Grand Sichuan

July 7, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

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Do you have a favorite restaurant where you go again and again and always order the same things? We do. That restaurant is Grand Sichuan on St. Mark’s and I can’t believe I’ve never written about it.

Our meal always begins with the dish you see above: pork soup dumplings. “Can’t we try something else?” I ask Craig each time we go but Craig is adament, especially about his soup dumplings. “Nu uh,” he says. “We’re getting soup dumplings.”

For those who’ve never had one, a soup dumpling is an enticingly dangerous proposition. First, you douse the soup dumpling with the gingered soy sauce they bring on the side:

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Then you bite the top off, removing the nipple, so to speak. (Freud would approve.) Here’s where it gets dangerous: if you were to slurp the soup out, or put the whole dumpling in your mouth here, you would die. Your soft palate would melt, your tongue would explode into a million blisters. Believe me, I’ve done it before. It is PAINFUL. No, no, no, you fool, you must blow blow blow. Blow into that flapping nipple hole (James Beard society, pay attention: this sentence deserves an award.) Once you’ve blown a hurricane’s worth of wind inside, it’s time to slurp. You slurp the broth out and then put the dumpling in your mouth. Yum! Wasn’t that worth it?

Craig sure does love his soup dumplings:

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He also insists on two other dishes. (Note: Craig was the one who introduced me to Grand Sichuan on St. Mark’s, and these are the dishes he’s been ordering since the dawn of man.) First, he orders Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken:

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The first time I ate this, I thought it was way too spicy. Perhaps, though, my tolerance has increased: now I enjoy the heat. And it’s a truly authentic Sichuan dish, the kind of dish one goes to Grand Sichuan to experience.

The other dish he insists on ordering, and I insist you order it too, is the dry sauteed string beans:

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Some schools of cooking seek to celebrate an ingredient in its purest form; others, like the Sichuan school, throw purity out the window: they fry, they douse with sauce, they sprinkle on pork bits. Such is the case with this dish; the furthest thing from canned cafeteria string beans you can imagine. It’s one of the great dishes in New York and something any food-loving tourist should seek out.

Have we ever explored outside our fixed menu? I’ve forced the issue several times. We’ve sampled the double cooked pork, we’ve sat eye-to-eye with a whole braised fish. Ultimately, though, we always return to this menu and I think that’s ok. Everyone’s entitled to a favorite repeat restaurant meal, and this is ours.

Which begs the question: what’s yours?

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Categories: East Village, Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • http://northsidefood.blogspot.com/ Jennifer

    We usually order take out from our usual Chinese place. On the rare occasions we actually eat out there, they always greet us by yelling out our phone number and asking if we want the spicy beef beef and broccoli again.

    There’s another place, a Thai/Cajun fusion restaurant (sounds weird, but it works beautifully) where we ALWAYS have to get their steamed potstickers. They are the only ones that come close to my in laws cooking.

  • http://northsidefood.blogspot.com/ Jennifer

    We usually order take out from our usual Chinese place. On the rare occasions we actually eat out there, they always greet us by yelling out our phone number and asking if we want the spicy beef beef and broccoli again.

    There’s another place, a Thai/Cajun fusion restaurant (sounds weird, but it works beautifully) where we ALWAYS have to get their steamed potstickers. They are the only ones that come close to my in laws cooking.

  • Jen

    Stellar choice for Sichuan style deliciousness. The soup dumplings are top notch, though I’ll have to think on it and return to make a different recommendation for the dry-fried string beans – I’ve had them much drier, crisper, and irresistibly covered in flavor-explosion meat bits at other places.

    For the ultimate in spicy, I recommend checking out the other Grand Sichuan location on Lexington between 33rd and 34th and ordering the spicy hotpot. It will more than likely burn you twice, but it is oh-so masochistically good. If you do order it, make sure you get the split pot – one half clear broth, one half spicy. Fish and beef are particularly good hotpot meats; I would steer away from chicken, which tends to get tough and dry.

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalyn

    There is something so comfortable about eating dishes you enjoy in a place you’re used to. This looks like a great meal.

  • Tom

    The dumplings are Shanghai Dumplings — Xiao Long Bao. Honestly Adam, you can be so lazy sometimes. Like when you didn’t remember the winning barrister’s name in a competition you hosted. Like when you don’t get the names of wines you discuss. When you mention a French term, stated on a menu, for a dish’s preparation -sous vide, then write you don’t know what that means. I didn’t know what it meant either, yet it took me 1 minute to find out from a Google search.

