Back to Grand Sichuan
I went to the Hell's Kitchen branch again with 2 friends. Grand Sichuan is probably my favorite Chinese restaurant in New York at the moment. We got 3 dishes, 2 of which I had gotten before - Aui Zhou Chicken (one of my favorites) and Shrimp with Sichuan Sauce (my friends' favorite, as it turned out) - and a new dish for me, Spicy Chicken with Chinese Broccoli. All three dishes were very enjoyable, but we all seemed to agree that the Spicy Chicken with Chinese Broccoli had more salt than we would have preferred. Grand Sichuan cooks what is to all appearances authentic Sichuan and Hunan dishes, and the food is generally delicious. My only really substantive criticism of the restaurant is that the food is generally higher in salt and oil than is the case, probably, even in most of the other Chinese restaurants I've eaten in. Let me make it clear that I fully accept the premise that this is authentic and true to Sichuan and Hunan tastes. It's just that anyone who wants to be careful about the levels of salt and oil in their diets should keep this in mind vis-a-vis Grand Sichuan. And that includes me, though it won't stop me from coming every so often for a treat. I will say, though, that the last time I went to the Chelsea branch, I took out an order that included the beef tendon in hot oil and, given how my body reacted to it on that occasion, I won't be getting it again soon, much as I like the dish in many ways, including its spicyness. Be warned that the cold dishes in hot oil (e.g. tripe, conch), all very tasty, are bathed in positively massive amounts of the oil. Go forewarned and forearmed, and have a wonderful time!
The one whole fish dish I get at the St. Marks branch is not listed on menupages. If I recall correctly, the fish is first smoked, then fried and then braised in a sauce. It is then topped with fresh cut hot peppers. Incredible dish. The gelatin in the fish comes out with a texture that I would describe as supple. I've tried making this dish at home, going through the multistep process, but it's pretty much hopeless (for me).
Incidentally, I had take out from the 50th St. branch tonight. I've never before ordered the ox tongue and tripe with hot and pepper sauce, but decided to try it after seeing Pan's recommendations. Wow! I've been missing out. Such depth of flavor in the ox tongue. How do they do that? And the texture of the tripe is wonderful. That dish is a keeper.
Hey! I've been to the St. Mark's one several times, and really like the location, but obviously the food is totally different and I keep ordering the wrong thing. None of the stuff that's good in the other location is good here. In fact, I suspect the cooks are from Tiaiwan. Or Hong Kong. So far I've enjoyed orange beef, mo po tofu, and shrimp with black bean sauce and (I think) green peppers or something. But it's not Sichuan to my way of thinking -- too saucy and gloppy, for one thing. I will try the whole fish (sounds Cantonese). Any other recommendations?
from the St.Mark's location, i tend to order:
-- Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken (and you can ask them to make it "real Sichuan style, not too sweet")
-- Sliced Fish and Sour Cabbage Soup
-- Lofah Chicken Soup
-- Dried Bean Curd w/ Spicy Black Bean
-- Crystal Shrimp Dumplings (not Sichuan food but very good here)
-- Cold Cucumber w/ Scallion Sauce
-- String Beans w/ Duck
-- and the whole fishes when i eat there, but i usually get delivery and the whole fishes don't travel well...
I was told that the chef is actually from Hunan province. I like the following dishes at the St. Marks location:
6. Sichuan Wonton with Red Oil *
19. Sichuan Cold Noodle *
22. Beef Tendon with Spicy Peppery
23. Ox Tongue & Tripe * with spicy peppery sauce
24. Beef * with spicy peppery sauce
25. Five Spiced Beef
6.55 (A little salty)
33. Cold Cucumber with Scallion Sauce
35. Cold Soft Bean Curd
46. Kung Bao Chicken
8.55 (consider asking for it spicy or extra spicy, but if not, it will still be tasty)
Any of the whole fish dishes should be good.
79. Prawn * with garlic sauce
82. Smoked Tea Duck
86. Ma Po Tu Fu * house spicy bean curd
87. Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken
88. Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken of beef + $0.50 cents
94. Eggplant with Garlic Sauce *
8.25 (includes lots of ground pork)
100. Sauteed Duck with Bitter Melon
101. Sour String Beans with Minced Pork *
104. Shredded Potatoes with vinegar sauce
105. Braised Pumplin with Ginger & Scallions
110. Sweet Red Date & Lotus Seeds
112. Hunan Chicken *
8.95 (I ask them for no green peppers)
116. Beef with Cumin Flavor *
12.95 (tasty with a nice Indian-like spice mixture - lots of cumin but a little salty)
127. Sauteed Cured Dry Bean Curd
8.55 (the vegetable answer to bacon; it's great!)
131 Steamed Turnip with Cut spicy pepper
140. Fish & Sour Cabbage In a Little Hot Wok
16.95 (my FAVORITE dish! I get this more often than anything else. It's very spicy, has a lot of sour cabbage, and is made with a delicious spice mixture - again, the similarity to Indian food is notable, though the taste is quite different from Indian food.)
