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Jun 5, 2008 12:03 PM

Bay Ridge Sichuan - full Sietsema review

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  1. He goes on and on about the pepper but never gets around to saying that the food tastes great. Well, it does.

    I guess what bugs me about this is that Sietsema's review perpetuates the idea that eating Szechuan food is some type of macho exercise where the degree of heat is directly equivalent to how good the food is. It would be like judging which chocolate cake is the best by deciding which one is the sweetest.

    Szechuan food is all about balance and Sietsema does the place a disservice by not talking about the full range of dishes they serve. Some are hot, some are spicy (they're *not* the same thing) and some aren't spicy at all.

    This is a great restaurant and to dumb it down into a "who can eat the most red peppers" contest really doesn't do it justice.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Bob Martinez

      Sietsema has never been about whether the food tasted good or not, it seems to me, but more about how exotic it is. I get a kick out of this whole Night Tripper thing, and think Grand Sichuan is wonderful, but the fact is that the food there isnt nearly as pungent as what Ive had out at Spicy and Tasty. Unless you eat those whole dried chiles, that is.

      1. re: jen kalb

        We've had the dish he concludes with, Chengdu spicy and aromatic fish, and it is one of those "oh my god this is insane" dishes. Otherwise, I also think the heat level is generally higher at Szechuan Gourmet in midtown.

        At least the review notes that the lamb with cumin is "slammin."

        BTW, on our last trip in we had crispy whole fish, and it was impressive. The fish (a big tilapia) was filleted in little segments that were bent out (like massive, fried up gills). The fish was great, the sweet sauce was OK but maybe a little heavy. The hostess (gotta learn her name) said that you can get it spicy if you want.

        We've also noticed that a few things have changed since our first visits. Soup dumplings are totally different - thinner dumpling, somewhat smaller overall (an easy mouthful, actually) and not that soupy (maybe merely "juicy"). Improved, I think, from a C- to a B+.. Hostess enthusiastically told us that the best were at Joe's Shanghai, which I thought was classy. (Also, strangely, she never lets me order the ribs with cumin sauce - she insists it's not very good.)

        1. re: scooter

          I thought the beef with cumin was only OK. The cumin overwhelmed the other flavors. Better is the crispy spicy beef, which is the same dish without the cumin. It might be on the menu now, but when I got it, it was only in the picture section.

          The soup dumplings are great. The plain pork is, I think, better than the pork + shrimp, in which the flavors get mixed and muddied.

      2. re: Bob Martinez

        Bob, I always enjoy reading your comments and I generally agree with your views, but not this time. I enjoyed reading Sietsema's review and I came away with a different impression than you did.

        It seemed to me that the thrust of the article was about a chili pepper contest, not so much a restaurant review. In that context, I thought it was a witty and well-written piece.

        Admittedly, his statement that he chose the venue based on the level of spiciness alone perhaps didn't do proper justice to the restaurant, but my impression was that he must have high regard in general for the place to have selected it.

        Let me admit here that I have not been to Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge, but that will soon be rectified.

        1. re: BrookBoy

          I appreciate the kind words.

          Taken at face value the article is fine as a description of a chili eating contest. What it *isn't* is an actual restaurant review. This is a shame because this is a restaurant that can rightly be mentioned in the same breath as Spicy & Tasty and Szechuan Gourmet. Don't take my word for it - there's a long thread on Grand Sichuan House here -

          That said, they're located in neighborhood more attuned to take out chow mein joints then authentic Szechuan cooking. They need more customers and a full scale review would have been more helpful, both for their business and so that people reading the article would have a better idea of the full range of dishes they serve.

          Oh well, sometimes any publicity is good publicity. You should definitely give them a try.

      3. I think the under-noticed Bamboo Pavilion in Bensonhurst may have better Szechuan food.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Barry Strugatz

          We have to try the Bamboo Pavillion as we are among the very few who were not impressed with Grand Sichuan House (thought it authentic, but not very good).

          1. re: bobjbkln

            As I am reading this thread, I think how lucky I am to be struggling over which Chinese restaurant to go to now that I live in BR. 25 years in Park Slope and aside from the days of Kar and Kar Luck, I never ate Chinese food from the neighborhood. Even the "fast food" places are decent

        2. I'm just wondering when will the general public get to the other four flavors of Chinese food. All this focus on spicy food.

          2 Replies
          1. re: designerboy01

            Do you mean Chowhounds or the general public? Chowhounds have been there for a long time. Since this thread is about a Sichuan restaurant, it seems somehow appropriate to to talk about spicy food.

            1. re: Peter Cuce

              I meant the general public. Nothing against spicy food, I like it myself. But I find that spicy food gets more attention.

          2. Like Charlie Brown repeatedly falling for Lucy's offer to hold the football, I still trek to all ends of the city to try restaurants recommended by the totally unreliable Robert Sietsma. Why, o why? He was clearly too enthralled by his man date with Dr. John to pay any attention to the food. The cooking at Grand Sichuan House is bland, greasy, and--above all--NOT HOT! This includes the Ching Qing chicken, which amazingly manages not to absorb the spiciness of the peppers it comes buried in. Quite a trick. The place was empty on a Saturday evening, and I can see why. If you want real Sichuan food, try Spicy and Tasty or Little Pepper in Flushing. This place is a huge disappointment.