  • http://appetiteforchina.com AppetiteforChina

    I have never had soup dumplings at Grand Sichuan, since they’re more of a Shanghainese thing than Sichuan. You’re right about not biting the whole thing at once though…I usually nibble a tiny hole, blow a lot of air into it for 30 seconds, then eat. You should try the soup dumplings (also called xiaolongbao) at Yeah Shanghai Deluxe in Chinatown. They have the best in the city.

  • Mr. S

    When eating soup dumplings I usually take a small bite out of the side, rather than the top, and release the soup into the spoon. It cools off better that way and is easier to slurp. The ones at Grand Sichuan are indeed passable, but not nearly as good as at some of the Shanghaiese places in Chinatown.

    The Dan Dan Noodles at Grand Sichuan on St Mark’s are fantastic, and I can also recommend the Sichuan Wontons in red oil. But my favorite thing of all is Ma Po Tofu – soft chunks of tofu in a spicy sauce made with ground pork. It’s not as good as at the Grand Sichuan at 34th and Lexington, which also serves mind-blowing Chong Qing Spicy Chicken (which is a bit like the chicken you got, but drier and crispier), and may not be part of the local mini-chain, but it’s very good.

  • http://kitchenbitzch.wordpress.com Vy

    Definitely the pho ga and cha gio at Nha Trang in Chinatown. That’s a prime deathbed meal right there.

  • http://klosekraft.typepad.com/klosekraft/ Stephanie

    Weirdly, my favorite repeat meal is also at Grand Sichuan, though I go to the one on 9th and 24th (25th?). For two people, two orders of the pork and crab soup dumplings, followed by one order of either fresh chicken with spicy greens or just the spicy greens on their own. And beer.

  • http://klosekraft.typepad.com/klosekraft/ Stephanie

    Oddly enough, my favorite repeat meal is also at Grand Sichuan, though I go to the one on 9th and 24th. For two people, two orders of the pork and crab soup dumplings, followed by one order of either the fresh chicken with spicy greens or the spicy greens on their own. And beer.

  • http://www.foodinmouth.com/ Danny

    That is a pretty nice trio. Never ordered steamed tiny buns from Grand Sichuan though… hmm… Usually I go to Shanghainese joints for that. They have this dish there where it’s slices of beef that’s sitting in a pool of red chili oil. Think it’s called something like, “Braised Beef Fillets* w. chili sauce.” It’s really spicy so be prepared if you try it.

  • http://minxeats.blogspot.com Kathy

    The first time I had soup dumplings was at a forgotten restaurant in Chinatown. (It’s still there, I’ve just forgotten the name.) There were directions on how to eat the things on a cartoon under the glass tabletop, only I didn’t know this because the waiter put the food ON TOP OF IT. So of course I bit into the dumpling, the boiling hot juice squirted out and ran down my chin. I spent the rest of the meal holding an ice cube to my chin which sported a bright pink, wormlike burn for the remainder of the weekend.

  • Aryn

    This is the exact same meal my hubby and I used to get everytime we would go to the St.Mark’s Grand Sichaun. Although, sometimes we substitute the gui zhou with chong xing (sp?). We live in South california now, so (theoretically) we should have just as good if not better chinese food, but i still miss my Grand Sichuan.

  • Aryn

    This is the exact same meal my hubby and I used to get everytime we would go to the St.Mark’s Grand Sichaun. Although, sometimes we substitute the gui zhou with chong xing (sp?). We live in South california now, so (theoretically) we should have just as good if not better chinese food, but i still miss my Grand Sichuan.

  • http://www.redcook.net Kian

    Yes, soup dumpling is known as Xiao Long Bao in Mandarin Chinese and is a “Shanghainese” dish. The generally accepted origin of Xiao Long Bao is an ancient river town called NanXiang on the outskirts of Shanghai.

    I find it very interesting that two of the three featured dishes on this post are in fact not Sichuanese food. GuiZhou is another province of China and the name of the chicken dish does not specify a specific dish name other than the reiong and it is spicy. There are many spicy chicken dishes in GuiZhou, so perhaps it was just convenient to name the dish “GuiZhou style.”

    I do not object to restaurants serving different regional cooking but I do believe there should be better explanation in their menu for other regional dishes. Too often American Chinese restaurants decide to serve a dish even if it is not from the region they specialize simply because it has become a very popular item.

    As a restaurant goer I would prefer to sample the specific food from that region the restaurant specializes in. That is why if I wanted Xiao Long Bao I would go to Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown. For those on the west coast, Din Tai Fung is a very good Xiao Long Bao restaurant. It’s located in Monterey Park outside L.A. They are a chain originated from Taiwan. But the dumplings there are just phenomenal!

