I shouldn't admit it, but I rarely ever frequent Chinese restaurants. And, if I ever do, the camera always stays home - especially if I'm not heading on a cultural excursion to Chinatown. Eating Chinese food in New York typically means ordering in, running the risk of MSG poisoning, and/or guaranteeing leftovers for at least a few solid days. Don't get me wrong. There is a part of me that always enjoys and craves Chinese food, but I would never really consider it a luxury. It was only after a few trips to the right spots in Chinatown and one great trip to Beijing that I realized how great Chinese food really can be. It doesn't always have to equate greasy, mysterious looking meat stuffed into over sized cardboard containers. But, in a city with Asian restaurants scattered all too frequently between blocks, I had yet to identify any that really merited an evening out above Canal Street.
That was at least the case until I met Grand Sichuan, an authentic Chinese restaurant on Seventh Avenue and Leroy Street. The first time I tried casually going was on a weeknight, on what I call a gym date - a completely informal meet up with a friend or two where we agree that it's completely fine to sport clothes from the previous hour's work out (hair is definitely a bit frazzled). There are few friends that I can actually do this with, but even fewer restaurants where I feel that I can pull this off. I had assumed that Grand Sichuan would be the perfect home for a gym date until we walked into a packed restaurant and were told that they were closed for a private party. Whether this was actually true or they were turning me away based on my attire, my intrigue only grew. When I returned a week or two later on a Sunday night, this time minus tennis shoes and spandex, I was again shocked to find a full house. However, this outing was much more successful as we were given the choice to wait about ten minutes for a table. Had this not been my second attempt, my curiosity heightening by the minute, I probably would have walked right out the door and to the next Chinese spot, which I am certain couldn't have been more than a block or two away.
While the setting is definitely a step up from most Chinese restaurants, it truly is the food that makes all the difference - guaranteeing a room full of hungry customers each and every night of the week. There are very few places in the city that offer soup dumplings, a true Shanghai delicacy. Grand Sichuan's delicious crab meat and pork soup dumplings finally satisfied my cravings of one of my favorite discoveries while in Asia. The rest of the menu continues to live up to authentic standards offering classical Sichuan and Hunan cuisine. I recommend any of these spicy dishes - full of flavor and the right amount of heat. Even the section titled American Chinese Food stands out from what most American spots offer as much healthier and fresher. The sesame chicken was extremely light and prepared with large chunks of white meat. The shrimp with broccoli and the sauteed pea shoots with garlic are other great "American" options that are not overly drenched in too much sauce, but rather, the perfect amount.
Whatever your favorite Chinese dish may be, Grand Sichuan will surely offer it. And while you too may think of Chinese food as a great hangover cure or the perfect solution for a lazy night in, I highly recommend giving it another shot. It's time to allow Chinese food to join the ranks of the Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisine that you so often make a night out of and get a little dressed up for. While you can still leave your heels behind, Grand Sichuan will actually make you want to shower after the gym, run a brush through your hair, and simply leave your home. Chinese food is in fact a delicacy. It's just a matter of locating the diamonds in all that rough north of Canal Street.
15 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10014
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):