L at Eighth Ave.; 1 at 18th St.; A, C, E at 14th St.
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Grove St. to 25th St., Sixth Ave. to Tenth Ave.
Spice fanatics can now count lower Chelsea as another neighborhood where they can obtain a Sichuan fix. Unfortunately the food here isn't all that searing, but there’s more to Sichuan cooking than sheer firepower, as a number of dishes prove. Dry spicy chicken with ginger and peanuts is irresistible, small round morsels of fowl meat lightly wok-fried and tasting like a savory and souped-up popcorn chicken. Sliced pork with garlic stems emerges brimming with meltingly bacon-esque sliver of porcine flesh that coat the pungent, leeklike greens in their juices. Amid those highlights, other dishes neither disappoint nor particularly impress. Mapo tofu is flavorful and creamy, but not the best in town (that honor goes to Szechuan Gourmet’s throat-clutchingly spicy version). The rest of the succession is probably not worth ordering again: sliced conch in chili sauce proved all texture, while smoked red rabbit doesn't warrant the effort it takes to extract the jerky-like flesh from the tiny bones. And an impressively presented dish of hot and spicy crispy prawns looked better than it tasted—somehow the Sichaun peppercorns strewn across the platter failed to add any of their signature tingle. The space itself is convivial, elegant and bi-level with an actual bar up front, and there’s an option for hot pots with unlimited accompaniments, for those who need a new gluttonous challenge.Recommended Dishes
Dry spicy chicken with ginger and peanuts, $14.95; sliced pork with garlic stems, $12.95