Szechuan Gourmet

October 9, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

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If I had my druthers, Sally Struthers, I’d take my iPhone and throw it into a lake. It’s ruining my life.

I hate being so connected, I hate that my pocket vibrates any time someone comments on my facebook status; I hate that I update my facebook status while standing in line at the post office to say, “Standing in line at the post office.” Why do I need to do that? Why am I wasting so many brain cells? Die, iPhone, die! I’m buying a rotary phone and carrying that around.

Only: as a foodie (I know, I know, you hate that word) the iPhone is a bit of a godsend. Case in point: you go to the MoMA on a Friday night for free admission Fridays (did you know about that?), and upon leaving with Diana and Craig you don’t know where to go to dinner. You rack your brain and then you remember Frank Bruni reviewed a Chinese place in midtown recently. What was that place? Where is it? Enter iPhone.

Not only did my iPhone allow me to pull up Frank Bruni’s two-star review of Szechuan Gourmet, it told me the address and, if I wanted it to, it could’ve navigated me down 6th avenue to our delicious destination.

Once there, the iPhone proved even more handy: with Bruni’s review right there in front of me, I knew which dishes he recommended. We started with pork belly with chili-garlic soy:

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‘Twas a strange dish—the pork belly not crisp, but slightly rubbery. And hot, hot, hot. Oh Lord, Frank Bruni is not kidding in his review: the food here is hot.

We shared these steamed pork dumplings in another fiery sauce:

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I was surprised that the dumplings were room temperature, but that’s what that sauce is for I suppose: to make your mouth so hot you don’t notice when things are room temperature. So hot, in fact, that you don’t notice many things: a troupe of dancing monkeys could trapeze through the room and you’d just nod your head and sweat.

Our entree was a knock-out, both heat-wise and flavor-wise. This is braised whole bass with chili miso:

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I remember, as a youngster, seeing people order whole fish in Chinese restaurants with the eye poking out and wondering what sick, perverted mind could ever sanction a dish like that. Again, I was a youngster. Now, as an adult, I wonder: what sick perverted mind cooks just a filet of fish when a whole fish, cooked like this, provides such sweeter meet, so much more flavor?

Granted: the bones are treacherous. But that’s part of the fun–working around the bones, yanking them out of your mouth, out of your throat.

And you don’t really care about bones when you’re nearly gagging from the heat of the sauce. But it’s a good kind of gagging, the kind of gagging that goes well with beer.

The tamest thing we ate all night was this sauteed spinach:

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The only shocking thing about that was the price: $10. But, for $10, that’s a lot of spinach. And it’s a nice relief from all the heat you’re getting elsewhere.

Thanks to my iPhone, not only did we have a terrific meal after our visit to the MoMA: but the meal itself was captured with the iPhone camera. Yup, I forgot my real camera and iPhone saved the day.

All right, iPhone, you convinced me: I won’t throw you into a lake. But please stop buzzing needlessly about everything, ok? And please stop making me update my Facebook status for no reason? Please?

Facebook status: contemplating facebook status.

I’m doomed.

Tags: ,

Categories: Manhattan, Midtown, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • http://whatstoeabaltimore.blogspot.com Liz Stambaugh

    Hey at least you don’t have a blackberry. Than you would have to say your a crackberry. I envy the Iphone. (and sorry If I just made your pocket vibrate from this comment)

  • http://whatstoeabaltimore.blogspot.com Liz Stambaugh

    Hey at least you don’t have a blackberry. Than you would have to say your a crackberry. I envy the Iphone. (and sorry If I just made your pocket vibrate from this comment)

  • http://www.lunchboxr.com Ben

    My co-workers and I order here at least once a week. The spicy sesame noodles are probably my single favorite food item in the city and I’m always discovering new great dishes as well. If you ever end up going back here are some suggestions: Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly, Stir Fried Chicken with Roasted Chili and Green Chili, Smoked Tofu with Asian Celery, Braised Fish Filet with Chili Miso, and… yeah… I’ll stop there but I could probably go on… Szechuan food excites me like very few other things do…

  • http://kdiddy.org kdiddy

    you need to check out the urbanspoon app. it will suggest nearby eateries for you, categorized by price and cuisine, and give you links to reviews

  • http://thedormroomdiner.blogspot.com/ Shannon

    I know the feeling. This is the first year I’ve allowed myself to own a laptop. Now I rake my memory, trying to remember what life was like before I was sucked into the web. It’s worse than my chocolate addiction.