    If you want Sichuan food then go to “Spicy and Tasty” in Flushing. There you will be able to find my favorite Sichuan regional cooking.

  • http://teahlo.blogspot.com Aunt LoLo

    Ooh…I’m so glad you mentioned those dumplings! I’ve never seen them on a menu outside of China! I had some AMAZING dumplings in Shanghai…but I prefer mine with that red vinegar, not gingered soy sauce.

    I have to be honest, though – when I want good Chinese, I call my MIL. She makes me scrambled eggs with tomatoes and garlic EVERY TIME SHE VISITS. (We had it last night. :-)) I ate it every day when I lived in China, and I get it whenever I can here!

  • http://lostinthestacks.wordpress.com/ Jess

    Philly just got a place that serves soup dumplings and I don’t think I could ever order anything else from there. I’m in love!

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com Yvo

    I have differen repeat meals at different places; this one Indian place in Little India, this Vietnamese place in Elmhurst, this Cantonese place in Flushing… It’s comforting and sometimes you just want to know exactly what you’re ordering is going to be exactly what you want…

    BTW, I like to bite the hole first (the nipple off, as you say) and put some of the sauce inside. That way it cools it off a bit immediately, and I don’t have to use way too much (hogging the sauce gets you dirty looks!), and it mixes with the soup to create a new flavor scheme. Just my method though… that my grandfather taught me, lol

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com Yvo

    I have differen repeat meals at different places; this one Indian place in Little India, this Vietnamese place in Elmhurst, this Cantonese place in Flushing… It’s comforting and sometimes you just want to know exactly what you’re ordering is going to be exactly what you want…

    BTW, I like to bite the hole first (the nipple off, as you say) and put some of the sauce inside. That way it cools it off a bit immediately, and I don’t have to use way too much (hogging the sauce gets you dirty looks!), and it mixes with the soup to create a new flavor scheme. Just my method though… that my grandfather taught me, lol

  • Addi

    At our neighborhood Vietnamese place, my husband and I each have our favorite hangover-cure soups – he gets the pork and shrimp in clear broth, and I MUST have my curry tofu and vegetable soup.

    There’s also a cheap little Indian place where I always have the mushroom shahi masala, and Josh has to have the chicken wrap (not particularly authentic, but KILLER flavor).

  • Katelyn

    Does Craig know anywhere to get great soup dumplings in Seattle? :( I NEED.

  • Mike S

    omgomgomg

    I’ve seen soup dumplings (as Tom correctly but snobbishly points out are also known as Xiao Long Bao) from afar (through tv, food blogs, etc.) on several occasions now.

    I

    FREAKING

    WANT

    ONE

    I’m a whore for dumplings of any sort, and these look sooo good.

    I hate living in western NY.

  • zeep

    AG, in the spirit of a Top Chef reunion special, I humbly offer you a t-shirt proudly emblazoned with the words:

    “Blow into that flapping nipple hole.”

    Yeah, wear it with pride my friend! :)

    Repeat restaurant and order for me? In Seattle there is a sweet spot called The Pink Door (try it the next time y’all are out here, near Pike Place Market) – I always, ALWAYS get their spectacular bolognese with fresh pasta – I just can’t help myself (and I never regret it).

  • Banu

    When I was in Boston my boyfriend I had our special restaurant in Chinatown. It was called East Ocean City and we always eat the sae thing.

    Ginger and Garlic Stir fried Lobster (my boyfriend makes sure to put the heads of the lobster across from each other once the meal is over), watercress fish soup, stirfried chinese broccoli with garlic and finally giant oysyters in black bean sauce. And of course the whole meal becomes complete with a bowl of steamed rice.

    I just love that place and miss is so much now that I am miles and miles away….

  • Banu

    When I was in Boston, my boyfriend I had our special restaurant in Chinatown. It was called East Ocean City and we always eat the same thing.

    Ginger and Garlic Stir fried Lobster (my boyfriend makes sure to put the heads of the lobster across from each other once the meal is over), watercress fish soup, stirfried chinese broccoli with garlic and finally giant oysters in black bean sauce. And of course the whole meal becomes complete with a bowl of steamed rice.

    I just love that place and miss is so much now that I am miles and miles away….

  • Alex

    Adam, next time you’re at Grand Sichuan — the St. Marks branch is the one I go to — if you want an entree with less heat, try the braised slice beef with brown sauce. I have no idea how they do it, but the beef is like scarily, awesomely, tender, and it’s addictive.

  • http://www.gastronomy612@wordpress.com marina

    Though far from NYC, my favorite stop in Minneapolis is a Vietnamese restaurant called Quang. it has the BEST vermicelli salads, Pho and fresh spring rolls. I never deter from my spring rolls and Bun thit, cha gio. soooooo good.

