Grand Sichuan 7th Avenue South
After waiting a few weeks for them to get well up to stride, I stopped by for my first visit to Grand Sichuan 7th Avenue South (between Carmine and Leroy) for takeout about 9:30 Thursday night. While waiting outside and enjoying the evening, a couple came out of the ¾ full restaurant, smiling, glowing - she said “Delicious!” he said “That was a feast!” as he rubbed his belly - so I felt pretty good about what was to come, as their St. Mark's location is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. Only a ten minute-wait later, and I was on my way home. Well, folks, based only on this short survey, it looks like we have another winner in the neighborhood. Having learned a bit about refinement from the restrained, masterful hand at the stove at Amazing 66, I was still taken aback on opening up the container of wontons in spicy red oil and seeing what looked like not much, slender dumplings and only a little bit of saucing. At first bite I thought “OK” but wasn’t overwhelmed. Second dumpling down, and I’m starting to get it, and by the third one it’s official, as the slight simmer starts to turn into a bit of a burn, “WOW! that’s one of the best Chinese dishes I’ve ever eaten!” The cold cucumber in scallion-sesame sauce didn’t just seem underdressed, it was, not as good as St. Mark's rendition, but quite refreshing nonetheless. The cumin beef fell only a bit short of the St. Mark's version, which is one of my other favorite Chinese dishes, but really showed off the master’s hand – dry-sautéed – damned if I know how they get it that way, and indeed, drier than the St. Mark's version, which carries just a bit of a sheen, where this had none – but still quite tasty, with a birds-nest of something that, since it was too entangled to separate, got snarfed down in one chewy gulp, and turned out to be the spice. Whoa! Didn’t resemble any type of pepper preparation I’d ever encountered before, but it definitely had the kick of the dish. The hostesses were quite hospitable, the space itself, with white tablecloths, looks nicely done, I feel like a rich man having them in the ‘hood. Addendum: to go with leftovers Friday night, I went back for another dish of those wontons, yeow! The cucumbers even tasted better the next evening. When you try it, as you most definitely should, let us hear about other dishes too.