  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    So this is why my hubby wants an iphone. Hmm.

  • http://www.jonathaninchina.com Jonathan

    What a happy coincidence! I just returned from Sichuan (Szechuan) province after a week of numbing-spicy food and Tibetan yak specialties.

    I think you did a fantastic job ordering, the fish especially. There is something that will always make a table of friends happy and that is a whole fish covered in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and chiles. And I’m so glad that you enjoyed the “high grapple factor” (as cookbook author Fuschia Dunlop describes eating Chinese food that comes with bones, skin, fins, beaks, talons, heads, etc…). $10 for spinach? Yikes! New York really is far away from China. You wouldn’t pay more than $1 for that simple dish here in the middles kingdom.

    The commenter Ben made some really good suggestions. Let me just add a few more: Mapo Tofu, fish fragrant eggplant (not a fish dish at all), and some legit Kungpao chicken (Gongbao chicken) if they have it. Keep the Chinese food coming Mr. Gourmet!

  • Elliott R

    Having read this post on my iPhone, I completely agree. Even with all the unnecessary, ‘bad’ vibrations (especially from spam!), having the Amateur Gourmet at one’s fingertips ANYTIME makes the iPhone’s annoyances and over-connectedness tolerable.

  • http://www.foodinmouth.com/ Danny

    Ooooh diggity. I love this place too. And that Ben fellow ain’t kidding, I’ve seen him at work with his Szechuan Gourmet take out.

    Anyway, the thing with vegetables at chinese restaurants is that you always get ripped off because the vegetable itself probably cost like… 4 bucks. Oh well, everything is great there.

  • http://theliteraryvixen.wordpress.com Amy *v

    Uh-oh. Does this mean you want me to stop commenting on your Facebook status? I mean, I can stop anytime I want to. [I just don't want to.]

    Wouldn’t you rather UPDATE YOUR NOTIFICATION SETTINGS, rather than miss out on potential hilarity entirely?

    Just a thought.

  • http://theliteraryvixen.wordpress.com Amy *v

    Uh-oh. Does this mean you want me to stop commenting on your Facebook status? I mean, I can stop anytime I want to. [I just don't want to.]

    Wouldn’t you rather UPDATE YOUR NOTIFICATION SETTINGS, rather than miss out on potential hilarity entirely?

    Just a thought.

  • mel

    typo! sweeter ‘meet,’ Adam?

    sorry. Its the English major in me.

  • http://justfoodnow.wordpress.com justfoodnow

    Mmmm – you love your iphone? :)

    I would too – I’ve wanted one for as long as I can remember, but sadly can’t afford one, so enjoy!!!

    Fascinating site – I spent far too much time on it this evening, but will be back.

    Go well.

  • http://kathrynyu.com/ kathryn

    Is that spinach or sauteed dou miao (pea shoots) with garlic? Went with Alaina recently and if I recall correctly the pea shoots were north of $10 but really good.

    Also good things at Szechuan Gourmet:

    Ox Tongue & Tripe with roasted chili – peanut vinaigrette

    Dan Dan Noodles with chili – minced pork

    Szechuan Pork Dumpling with roasted chili soy

    Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly with chili leeks

    Crispy Lamb Fillets with chili cumin

    Chef’s Ma Paul Tofu with chili minced pork

    Stir Fried Chicken with roasted chili

  • Sandro

    The food looks awful. I have no idea what Bruni was thinking with this place. I don’t think even Asimov should’ve poked this place with a long stick.

    Style suggestion? Try “spicy” instead of “hot.” Because hot can also be used to describe another food attribute, its temperature, it’s clearer if one doesn’t try to double-duty its meaning.

    Looking for food near MOMA? My go-tos are Houston’s (Citicorp), Burger Joint, or Brooklyn Diner.

  • J

    Try the water-boiled fish. Doesn’t sound appetizing, I know, but it’s a signature Szechuan dish and an absolute knockout.

  • http://romancingthescone.blogspot.com/ Dani

    Funny post! The bass looks divine…this has become my favorite szechuan getaway, actually, my favorite Chinese spot as a whole. It’s authentic and spicy in all the right ways. It’s dangerously close to where I work. My fave thing to order is the Ma Paul tofu.

    I did a write-up on it on my blog (check out Spicy and Tasty, too — a good szechuan place in Flushing). http://romancingthescone.blogspot.com/

  • Felix

    To be truly Szechuan savvy you must eat the fish eye, tasteless, rubbery, slightly disgusting, but traditional!