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Szechuan Mountain House


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#1 Sneakeater

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 04:34 AM

I am writing about the EV branch on St. Marks Place, not the Flushing mothership.

 

I ate here a few months ago.  But I didn't want to write about it until I had also eaten in the celebrated Guan Fu in Flushing (right next to this place's mothership, as it turns out).  Before I heaped any praise on this place, I wanted to make sure it wasn't totally outclassed by Guan Fu.

 

Well, Guan Fu deserves all the praise it's gotten.  And it's better than here.  But NOT an order of magnitude better.

 

I'm no expert on Szechuan food.  But I'd say that this is the best Szechuan restaurant I've ever eaten at in Manhattan.

 

First, the cooking is better -- more precise, more finely calibrated -- than even at such excellent entries as Lan Sheng.

 

Second, the menu is chock-full of dishes you just don't see elsewhere.   And the ones I tried (don't ask for details:  I ate here a while ago) were very rewarding.

 

I'd love to hear what the Sichuan experts here have to say about this place.  But I think it's a real EV resource.


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#2 Daniel

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 12:34 PM

This is exciting
Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#3 Daniel

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Posted 17 August 2018 - 07:33 PM

In the old Grand Sichuan Street on St Marks, up a flight of stairs occupied by two homeless people, is this lovely Sichuan Restaurant.. The food, exciting, delicious, offering a wider variety or different selection than your typical menu... 

 

With a 45 minute wait, we walked down the street and ended up in a Saloon.. They unfortunately do not call you when your table is ready so, we came back 30 minutes later and waited the remaining 15 minutes.. Also, unfortunately, no reservations, even for large groups.. 

 

They offer a spicy pickled cabbage salad that was so good, we ordered a whole order as well.. 

 

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cold chicken is exemplary.. the chicken is fatty and cooled in fat and soaked in oil and it has this creamy quality.. 

 

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Beef in sour soup.. A really nice version.. I was missing the fresh peppercorns often add but, there were enoki mushrooms or mushrooms and it was spicy and sour and delicious. 

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Crab with gelatinous rice.. Make sure you ask for a vinegar dipping sauce for the crab.. as they didn't give us any but, i asked and they were like, oh shit how did you know about that..  And I said, cuz that's how your mom made it for me... Anyway, this was like 60 bucks and it was really lovely.  the rice takes in the crab, there was roe smeared on the rice.. it was all very good.. it takes about 30 minutes to prepare...

 

 

 

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Fish head is normally my favorite.. But, I like the Hunan Style better but, this was a rather poor version on a few levels.. Firstly, it was not cooked all the way through.. And despite my protests, they said, it was fine.. And I thought to myself, when the heck was the last time you were served anything remotely medium rare in a Chinese Restaurant.. It's either cured, pickled, or hammered to death.. Like, not even vegetables are served undercooked.. We were stuffed so, why protest.. I ate the cheeks and some parts but, whatever..   This was an oily pickled pepper sauce.. The pickled peppers were not that strong and it was just sort of mild pickeled oil tasting.. The fish again, was cooked poorly and well, what a bummer..  But yeh, even if the fish were cooked well, the sauce was not successful.   As a consideration, I gave the fish head container to the people sitting on the stoop.. Hopefully the staff will get a second look at the fish and realize their mistake. 

 

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We ordered so much food that it was not an issue but, yeh, next time I am getting the fish in the pot... 

 

I'll be back


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#4 joethefoodie

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 01:42 PM

Maybe I wish I had eaten here a year or more ago, as I was't that moved by a our dinner a few nights ago.

 

I think they forgot that Szechuan peppercorn should be added to a few of the dishes we ordered, at least according to my research.  And if that fried striped bass was really a striped bass, I'd be surprised.

 

No overall judgement on the place, as we 4 didn't sample anywhere near enough of the menu to make a call. But I think I'm liking the new wave of Hunanese restaurants in Manhattan more than I am liking the Szechuan places here. I find, for Szechuan, that Legend of Taste and Little Pepper seem to be on a magnitude better.  After our disappointing group meal at the flagship Guan Fu a few months ago, I'm starting to wonder if all the Szechuan chefs in Manhattan have left for greener pastures.

 

As an aside, Fuchsia Dunlop will be giving a talk at the Museum of Chinese in America tomorrow evening. I guess she has reissued the classic Land of Plenty.



#5 Seth Gordon

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 04:55 PM

After our disappointing group meal at the flagship Guan Fu a few months ago, I'm starting to wonder if all the Szechuan chefs in Manhattan have left for greener pastures.

 

There is a LOT of chef shuffling in NYC Chinese restaurants. Unless it's a joint with a namesake chef-owner like Ping's or the old Danny Ng's Place, I find many will bring in a respected chef who for the first year or so and then they'll move on. They're more like extended-stay consulting chefs. With the gazillions of dollars being spent on development out in Flushing, the good ones are all likely being wooed away to new projects. Every new condo complex / hotel / shopping center wants a luxury flagship, and Sichuan is très liúxíng right now. And the old places - especially ones that are just doing classics, like SMH or GF, don't really care if they lose them once the kitchen is running smooth. It costs them less to let them walk and promote an assistant chef.

