Mon-Fri, 11:30am-10pm; Sat-Sun, noon-10pm
B, D, F, M at 42nd St.-Bryant Park
30th St. to 49th St., Madison Ave. to Seventh Ave.
Its name may be generic, but Szechuan Gourmet is anything but ordinary. This eatery is the antithesis of stuck-in-the-eighties Szechuan chains that proffer limp sesame noodles and lame hot and sour soup. While its menu caters to local tastes, the restaurant has made an atypical-for-Chinatown attempt at atmosphere: Soft lighting, decorative red paper lanterns and damask-cushioned chairs invite diners to savor the outstanding food such as peppery minced pork with clear noodles. Dishes are generously spiced, but tender sea bass in a honeyed-ginger sauce banks the fires of red-chili-blanketed fried chicken chunks or garlicky pork.
Minced pork with clear noodle, $5.95; deep-fried diced chicken with chili peppers, $12.95; sweet and sour crispy seabass, $20.95