Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Outer Boroughs >
May 21, 2014 07:27 AM

Update on Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan

I hadn't been since shortly after the Times review and I couldn't find any other recent reports. I went with 6 Chinese friends. We had:
Pumpkin pancakes--definitely not as good as before, somewhat tasteless and greasy.
Fish soup with sour vegetable--delicious, delicate, impeccable fish.
Mao's pork shoulder--delicious, much better than before
Shrimp with very peppery salt--terrific, we were all sucking the heads
Dried beef with white pepper--a star of the meal, very spicy, very intense
Kong xin cai with furu (ong choy with fermented tofu)--a nice contrast, simple and fresh
Smoked duck---way better than before, the best I have had in many years
Hunan BBQ whole fish--a big disappointment. The fish was not perfectly fresh, the many vegetables were good, but too oily, the vinegar taste was too pronounced. Everyone was getting the spicy steamed fish head, and so will I, next time.
Water cooked pressed tofu (Shui zhu xiang gan)--this was fabulous, maybe the best tofu dish I have ever eaten. It was misnamed, not "water cooked" in the usual way, but rather dry, very intensely flavored, and utterly wonderful.
The big pot of chicken (not spicy version)--basically a pot of good simple chicken broth full of bones cooked at table with tofu ad lots of veggies. OK, but not something I would get again.

On the whole, I think it has gotten better, even much better: but the old specialities are not as good as before, at least not last night. Still jam packed, very boisterous, lots of beer.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Great report! can you give a description of the pressed tofu dish-how it was prepared and what the other ingredients were?

    1. ITA with regard to the pumpkin pancakes, something changed. They're making them differently from when they opened. And the change has not been for the better, doesn't taste as good, greasier, flatter.

      1. thanks for this, i still never got around to trying this place...i need to go

        1. I like this restaurant but consistency is an issue for me. About once in every 4 or 5 meals, the dishes would be over-salted. Because it's both spicy and salty, I have to eat it with lots of rice.

          I usually just get takeout from them. I find the restaurant way too crowded. Last time I ate there, they put 3 of us on a table for 2. They promised to move us once a large table left, but that never happened. And all these small tables around us have these big trays of chicken perched at the edge of the tables, making it dangerous to move around.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robotron

            The big trays are indeed often perilously close to falling.
            The pressed tofu dish was smoky with lots of ginger, chili and "wok hei". Not much sauce ( which surprised me) but not really dry. No meat.
            Last night, nothing was salty, except the dried beef, which is salted in its preparation. And it was definitely only pleasantly so.
            Lots of interesting specials on the walls, too. I am ready to go back!

          2. l haven't tried the original location, but they have a brand new outpost in Bensonhurst, on 18th Ave. b/t 62nd & 63rd, just a block away from the 18th Ave. N stop.

            l had lunch there yesterday, Mao's braised pork on rice [might be the same pork dish you described?]. lt's listed as spicy, and l asked for it ma la, but upon delivery found it to have barely any heat. What it did have, though, was plenty of flavor, with a couple of big hunks of star anise hiding in a big pile of very tender, good-quality pork, with plenty of melting fat in a rich sauce. Served on a bed of greens which had a bit of very fine grit [could've been washed a bit more, but not so bad]. A *lot* of food for a $5.00 lunch special, and it also comes with a good hot and sour soup with nice pieces of bamboo in it.

            l was looking on the menu for the items you were describing [l started reading this thread after l'd ordered], but couldn't find anything that matched up to the water cooked pressed tofu you mention. l showed this to the waiter, who brought back a takeout menu where he'd circled [l'm going from memory here] braised tofu with meat. This didn't sound like what you mentioned, but who knows?

            ln any event, it's great to have another good restaurant in my neighborhood. l'm looking forward to exploring more of the menu!

            17 Replies
            1. re: howdini

              We went here at 4pm on Saturday and they let us get lunch specials. They put a bowl of peanuts on the table to munch on while we perused the menu. We had minced pork with sour beans and shredded beef with hot green pepper. They were both quite spicy and smokey tasting. The pork was far more pungent tasting than the same dish at Grand Sichuan House and had a higher pork to bean ratio. Oh, the soup, well they served us an egg drop soup with pork and tomatoes. It had a really rich tasting broth and it was cold. Not chilled, just on the cool side of tepid. I chalk it up to the odd time we showed up. The staff was super friendly and attentive, we will go back and check out some more.

              1. re: michelley

                Thanks for the report! l went back myself for an early solo dinner this past Thursday. l tried the [l think it was called] braised smoked bamboo with pork. Really flavorful, lots of wok hay, but the bamboo was really inconsistent in terms of texture: some of it was *very* woody, inedibly so, some was very tender, and a bunch was in the middle. Also, not very much pork at all, just a smattering of very thin slices in a good-sized portion of bamboo. l'm not sure whether this was because the pork is just used as a flavoring agent, or if it was a skimpy portion. Since "with pork" is in the name of the dish, l think l'm forced to assume the latter? Still, great flavor, and very nice service. l'll definitely be back for more.

                1. re: howdini

                  I am still dreaming about the dried beef with white pepper and the smoky pressed tofu.

                  1. re: swannee

                    l'm definitely gonna try the beef next time l go; still not sure if they've got that tofu dish at the new place.

                    1. re: howdini

                      There's #78 under country style dishes called braised dry bean curd with smokey pork, could that be it?

