Golden Sichuan in Flushing
Golden Sichuan (former golden monkey) 133-47 Roosevelt Ave, next to Little Pepper.
A dump, like Little Pepper. Much better service, cool manager/waiter speaks good english. Extensive menu, mostly Sichuan, but also some Shanghainese and Taiwanese. Manager claims they have chefs from all three regions. I believe on the first two, though the Taiwanese three cup chicken we ate, while delicious, did not have the touch of authenticity...to me, it tasted like a Shanghai guy made it, but that's just my intuition.
Three outstanding dishes worth a trip from anywhere:
1. fish with spicy bean paste (or something like that)
near perfect rendition; basically mapo tofu with a bit of sublime stewed fish. It was pretty spicy, but they held back on the sichuan peppercorns, specifically, out of gringo displeasure concerns. It'll require another visit or two to fully scale that hurdle. But even so....wow. The dish really gelled.
2. beef shank with garlic
had to have been made by the Shanghai chef, great succulent brown sauce and heavily Jewish style slow-cooking falling-apart stewed meat. But there's some cross-current, and the sauce had a ultra-slow building burn that was so unexpected and so wonderful. Perfect union of sichuan and shanghai. We were moaning over this one.
3. tea-smoked pork
yep, pork, not duck. Sliced very thin....it's the cut usually called "bacon" on Sichuan menus, and the smoke is PERFECT. So much Sichuan smoking tastes like it was done over an electric fire (but not necessarily in a BAD way), but this is just elegant.
Other dishes I tried were merely very good. Their loofah (here called "squash") was perfectly cooked, btw. Oh, and a soup, which may have been off-menu, of tomato and beef was pretty sublime. It came with the "happy meal" deal, where you get a couple dishes with rice and soup for like $11. We ordered five happy meals plus some stuff off the menu. They egregiously overcharged us, but we were too happy to complain. But you may want to pay attention to the charging.
I've never had a problem with the service at Little Pepper, even in the early days when no one spoke any English. Toned down spicing and egregious overcharging at Golden Sichuan? Jim, you're not convincing me to make the switch.
The good news is that when Little Pepper finally moves, those who complain about the inaccessibility of their new location may have someplace to go.
re: el jefe
To say A has better service than B is not to say that B has BAD service. The service at Golden Sichuan was really good. And the spicing wasn't toned down...just, specifically, the Sichuan peppercorns. A/nd when I complained, all subsequent dishes came out fully dosed. The overcharging was what it was. I could have said something, but we were all in a bliss state, and $25 each for lots of great food didn't seem that bad.
Anyway, not trying to convince anyone to do anything. Just reporting my experience. The five people at lunch left very very happy. Those three dishes were as good as I ever need to eat anywhere. There's likely more great stuff on the menu. I want to really work thru the Shanghai stuff, for sure (note: menu isn't divided up; you kind of have to know your stuff).
Tea-smoked PORK, oh mine... Quite interesting: gotta try this! IMHO, one of the most distinguishing features of Sichuan tea-smoked duck is that it is not dripping with fat. My Cantonese friends were so much surprised at how duck can taste lean and delicious at the same time .
But then again, I am a Sichuan nut. A wildly controversial move of XLJ doesn't bother me much: there is a growing Chinese community in that neighborhood and the Q-line bus goes there too!
re: Joey Deckle
Look, I've been in enough dining situations where my gringohood was a fully impenetrable barrier that places which require a few visits to break the bronco don't bother me. I'm willing to go to that trouble. Chowhounding is process.
Also, the overcharging wasn't shameless. We ordered "happy menu" entries plus real menu entries, and the waiter charged us real menu prices for all. Might have been an honest mistake. Waiter was a good guy, I didn't leave feeling abused. Again, $25 for a great banquet feels ok to me. And, honestly, the place was so empty (like Little Pepper) that I was pleased to do my part to help keep a good place viable. Your milage may vary.