145. Sauteed Celery and Dry Bean Curd
146. Dry Bean Crud with Spicy Black Bean
148. Sweet & Sour Sliced Lotus Root
8.25 (not at ALL like the red gloppy stuff; this is vinegar and sugar and not very sweet; it also has plenty of hot peppers and is moderately hot)
149. Sauteed Broad Bean with Sour Cabbage
8.25 (very good if you like broad beans)
154. Sauteed Sweet Potatoes with Ginger & Scallion
157. Sauteed Cucumber with Black Mushrooms
8.25 (believe it: This is a great dish!)
158. Sauteed Shredded Tumip
8.25 (a truly mild dish but with a nice taste)
I hope these recommendations help you.
The 2nd Ave. one is actually between 55th and 56th St. If you haven't been you should really check it out. The 'New Sichuan' part of their menu is not really replicated at any of the other branches. I first heard about and went to this branch because Steingarten did a piece in which he singled out a meal he had had there.
Here's the typical menu I order for 3-4 people:
Sichuan Dan Dan Noodle
Sliced Conch w. Wild Peppery Sauce
Second Sister's Diced Rabbit *
Chong Qing Spicy and Aromatic Soft Shell Crab *
Dry and Sauteed Baby Shrimp
Sliced Live Fish w. fish soup & spicy pepper
Sliced Lotus Roots w. sweet & sour sauce or white sauce
When I ordered this menu for the first time a few years back, it was the best Chinese food I'd ever had. It still stands out in my memory. As I suggested above, unfortunately, they seem to be going through a rough patch. Nevertheless, still very good. The sliced live fish dish remains an absolute winner.
I like the St. Marks branch a lot as well. Their whole fish preparations are incredible. Too far from me to frequent often, unfortunately.
Nice list Pan. I'll have to make some visits to try out some of that. I live right near the 50th St. Grand Sichuan, but I mostly find myself going to the one on 2nd Ave. At one point in time, I judged the 2nd Ave one to be better (or least more suited to my tastes). Now I'm not so sure since the last couple of times I've gone, some dishes have been rather disappointing, e.g. an order of tea smoked duck was an abomination. How would you compare/rank the two?
I've never been to the one on 2nd Av. in the 30s. I tend to still think the ~50th St. branch is the best (though requests to make things less spicy by my spice-wimp relatives can understandably throw the quality off). I live in the East Village, so I am constantly patronizing the St. Marks branch and like it very much. I don't know which is better, the 24th St. branch or the St. Marks branch, but their menus are significantly different, because of the larger emphasis on Hunan cuisine at St. Marks. Unfortunately, the St. Marks location doesn't make the Spicy and Sour Squid. :(
Hi Pan --
I need to find tasty new dishes to order at the Hell's Kitchen branch, as I am falling into a delicious rut. What's the Aui Zhou chicken? By the way, you know oil is good for you, right? It's a "good" fat that reduces the bad cholesterol in your blood. So says the Harvard health web site and that bible of nutrition the South Beach Diet.
Wow, that was an old post! Oil can be tough on the stomach. Anyway, I think "Aui Zhou Chicken" is really a typo and should be "Gui Zhou Chicken." It's a really tasty, spicy chicken dish.
I made a previous post on favorite dishes at the Hell's Kitchen branch but wouldn't know how to find it easily. So I'll make another list, using the menu on menupages.com. First of all, though, I recommend the first two dishes on the Prodigal Daughter menu, which is not online.
These are all recommended:
45. Sichuan Wonton* W. Red Oil
46. Sichuan Cold Noodle* Or Not Spicy
47. Dan Dan Noodle* W. Chili Sauce
48. Ox Tongue, Tripe* W. Hot & Pepper Sauce
49. Beef Tripe* W. Hot & Pepper Sauce
50. Five Spiced Beef
52. Beef* W. Hot & Wild Pepper Sauce
53. Beef Tendon* W. Hot & Pepper Sauce 6.55
58. Chicken* W. Garlic Paste
61. Broad Beans W. Scallion Sauce
62. Jelly Fish W. Scallion Oil
64. Cucumber W. Fresh Garlic
American Chinese Food
68. Kung Bao Chicken*
Kung Bao Chicken is for some reason listed in this part of the menu, but is a genuine Sichuan-style dish.
109. Braised Whole Fish* W. Hot Bean Sauce
113. Smoked Tea Duck
118. House Bean Curd * W. Spicy Sauce and Minced Pork
123. Aui Zhou Spicy Chicken*
124. Crispy Quail
I think any of the fish dishes listed here would be good, and also the Kung Bao Squid. But there's a better squid dish on the menu (see the Hunan menu below).
145. Cellophane Noodle* W. Minced Pork
I'm not sure if I've had this only at the Hell's Kitchen location or also at this location, but it was certainly great at 50th St.!
155. Sauteed Spicy Chinese Broccoli*
156. Eggplant* W. Garlic Sauce W. Pork
160. Sauteed and Dry Bitter Melon
Mao's Home Cooking
174. Sour String Beans* W. Minced Pork
175. Spicy and Sour Squid*
These two dishes are knockouts!
179. Potatoes W. Vinegar Sauce
That's all I can think of offhand.
Feel free to ask any questions you like about these dishes.