4, 5, 6, 7, S at Grand Central-42nd St.
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The main thing this less-than-impressive Sichuan restaurant has going for it is geography: it fills a need in an area largely devoid of Chinese food. Yet while the lunchtime General Tso’s chicken might please the office crowds, connoisseurs of mouth-searing Sichuan cuisine will find themselves largely disappointed. Even the namesake mapo tofu fall short – medium-firm, rather than silken, bean curd is coated in a not-spicy-enough sauce, with stinting assistance from tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorn. A seafood chowder proves unforgivably bland, even after a dollop of specially requested chili oil, and beef with napa cabbage in hot oil uses a low-grade cut of meat. A deliciously chewy plate of cool conch slices slicked with orange fiery oil fails to redeem the rest of the meal; this had to be specially requested and turned out to be on the menu under its Chinese name. That may be a lesson to order the things here you’re less familiar with and possibly be rewarded. Or you could just head a few avenues over: Szechuan Gourmet, easily Manhattan’s best representation of this cuisine, is on 39th Street less than half a mile away.Recommended Dishes
Conch in chile oil, $13.05