                      Inside the restaurant, the menus we had actually said Flushing on the front.

                      1. re: michelley

                        l think that might be the one the waiter pointed out to me, but l'm not sure. l'll try it, regardless.

                        1. re: howdini

                          the dish I ate was 水煮豆干 literally water cooked pressed tofu, although this was quite dry. There is no meat.

                          1. re: swannee

                            Ah, thanks for the ideograms. l might've missed it, but l didn't see that dish described in English as you wrote it. l'll definitely check for it again when l go back.

                            1. re: howdini

                              On the menu they may use a variant of 豆干, 香干. It is the same thing--one means "bean dry", the other "fragrant dry"--both are pressed tofu. 水煮 usually refers a very soupy and spicy dish with slices of meat or fish flash boiled along with napa cabbage and other veggies. It translates to "water boiled"--I always assumed the name was ironic, since the dish is usually very spicy and nothing at all like the name.

                                1. re: swannee

                                  dou gan f 豆干, is just what you say. On menus or on the packages in stores that sell it, there may be other names.

                                  It is a staple, served in noodle shops as a side, boiled and put on a plate, with some soy sauce and cut raw scallions.

                                  水煮 shuizhu, water cook, literally, zhu means boil. 水煮 is usually for indicating a style of preparation that is stewed, a bit, with many ingredients, and red peppers.

                                  If you google image 水煮魚, you will get the idea.

                                  Yum yum.

                              1. re: swannee

                                Well, I went back today and ordered the Braised Dry Bean Curd w Smoky Pork, which used the same characters that you mentioned, only the third being different (photo below).

                                What I got was a huge plate of disappointment. No heat, no smoke, no pork, lackluster flavor. Just a basic sliced tofu dish in a generic brown sauce. Nothing more than serviceable at best.

                                I finished about half, then asked the waiter if I was given the correct dish. I pointed out what I thought was wrong, and how it differed in every way from the description on the menu, and from your description. The waiter and manager were very concerned, went back to the kitchen to find out what went wrong. They came back out and told me that it was a new chef, who just didn't cook it correctly. They were very apologetic, but not so much as to knock the price down any.

                                I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, because I really want to like this place, but I've had two misses and one hit so far. I'll try the dried beef with white pepper next time: if it's no good, it's back to Spicy Bampa and dim sum at Good Day for me.

                                1. re: howdini

                                  wow, I'm really sorry. Your dish was totally different. But in case it was the wrong dish. The "water cooked" tofu is vegetarian, no meat at all, and vey spicy. But if the chef was new, all bets are off......

                                  1. re: swannee

                                    The worst part about it was that it was just so...blah.

                                  2. re: howdini

                                    I do not know what the fuss is.

                                    I have never had a bad meal at Spicy Bamba, if that is its name.

                                    There is no need as I see it to go other places, besides, very difficult to get real sichuan and hunan food in this so called constitutional republic.

                                    There are far more Chinese people that arrive here, from China, that are from places outside of Hunan and Sichuan, then there are people arriving from China, who are actually from Hunan and China.

                                    So, even if he proprietors are from Hunan or Sichuan, they are going to cook to please the other majority from other provinces of China. They want to stay in business.

                                    I have yet to go to the new Hunan restaurant about 60th on 18th Avenue. That is a sister store, from their Flushing location. With Bamba just blocks south, the gravitational pull from Bamba may make it impossible for me to check this new Hunan place out.

                                    1. re: jonkyo

                                      l'm not sure which fuss it is to which you refer. Spicy Bampa is very good, but l have had less-than-stellar individual dishes there [consistency-wise, l mean: sometimes their green beans are served with garlic that is practically raw, which makes it taste terrible to my palate].

                                      What do you mean "there is no need to go to other places"? lf that's true, what's the point of chowhound, then?

                                      l have to ask, do you actually read these posts? lt doesn't seem like you do.

                                      1. re: howdini

                                        I read the posts. This time the comments were more interesting then the post itself.

                                        This Grand Hunan of Sichuan Kitchen, or other way around, just opened blocks from Bamba, north of it's 18th Ave store. I went in and asked about the place,and they were very friendly. I was on my way to one of my Italian places I go, so told them I would be back. Same name and owner of Flushing venue.

                                        Never been there, their flushing venue.

                                        The meaning is that, as a matter of expression, "no need to go other places" in regards to Spicy Bampa. This is to say, they are quite good, and personally, I have been quite disappointed in my Hunan and Sichuan searches, in NYC. My expectations level out and I am comfortable with Bamba.

                                        In some cases, garlic will be somewhat not cooked, as chinese food, especially vegetable dishes, are on high heat in the wok for a short time.

                                        Personally, I cook the garlic prior, then toss the greens into the oiled wok or iron skillet, to give them the short cook, but some places are not like that, when they cook.

                                        You might mention to them, about the garlic. I usually speak in chinese and have no problem communicating such particulars. English I think would work just fine, and they will call the one who speaks the best, if need be.

                                        Once my intestine dish did not have the pig blood cake, and on my next visit, told them to be sure to put the pig blood in the intestine dish, and they were very accommodating.

                                        This is to say, the first time I had the intestine dish, they used pig blood, but second they did not. Third time I stated this as I ordered, and got the pig blood cake.

                                        Just tell them,the particulars, if they are easily addressed, such as garlic under-cooked for the beans. That is just a two minute time addition, to address.

                                        EASIEST: would be tell them green beans but no garlic.