Lunch Specials at Lan Sheng – NYC
Two weeks ago, as is the case when my coworker, Taiwai, and I both happen to be “bag lunchless,” a half hour before noon, we were busy plotting lunch. Usually we get Chinese, he being Chinese and I having been Chinese in a past life (in another I was Indian, another Jewish, and another Italian). Hing Won was considered — it usually is — but then I remembered I hadn’t tried Lan Sheng yet; the newish Szechuan place across the street from Szechuan Gourmet. He mentioned his wife tried it the week before, and said it wasn’t as good as Szechuan Gourmet, so I quickly moved on to researching new Indian lunch options, when Taiwai imed me, “a place that has rabbit at least deserves some respect.” Yes, true, especially in Midtown. Lan Sheng deserved a shot, so off we went.
Although rabbit was the draw, since it wasn’t on the lunch special menu (It would be truly awesome if it was), we ordered Enhanced Pork and Shrimp with Sze Chuan Sauce [both $6.95 with a choice of soup (hot & sour, wonton, or egg drop) or egg roll, and fried, brown, or white rice].
The Enhanced Pork, similar to Double-Sauteed Pork, is sautéed with leeks and black beans, but it’s sautéed less (hence not double-sautéed), and is more salty. According to Taiwai, the Chinese name for the dish means enhanced with salt. Although I don’t think more salt is an enhancement, I liked the Enhanced Pork because the pork belly was crisp at the edges, but still soft throughout. Double-Sauteed Pork can be very dry sometimes. As for the salt factor, eaten with a little more rice, it’s not even an issue.
I’d wanted to order the Shrimp with Sze Chuan Sauce because I assumed it would have the most Szechuan peppers in it, but the heat was from hot green peppers and red pepper flakes, and the mouth-numbing spice was largely absent. If you want the real deal, ordering off the regular menu or asking for more spice is probably the way to go. Even at Szechuan Gourmet, I find the lunch specials never having enough Szechuan peppers, although they still do a better job than at Lan Sheng. In any case, Szechuan spiciness aside, I liked my shrimp dish. I normally don’t order shrimp off Chinese lunch special menus because the shrimp used tend to be more of the fish-bait variety, but these, while admitting still small, were a decent size and were cooked well so they were still plump and juicy. Slicked with red chili oil and tossed with crunchy water chestnuts, it was a deliciously greasy lunch.
Although not as spicy as Szechuan Gourmet, the kitchen at Lan Sheng seems competent, and with a few tweaks, this newbie could become serious competition. I’ll be going back. Although as much as I like spending time away from the office, a thirty minute wait for a table at Szechuan Gourmet is too long when I’m hungry, especially at lunch time.
60 W 39th Street (betw 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas/6th Ave; map)
NY, NY 10018
oh it looks good! & is this ur new camera?? the picture looks greater than usual 🙂
i went on sunday night. it was good.
the lan sheng special chicken was the highlight. nice flavor with lots of crispy skin.
dan dan noodles, cold cucumber, double cooked pork were also good.
beef tendon, not so good. needed to be sliced better. i had it at Ssam bar and loved it, not the same here.
All in all, I thought this a fair review of the restaurant, although I think reviewing only two dishes is problematic. I also like the The Enhanced Pork, and, yes, it is a very salt dish. I suspect this is because there’s soy sauce in the sauce, probably a spoonful of MSG and preserved black beans are preserved in, yes, salt. But to those of us who salivate at the taste of salt, it’s a fine dish. As for the shrimp, I agree with you apropos of lunch specials—I tend to order off the dinner menu at lunch wherever I eat. But one can’t expect fresh giant prawns at lunch special prices, more likely farm-raised, frozen tiger shrimp. (Almost all shrimp come frozen, so taste is a matter of preparation.)
I enjoyed the two meals I had at Lan Shen but without going to detail I prefer Szechuan Gourmet. Apropos lunch. Arrive either at 11:30 or after 2:00 and you’ll not have to wait, and your order won’t be rushed.
@Joohyun – Yes, it’s my new camera! It’s bigger, better, and more embarrassing! David cringes every time I take it out of my bag.
@Steve – Oooh, I never had beef tendon at Ssam Bar. I’ll try it there next time. I love beef tendon.
@RWordPlay – None of my reviews are final, so I’ll probably post again about Lan Sheng. And, yes, I still prefer Szechuan Gourmet also, but Lan Sheng is still somewhat new. Perhaps they’ll get better in the coming months. I’m crossing my chopsticks. 😉
Are those baby shrimp?
Ah… pork and shrimp. That’s a great combo for lunch. I always wish restaurants would respect our abilities to take the heat if we ask for it. Sometimes ya ask, and they don’t deliver, thinking that we’re just wusses. I thought Lan Sheng was pretty good. It doesn’t stand out against Szechuan Gourmet, even though they’re both good.
@someguy – Not babies, just small, but they were reasonably sized for a lunch special option.
@Danny – Yeah, Chinese food is best shared so you have more variety. As for your spice comment, did you ever have the opposite happen? At a Korean, Thai, or Indian place, I make sure to say regular spicy. Otherwise they go crazy. It’s like they want to prove you can’t take the heat. Oooh, not pleasant.
btw, what camera are you using?
I have come to judge Szechuan restaurants by the quality of their appetizers. Namely their wonton in chilli oil, dan dan noodles, and their ox tongue w/ beef tripe in chilli oil. I’ve had one meal at Lan Sheng and I ordered their dan dan noodles. They were not… good. Needless to say, my entree and those of my dining companion’s were not all that great either. A notch up from take out but that’s about it. I see no point in visiting Lan Sheng with Szechuan Gourmet literally right across the street with unquestionably better food many times over.
I love szechuan food. Having said that, the dishes in the pics above look like run-of-the-mill, chinese american take-out. They do not look appetizing.
@someguy – A Canon Rebel XSi. I like it so far. Just wish it wasn’t so big.
@dooks – I heard the dan dan noodles were good at Lan Sheng. Too bad. Btw, I agree, as I wrote in my post, Szechuan Gourmet is better.
@Rosewater – The more authentic items are never listed on the lunch special menu. It’s a shame. I’d love cumin lamb for lunch and not have to pay a fortune.
Their dan dan noodles, and most of there dishes in fact, carried a sweet flavour which just doesn’t jive with me when talking about Szechuan cuisine. Everything we ordered had a very “Americanized/Westernized” taste to them which is fine and dandy when one is talking about carry out but not so good when one wants the real deal.
@Rosewater – I think that can be said about Chinese food in general, they don’t really take the aesthetics into consideration, authentic or not. I would have to say, bionicgrrrl’s photos actually make it look super yum.
Best tip for getting the best ethnic food. Go to a restaurant in which you see mostly folks of that ethnicity dining there. Instead of looking at the menu, look around and see what other people are eating, when your waiter or waitress gets to your table, just point at whatever looks delicious that you notice other people eating. Don’t ask what it is or what is in it, just order it 😀
@dooks – I love the pointing technique. Although once a Chinese waiter yelled at me for doing it. He kept yelling at me, “just tell me what you want!” And I was like, “I don’t know!” *point* *point* Too funny.
@bionicgrrrl- Thanks, that made me laugh on this cold and boring working day!