Chinese Outside of Chinatown
Don’t get me wrong—I love Chinatown. But you don’t have to traverse Mott, Mulberry, Bayard, and the Bowery, to name a few of Chinatown’s congested streets, to find authentic and exotic Chinese food. In particular, there has been a mini-explosion of Szechuan restaurants, and I don’t mean the generic “Szechuan” featuring the much abused General Tso and his take on shrimp, pork, and chicken or watered down, cold sesame noodles. No, the Szechuan restaurants I’m suggesting might offer the above selections, but also, maybe, the “thousand year old egg” with chili jam, or stir fried intestines with chili and snake beans, or even rabbit with pickled chili pepper. Do you see a pattern here? Yes, it’s the use of chilies. The Szechuan food offered at the restaurants below do not skimp on heat and, personally, I would have it no other way.
Who would have known that 39th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, would have two of the best of said Szechuan restaurants? At 21 W. 39th St. you will find the appropriately named, Szechuan Gourmet (tel. 212/921-0233; www.szechuangourmetnyc.com), where I enjoyed the crispy lamb filets with chili cumin, the braised eel with baby eggplant, and the beef brisket noodle soup.
Down the block a bit from Szechuan Gourmet at 60 W. 39th St. is Lan Sheng (tel. 212/575-8899; www.lanshengrestaurant.food.officelive.com). At Lan Sheng there are items similar to Szechuan Gourmet’s, some done better like the Dan Dan noodles and the braised beef filets with Napa cabbage. Best of all is the fish filet with pickled mustard green in broth; an enormous soup that serves at least two.
The bi-level, grand Legend Bar & Restaurant at 88 Seventh Ave., btw. 15th and 16th sts. (tel. 212/929-1778; www.legendrestaurant88.com) in Chelsea, lives up to its name by churning out legendary Szechuan food. You want hot? Try the “Tears in the Eyes” noodles with spicy mung. You want exotic? Go for the bamboo fungus and chicken soup. If you just want real good, the braised whole fish with hot bean sauce will more than suffice.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.