 

There's been a bit of growth in the non-hotpot Sichuan scene out on Sunset Park over the last year or so. Maybe some of the good chefs are moving out there.



#6 AaronS

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 05:24 PM

have you tried the sunset park restaurant that just got a bib gourmand?

#7 joethefoodie

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 07:27 PM

No, but I'm certainly willing to give it a go if there are any takers and we can get a few others. 



#8 Seth Gordon

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 07:33 PM

have you tried the sunset park restaurant that just got a bib gourmand?

 

I have - Chuan Tian Xia. I liked it, though I haven't had a chance to really explore the menu yet. Have been meaning to go back but the last couple times we've attempted it was just mobbed with a long waiting list. 

Another new place that's clearly aiming a little higher is Chuan Yue, which is down a side street behind Fei Long Market. Very nice place, clearly someone put a lot of $$ into it, and they're aiming for a younger hipper crowd - local craft beers (not the best selection but points for effort) and a young, friendly, attractive staff who (mostly) speak English very well. I think the location may not be doing them any favors, since it's not as visible or immediately next any of the other nightlife like places on 7th and 8th are. But I'd noticed they were open until 2:00 AM so I figured we'd try it for some midnight heat after a late flick at the Alpine Cinema. Menu (which differed quite a bit from their online menu) had some interesting, out of the box stuff - pork brain mapo tofu! Didn't get to try it, as I was with a brain-averse friend. The meal we had was pretty solid - conch with burnt chilies, dry pot frog, double-cooked pork. Dandan noodles I found skippable, but I also find that's the case almost everywhere. Also of note - one of those odd things I'd never really noticed before - they're one of the few Chinese places out there that has bar seating. 



#9 Stone

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 07:56 PM

I was with Mitch at SMH.  I liked it, but I wasn't expecting as much.  I tend to find these "authentic" sichuan places a bit unsatisfying.  and most of the menu involves stuff that I have no interest in eating.

My favorite of the night was braised cabbage with pork.  Good porky flavor with some fermented black beans and a hit of vinegar.  And the pork wasn't too fatty.

The ma po tofu was good, but a smallish portion.  Not much different from what could be gotten elsewhere.  

The fried fish was good.  It probably wasn't bass, as Mitch noted, and it wasn't very large.  It was covered with a thick sauce of minced pork and chiles that was just a bit too sweet.

The lo so chicken (not sure what it's called) was disappointing. I just don't get this dish.  Small chunks of dry, over-fried chicken -- many of which were just bones, hidden in a pile of chopped red peppers.  75% of the stuff on the plate was inedible chili peppers. (Does anyone actually eat the red peppers?  It's like paper.)  The chicken tasted fine, but it's hard to get a real bite of meat.

The fried rice with mung beans was fine.  Sauteed lotus root was good, nothing to write home about.



#10 Orik

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:00 PM

There is a LOT of chef shuffling in NYC Chinese restaurants. 

 

Jim Leff's Wu Liang Ye chef has finally come to life.

 

We had a similar meal at Sichuan Mountain House last year (including suspicious bass), and it's definitely as Seth describes - ambitious projects start with a good team and then that team leaves. Sichuan Gourmet, Guan Fu, SMH, the Grand Sichuan that was there before SMH, and so on, even Hot Kitchen although that wasn't that great to begin with.


sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns

#11 Steve R.

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:12 PM

No, but I'm certainly willing to give it a go if there are any takers and we can get a few others.


I’m sure you can convince us.

This space available… contact owner.


#12 joethefoodie

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:12 PM

I wonder if the couple of places I've truly liked (i.e. Little Pepper and Legend of Taste) start out not having to be so ambitious as they do in Manhattan/Sunset Park/Flushing. And then whoever is cooking doesn't leave and they actually get better? 



#13 AaronS

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:26 PM

seth - I had a nice meal at daxi in flushing on your recommendation. thanks, I’ll try chuan yue soon, we have a birthday party at bounce U this weekend and it’s close.

#14 Seth Gordon

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:46 PM

seth - I had a nice meal at daxi in flushing on your recommendation. thanks, I’ll try chuan yue soon, we have a birthday party at bounce U this weekend and it’s close.

Glad you liked DaXi - I'm pretty fond of it, and on the above topic it doesn't feel like they've shuffled chefs. There's a quirkiness they have that none of the others do. And for whatever reason they don't as much talk as GF of SMH or the others - I think only Sietsema has really taken note of them. 
 

I may have to try BounceU. Bummer they don't have an "adult swim" there, though. I'd probably get some funny looks showing up without a young'n in tow. 



#15 Seth Gordon

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Posted 21 October 2019 - 08:57 PM

I wonder if the couple of places I've truly liked (i.e. Little Pepper and Legend of Taste) start out not having to be so ambitious as they do in Manhattan/Sunset Park/Flushing. And then whoever is cooking doesn't leave and they actually get better? 

 

Probably so. While I haven't been to LOT yet, the two of them - and I'd add in Alley 41 as another example of similar - are either chef-owned, or have very involved owners who had specific visions of what they were aiming for, and it wasn't the moon. I don't know anything about the owner(s?) of Guan Fu - do they run twenty other restaurants, and this is just one among many investments? Same for Mountain House.