I hate Grand Szechuan restaurants except for Chelsea
Try as I might, I just don't get any of the branch restaurants other than the Grand Szechuan on 24th Street & 9th Avenue. I had lunch this week at the 55th Street & 2nd Avenue restaurant. I still have indigestion and did not enjoy one bite of what turned out to be an expensive lunch for a neighborhood restaurant.
Based on other hounds' suggestions, I ordered something called Quong Qing Chicken - a spicy dish with teeny tiny bits of chicken drowning in a sea of chili peppers. The chicken tasted deep-fried and came sesame-coated with gravy. After a few bites, I started burping (yuck) in front of a co-worker. The 'non-existent' chicken was greasy, oily and extremely salty. I left most of the dish and hungry, I decided to order from the generic prix-fixe lunch menu. I ordered wonton soup and mixed vegetables which came with more brown gravy. Before ordering the veggie dish, I asked the sour-pussed waitress (who noted I left the first dish practically untouched) if the veggies were all fresh. She assured me they were. I told her I didn't want any canned veggies. Well, the wonton soup was yucky - the consistency of the wonton filling had a strange texture and the broth was thin. I mean any decent Chinese restaurant can make a tasty wonton soup. The mixed vegetable plate had fresh broccoli and snow peas and CANNED corn and other canned crap such as mushy mushrooms.
I know my second order wasn't a typical Szechuan dish but they couldn't get that right either. Total cost for a neighborhood lunch: almost $25 with tip.
I believe the best way to try Grand Szechuan is to go with several people and sample lots of various dishes. This cuts your losses if you don't like a particular dish. GS has taken on a cult following among Chowhounds and I'm wondering at this point how deserving that reputation is.
Well, what do you usually order at the 24th Street location?
Try the midtown branch (9th Ave btw 50th and 51st). I like it even better than the chelsea location. Order the "fresh killed" kung pao chicken and some ma po tofu (I like to get the latter without pork).
Bear in mind, however, that a lot of the best dishes will be very salty, oily, and spicy. If that's not your cup of tea, you will be disappointed.
"Well, what do you usually order at the 24th Street location?"
I usually go with a few friends and we order several Szechuan dishes and share family style. I don't remember the names but none of these dishes have ever tasted so salty, oily and spicy as the one I had just written about. I just wanted to try this one dish as it sounded interesting from a previous Chowhound thread.
It's best to go with friends and share dishes but I do believe Grand Szechuan is now coasting on its reputation. Just my opinion.
I have only ordered/ been to the 55th street branch and I find the food very inconsistent. Sometimes the chong-qing chicken is crunchy, zesty and perfect, other times gloppy and chewy. At times the eggplant with wonder sauce is perfect....other times too oily.
I had a prawn dish once that was great but never managed to track it down (sometimes I just talk with them and take their suggestions) Medium sized prawns with a light, slightly garlicky sauce on a bed of lettuce. It was a while ago...maybe a scallion or two?
The tea smoked duck is great but very smoky- almost whopper like.
The only sure fire dishes I have tried are the Ma Pa Tofu and the Sour String Beans....which are a taste breakthrough...however one dish can serve about 6.
You should order your food with milder taste or order it with no spices. Most of their dishes has a non-spicy version of the same dish. You must realize that Szechuan food is for getting rid of the "water" in a person's body who lives in Szechuan province since the area is ultra humid. That is the Chinese yin & yang philosophy.
I think their "Xiao Lung Bao" is great. I do agree that the Quong Qing Chicken is bad, but it's heaven for the few who has an iron stomach for spicy food.
I had only eaten at Grand Szechuan on 24th and 9th and so far had very few misses. The spicy eggplant with minced pork is exceptionally good albeit a bit oily, tea-smoked duck is delicious as well. I also like the spinach with garlic, and the snow pea shoots which are mild in flavor - nice counter-balances to spicy dishes. The soup dumplings are excellent and are all-time favorites, and string bean with garlic is very tasty. I don't particularly care for the fancy fresh chicken dishes, nor the mushroom with baby bok choy - the latter was very bland in its soupy white sauce. The spicy and sour squid dish was also boring - I'd definitely not ordering it again. One thing that bothered me was that the staff could be a bit coarse, but now that the waitresses recognize my face they are a lot more friendly - can't say the same for the money-counters.