Friday, October 30, 2009
There's been a lot of praise heaped on Szechuan Gourmet, a Chinese restaurant on 39th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Former restaurant critic Frank Bruni gave it two stars. Midtown Lunch raved about the Pork Belly with Chili Leeks lunch special. And I'd seen other blogs make note of this lunch dish. It sounded heavenly - fatty pork, a spicy kick and a great deal that comes with rice and soup. While I'd ordered other dishes from here before, I really wanted to test this particular lunch special. So one day not long ago I decided to go for it and ordered the pork belly as a takeout lunch.
What I got was a full container of very thinly sliced fatty pork with lots of leeks coated in chili, looking as though it would be spicy and filling, a side of rice and wonton soup. When I dug in, I found pork dull in flavor, perhaps too many leeks, and a disappointing lunch. The pork belly was hard to eat because the slices were long with large strips of fat. It's supposed to be fatty, but if it is fried up well, you can eat it and hardly notice. Or if the restaurant had used thicker cuts of it, the pork might have stood up better in this dish. Unfortunately this pork was soggy and hadn't absorbed any of the chili flavor; the meat tasted plain and not terribly fresh. The wonton soup thankfully was good and helped to fill me up.
This dish left me craving a better pork belly, so I consulted a friend who had once made an excellent version for me. A couple of weeks later I went to Hmart, the grocery store in Koreatown, got my own ingredients and cooked up a simpler, yet more palatable, dish of pork belly than I'd had at Szechuan Gourmet.
Posted by kitchenette at 11:03 AM