Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lan Sheng Review

There are two Szechuan Chinese restaurants on 39th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. In many cities smaller than New York, that would be nearly enough to call it a Chinatown. In New York, there's nothing like a little competition or rivalry to keep restaurants on their toes. I've been to Szechuan Gourmet, which has gotten much attention and acclaim. But I had read on the blogs about Lan Sheng and a recent lunch there gave me the basis to compare it to Szechuan Gourmet.

When we sat down, I was disappointed to find there was no lunch specials section on the menu. Maybe we had to ask for it or maybe they've stopped having specials.

But I decided to order based on what I'd read about Lan Sheng, so we got the Lan Sheng special chicken listed under their signature dishes. It was a healthy portion of charred chicken slices over cabbage. The chicken had a really good deep flavor; it tasted like it had been marinated in a salty garlic sauce. I liked it, but my dining companion and I shared only two dishes and about halfway through, I found myself wishing for other flavors to balance these.

Our second dish was the pumpkin with ginger and scallion. It was a slightly sweet stew of pumpkin with chunks of ginger mixed in. It was a really different dish from the chicken and was good with rice.

Lan Sheng offered me the opportunity to try some new things, but if these are representative of their food overall, they lack complexity in the seasonings. The lunchtime crowd wasn't as deep as Szechuan Gourmet, so it might make a good alternative for the time-crunched, but barring that, it wouldn't be my first choice.

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