Grand Sichuan 7th Ave. Report
Do not yet have their liquor license nor is anything else working correctly. Fans of the branch on 9th Ave., we hastened over tonight after finding menus in our building but it was disappointing beyond belief. The pork/shrimp soup dumplings had a thick dough and none of the magic we were anticipating. We ordered sauteed soft shell crabs that were way too salty and sent them back. The chicken with hot peppers was all pepper with miniscule pieces of chicken that you hard to search for. The garlic shoots we ordered never arrived. At the end of the meal, the waiter asked if we were waiting for vegetables and we told him to forget it.
This was a bummer of a meal.
Went here last night. The interior of the place is, in comparison with the other Grand Sichuans, modern, clean and pleasant. There about 5 window tables and they are nice to watch the foot traffic, although a window design forces one to duck a bit to get a clean visual.
The food here, unfortunately, is not (yet) on a par with the former glory of the 2nd Ave resto (now under new ownership). In my opinion, that was the best sichuan food in the city, including the places in Queens. The former cashier from there is now part owner of the new resto, and she is delightful.
We ordered the following: ox tongue and tripe, dan dan noodles, diced potatoes in Kung Po sauce, live sliced with in spicy hot broth, and dry sauteed soft shell crab (off menu). The ox tongue, as it was at the 9th Ave. resto, is fantastic. If I'm in a sichuan restaurant, I always order it, and I think they have the best recipe. Explosive flavors. Yum. Evidently (gathering from the owners comments on his website, thegrandsichuan.com), they are trying to use more health conscious recipes. This approach hurt them, I think, with the dan dan noodles. The dish I got was seriously lacking in heat from chile oil and the pork was equally flavorless. Most disappointing dish of the night. The potato dish is new to me. Potatoes are diced into cubes the size of sugar cubes, fried (pan or deep, I couldn't tell) and then sauced with the kung pao sauce. The latter is really flavorful, but the texture was too sticky, especially when the dish cooled down. The sauce also affects the texture of the fried potatoes. Good but not great dish. Probably wouldn't order it again. The soft-shelled crab dish ($18.95) is off menu (it used to be on the 2nd ave. menu), and I requested it from one of the waitresses. If you can describe a dish from the menu of either the 9th or 2nd Ave restos, it seems like they are perfectly willing to make you whatever dish you want. It arrives with a very generous portion of soft shelled crabs. It is battered and fried and then a heap of dried chile peppers is added. Very, very fine dish, although not quite as good as the original. A touch too sweet and the batter a little too heavy (they didn't use batter at all when they first served this at 2nd Ave. Maybe it's a seasonal thing). Nevertheless, I am definitely ordering it when I go back. The fish in chile oil is on every standard sichuan menu. What distinguishes the GS version is that they (at least this is my conjecture) smoke the fish. Wow. The broth itself is not the best, but the fish is incredible. It's cooked (how?) so that it's almost gelatinous in texture and with the smoky accents, we had there the best morsels of the evening.
Service was very friendly and helpful. No service glitches as far as I can tell--but I'm generally easy to please. The food took a bit longer to come out (compared to other Chinese restos), but about on a par with other high end places in town. Given the complexity of the dishes, I'm not complaining.
All in all, a quality start. Prices are surprisingly low and the food is quite good. It is not (yet) the best sichuan in Manhattan, that would be Sezchuan Gourment, but I'm very happy to see GS empire reemerge. Incidentally, they are still BYOB. I saw a little bodega a block or so north of the resto (on the West side, I believe) which sells Belgian Ales, so you can jump over there if you forget to bring something.
Have eaten numerous times at the st. marks Grand sich (never been a fan of 9th ave - as I've always found it blander) - so I've been looking forward to 7th ave opening - right in my nabe! Have ordered there three times now and am very happy to say that everything seems very comparable to the St. Marks branch......
Cheap and good Asian food in the West Village is hard to come by.
From a regular person who works in the area's perspective, the Grand Sichuan is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I got the Sliced Fish with Scallions and Ginger lunch special and it was good. The fish was fresh and the sauce really tasty and light.
If you work in the neighborhood and would like to have a nice, decent lunch for under $10 with tips, check out the Grand Sichuan.
Good News, I can report that we went there Friday night and had none of the problems mentioned here.
Tongue and Tripe were well seasoned, thin sliced with just a hint of the Szechuan peppercorn tingle. What makes the dish is a smattering of fresh cilantro that puts a nice bright counterpoint on the smoky deep flavors of the meat.
Mung Bean Noodles were comparable to those at the 2nd avenue branch. Here though, the noodles are thicker and shorter, but retain the barely-there lightness of texture and heavy chili oil sauce.
But the stars were the entrees. Kung Pao Potatoes had an acceptable sauce, which is not normally my favorite, but my vegan wife was excited to be able to finally taste a vegetarian dish with this preparation. But the Potatoes themselves were divine! Crispy on the outside, with the lightest possible batter (or was it just a searing?) yet al dente in the middle. The texture was so unusual that one might not believe that this is the same vegetable as a french fry.
Chong Qing Chicken was better than 2nd avenue. Texture was spot-on -- each bite of chicken had a perfect crispy crunch, and the last morsel retained the same crisp as the first. The szechuan peppercorns and red chili peppers retain their tingly/ethereal sensations in addition to the simple heat. It's not the fresh chicken served at the 9th avenue branch -- does anyone know why they don't make this a standard option at all of their branches??
But the best dish was the Sauteed Cured Dry Bean Curd. The tofu is smoked then thin sliced, providing a good deep smoked flavor. Then, they're sauteed with fermented black beans.
My wife was eating this dish while my eyes were bugging out about the chicken. "Wow", she said, "this is really good." Then another bite. "Oh my, this is fantastic." Another moment passes. "Wow this is great!"
"Okay, so to summarize," I say, still enthralled by my chicken, "you like this dish." Eventually I dragged myself away from my plate to hers. Bite. "Wow!" Bite. "oh my, this is so good!". Bite. "Holy cats, this is great."
I was prepared for the incorrect pacing that is endemic to many east asian restaurants -- I think that this is part of the culture; that everyone is sharing each dish so it doesn't matter that appetizers and entrees are delivered to each person at the same time. The apps came out one, then the other, but when our entrees came, all three waiters were there to provide fresh plates and flatware and serve all three entrees at once. A nice surprise -- I've only seen the 'team serve' at restaurants costing thrice as much (and even then only occasionally). It seemed that they were making an effort to make sure we were both occupied at the same time.
Excellent meal. Also, less than $40 -- the menu is divided into small and large portions, so you can easily sample a variety of dishes. They're following the ubiquitous 'tapas' model of dining, but WITHOUT jacking up the prices.
Also, it bears mentioning that the decor is that of a 'date place', unlike the 'hole in the wall' feel of all other GS branches.