szechuan food is generally described as bold, pungent, spicy, and oily. It is characterized by the use of chili peppers, garlic and Szechuan peppers( also known as Chinese coriander) and for its pickled dishes. However, the extensive menu at Szechuan Ace has plenty of non-spicy dishes as well as vegetarian options. There is something for every taste. As is now standard in Chinese menus, the spicy dishes are lettered in red and the others in black making it easy for patrons to stick to what they are comfortable with.
The regular menu includes Cantonese staples such as Dumplings, Wonton Soup, Chow Mein, Lo Mein, Egg Fu Yong, Orange Flavored Beef etc., as well as Szechuan favorites such as Kung Pao Chicken, Twice Cooked Pork, Chengdu Chicken, and Ma Po Tofu. All of them are well prepared but it is the ” Chinese” menu ( printed in Chinese and English) that I usually order from. Among our favorites are Seafood Pan-Fried Noodles, Baby Shrimp and Eggplant Casserole, Sauteed Chicken with Shredded Hot Peppers and Stir fried Lamb with Spinach. Among the vegetarian options, we like Eggplant Szechuan Style, Bean Curd Szechuan Style, and Sauteed Chinese Okra. The menu must have over a hundred dishes and so far I’ve only tried about twenty of them. I look forward to trying others like the Chicken with Famous Pickle ( What makes it famous and how does it differ from the regular pickled dishes? ) and Three Cups Chicken ( a Taiwanese specialty). The dishes we’ve tried have all been good with one exception– the Garlic Fried Ribs which were heavily battered, oily and without discernible flavor. Vegetable dishes are $ 8.95 to $ 10.95 and non vegetarian dishes from $ 11.95 to $ 16.95.
From Monday to Thursday, Szechuan Ace offers a Family Plan: Soup and a choice of three dishes from a shorter list of entrees for $ 22.95.It does offer a considerable amount of choice and first time diners may want to try it.
The luncheon menu, available from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM on weekdays consists of Soup, ” House Special Appetizer, and an entrée for $ 6.95 to $ 8.95. Lunch portions are smaller and are served over rice.
Szechuan Ace. 1721 Route 27,Somerset NJ 08873. As you proceed south, it is on the right between Bennett’s Lane and Skillman Ave. Phone: ( 732)937-9330 and (732) 937-9331.
P.S When you sit down at your table at Szechuan Ace, you are given a small dish of pickled broccoli stems, in lieu of the usual deep-fried crispy noodles with duck sauce and mustard. It is delicious and you may want to try making it at home. Here is a recipe:
Peel two broccoli stems with a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer. Slice thinly crosswise and toss with 2-3 Tbsp, rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp sugar, chili sauce ( 1 tsp or to taste), one garlic clove minced, a dash of sesame oil and salt to taste. Store covered in refrigerator overnight. Ready to eat the next day.