Monday, June 14, 2010

Szechuan Gourmet Review

Szechuan Gourmet is the Midtown Chinese restaurant on which former Times critic Frank Bruni bestowed two stars. A big deal for any Chinese restaurant. I had ordered dinner delivery from here a couple of times with decent results (though I had forgotten that my last experience with a much-praised lunch special hadn't turned out so well). But lucky for me I had forgotten about that last time and decided to check out the lunch specials in person. The food was much better this time, perhaps a result of eating in instead of taking out.

Despite its popularity, the wait for a table moved quickly and after ordering, the food arrived fast, though not in a way that made us feel rushed.

The lunch special comes with a soup — it's slightly sour and had an unexpectedly peppery spiciness to it. Not far behind came our two lunch specials: Sliced Pork with Baby Eggplant and Shredded Pork with Spiced Tofu and Asian Celery.

My inexpert palate for Szechuan food was again surprised by the sauce that had a sweetness to it with a salty edge. I really liked the soft baby eggplant and there was a good amount of pork (not the bad cuts that you sometimes find at Asian restaurants).

The flavorful shredded pork pieces mixed in playfully with the thin slices of celery offering the dish a crunchy contrast. The spiced tofu had an interesting texture — very solid, almost like mushrooms.

We unfortunately didn't order items that had the signature spiciness of Szechuan food, but I'd definitely come back for lunch again — the list of lunch specials is long, so there's much more to try, maybe something marked by one or two peppers!

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