Szechuan Gourmet

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85 Very Good

Its name may be ordinary, but this comfortable spot serves outstanding, honest Sichuan fare — a hero among midtown Sichuannabes.

21 W. 39th St., New York, NY, 10018


Known For

The lowdown

It may seem like a fluke that there’s a great Sichuan restaurant in midtown; in fact there are several, but this one, an anchor of the bunch, happens to be the best. In the afternoon it can be a zoo, packed with office workers breaking up the monotony of the workday with strong doses of chile oil, but in the evening it tends to clear out and calm down, making it easy to get a table. The service is speedy any time of day, and you can be in and out of the modest but white-tablecloth dining room in an hour, having feasted from a menu that will please the widest spectrum of eaters. For the boldly adventurous: ox tongue with tripe and fish fillets with pigs’ head jello. For the General Tso’s crowd: top-notch versions of American-Chinese standards like scallion pancakes and sliced chicken with baby eggplant. There are many standouts, especially memorable among them the custardy mapo tofu; the tingly salad of smoked, pressed tofu and dense, skinny Chinese celery; cold diced rabbit with peanuts; the sweet, fiery, ultracrunchy cucumbers; and the sautéed prawns with chile-minced pork and asparagus.

What you need to know

Recommended DishesMapo tofu; minced pork with clear noodle; deep-fried diced chicken with chile peppers; sweet and sour crispy seabass.

DrinksBeer and Wine

Noise LevelCivilized