  • http://www.lunchboxr.com Ben

    I order from Szechuan Gourmet on 38th street at least twice a week. If you like Sichuan food you should definitely check it out, I think it’s much much better than Grand Sichuan.

  • AKS

    at grand sichuan, i too always get the soup dumplings and the gui zhou chicken. but, instead of the string beans, i throw in a side of tea smoked duck. it’s SO good.

  • erin

    I second the dan dan noodles. A trip to Grand Sichuan is not complete without them; they are among my favorite dishes anywhere in new york. The pea shoots are also wonderfully green and mild and crunchy and a nice offset to all the heat.

  • http://www.whitetoque.com Jonathan Drewes

    I definetly do have my restaurants that I order the same thing all the time but I figured let me share one dessert that forced me to actually break the mold. Here is my review

    White Toque Macron Desserts

    Since I get the same old desserts all the time, I figured let me try a gourmet dessert I saw in the store by the brand White Toque. I chose the 16 Macron deserts. I have never ever heard of a macron, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try a new dessert other than a tub of ice cream. I was not disappointed with this French dessert.

    White Toque Macron Desserts: Package Design and Price

    Going into this purchase, I was looking for a dessert that would serve about 4-6 people I was inviting over for dinner. So the product needed to be able to have at least the presentation of being able to serve multiple people in addition to what my other guests were bringing. The packaging overall was very simple, but effective in presentation. A clean text bar on top with the logo anchoring the left really drove my eye to the cover picture. The quality of the cover photo was excellent and once again drove me into purchasing this product. The front picture displayed the multi-colored macrons on a bowl spread out and really gave me the idea that this could most be suitable for a dinner party dessert. Now that I had the package in my hand I looked at the price. These desserts were steeper in price than the domes, but had more in them so it ended up being a better value. For the 16 desserts it was 10.99. I thought this was fair considering a cake in the store would have retailed around $8-10 and these would bring a little variety to the dessert table.

    White Toque Macron Desserts: Nutrition Facts and Ingredients

    Unfortunately, I am not a health expert with food, but I will point out a couple of facts about these macron desserts. Three macron pieces were considered a serving size on the packaging and had a calorie count of 140. The thing that stood out to me though was the information that the products were made with no egg yolks and no added or trans-fat. The macron desserts did contain milk, eggs, soybeans and tree nuts (almond). If you want to find out more information about the nutritional facts you can visit the website here.

    White Toque Macron Desserts: Preparation

    The macron desserts were very simple to prepare. All the food preparation information was right on the back of the package. For everyone who is not a great cook like me, this was great news. All you have to do it remove the two trays of macrons, peel the film off and thraw in the fridge for about 2-3 hours before serving. Then serve the macrons either in the gold trays they are packaged in, which were surprisingly nice, or place them on a serving dish. This was so quick and simple I felt very confident in being able to deliver a nice looking and tasting dessert for my guests.

    White Toque Macron Desserts: Taste

    Let me have a drum roll please. After all the selection process and preparation, I will now tell how the macrons fared in terms of taste. They were very tasty. I loved the multiple flavors that were included. There were 4 flavors of the macrons chocolate, raspberry, vanilla and coffee. All the flavors did taste particularly well, but my favorite had to be the coffee. It like the others tasted so rich. I’m sure everyone will have a different opinion on this and I can see how this would come about. The filling was not too overpowering and they just popped in your mouth. I served these with some coffee and my guests loved them. I kept getting questions on what they were and such. The macrons were very light in taste, but satisfying to my stomach.

    White Toque Macron Desserts: Final Thoughts

    The White Toque Macron Desserts were liked by everyone at dessert. They brought a unique taste and style to the table that I enjoyed. White Toque’s desserts have come through once again for my dinner. I would give these desserts a solid 4/5 for overall value, taste and presentation. If you want to try out some more of these products you can visit White Toque’s website (www.whitetoque.com) and see if you can find any desserts that meet your needs. I hope to try something other than a White Toque dessert in my next article. I hope you try these French gourmet desserts as I have and tell me what you think as well.

  • http://www.jonathaninchina.com Jonathan C

    More Chinese food posts please!!

  • Mary

    Adam-You should read how Frank Bruni compares Szechuan Gourmet to Grand Sichuan in this week’s Times. Maybe you and Craig should try the former for a change.

  • http://www.gastrogirls.com GastroGirls

    I lurve the soup dumplings there. I can’t stop starting at the pic. Drool-worthy they are.

    http://www.gastrogirls.com