Grand Sichuan UWS Delivers on Flavor, Fails on Spice

Another day, another reason to barrage my tastebuds with foods so spicy that I grand start to see double. 
Grand Sichuan is one of the most famous Sichuan restaurant chains in the city, the other being Szechuan Gorumet. Being a HUGE fan of Szechuan Gourmet, I figured I would hit up the competition and see what they had to offer. 
We headed to the Upper West side location of the restaurant. Be forewarned: You don’t need to wear a tie here. You might not even need to wear shoes here. Not dingy or dirty at all, just totally casual and appropriate for families.

Cucumber with Garlic

We wanted to order the Cold Cucumber with Scallion Sauce that I had read so much about. But, it was nowhere to be seen. Even when I described it to our incredibly helpful and efficient server, he didn’t seem to have ever heard of it. So we went with this, and it was excellent. Crisp cucumber was liberally sprinkled with deep, nutty sesame oil and the garlic was a faint bite in the background instead of an overpowering flavor. It was refreshing and whet the appetite, although I was quite disappointed not to try the original cucumber dish.

 Shrimp and Pork Crab Dumplings

Oh yes. These were not perfect, but they were excellent. The skin on the dumpling was rather thick, but the filling was outstanding – sweet, salty, meaty, fresh, and perfectly moist and soft within. They arrive at the table piping hot and you bite off the top of the dumpling dough, then fill the cavity with some of the vinegar-ginger sauce. Then, you pop the whole thing in your mouth, letting the pork and crab broth and meat fill your mouth and invade your nostrils. There can be no better way to commit two Kosher dietary sins at once.

 MaPo Tofu

One of my favorite dishes at any Szechuan restaurant is the MaPo Tofu. Spicy, garlicky, salty sauce with Szechuan peppercorns, chili oil, ground pork and cubes of silky tofu. Usually MaPo tofu is hot enough to make my nose run but this time…it was barely spicy enough to remind me I was alive. Really. This did allow me to focus on the slightly sour taste of the fermented black beans, the pungent taste of the garlic and the buzzy, lip biting taste of the chili oil. But…sorry…I want some pain when I order my MaPo Tofu!

Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken

Highly recommended by our server, I had high hopes that this would compete with the Wok Tossed Chicken with chiles from Szechuan Gourmet. It was delicious in its own right, but it lacked that lip tingling, tongue numbing, ear buzzing spice that I crave out of that dish. The chicken was tender, in fried nuggets interspersed with slivers of caramelized garlic and crunchy dried red chiles that certainly brought the heat but…I don’t know. It lacked the nuances I crave in Szechuan food. 
That was the overlying theme of Grand Sichuan. It was good. It was flavorful. It was certainly a great value for the money, but it was not nuanced or layered the way that I expect Szechuan food to be prepared. I would go back for the soup dumplings, and if I were in the neighborhood I would absolutely eat there, but I wouldn’t dine here over other Szechuan restaurants in NYC.
After all, I like to feel a little pain.
Grand Sichuan 74 on Urbanspoon

Comments

  1. JustinM says:

    It looks really good. I had some Szechuan spicy chicken for lunch just yesterday, and it was pretty spicy, but it was rubbery chicken, and not very much of it. (There was a lot of vegetable filler, but then again it was really cheap.) I would have loved some crispy chicken.

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Justin-Ich, rubbery chicken is the WORST. It's SO offputting. This chicken was definitely crispy and good, but I still say Szechuan Gourmet has them beat!

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