New York, New York 10018
For those who crave the subtle fire that characterizes the food of China’s Sichuan Provence, it usually means a trip to one of the city’s outer boroughs.
The results are certainly worth the schlep but distances and arrangements usually turn it into the primary activity of the day.
Well, rejoice! On an unremarkable block in mid-town Manhattan, within easy walking of the theater district, Times Square, Penn and Grand Central Stations and Madison Square Garden is Szechuan Gourmet.
The food is outstanding, more than reasonably priced and unlike most city Chinese restaurants, the room is pleasant with soft lighting, comfortable chairs and an ever–present owner who is helpful and happily makes recommendations according to each customer’s taste.
If you want your ma-po tofu --- chunks of silken tofu stir fried with pork and braised in a bright red peppercorn, chili, and sesame oil sauce – mouth-burning hot, you’ve got it! If not, just a hint of heat will bring out the flavors. There are duck tongues, intestines, and frogs but, if you are like us, you will start with a generous mound of sliced pork belly with chili-garlic soy, some crunchy jellyfish with spicy, chili vinaigrette, a cucumber salad and some velvety Szechuan pork dumplings in a roasted chili sauce. The braised whole bass glistens with freshness and, accompanied by a heap of bok choy or Chinese spinach, makes for a perfect meal.
Jan Greenberg lives in New York City. She writes about food and travel for magazines including National Culinary Review, Food Arts, Gastronomica and Time Out NY.