Whenever my family comes to visit me in Manhattan, we usually go to Joe’s Shanghai because we’re all addicted to their soup dumplings. Yes, I know everyone likes to hate on Joe’s Shanghai these days, but we still love their xialongbao. Sure, it’s not as delicate as the crabmeat buns at Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong, or as cheap as a million other places in Taiwan, but I have room in my heart and stomach for all kinds of xialongbao. Fill it with soup, and I will eat it. Last month, however, I told my family I wanted to go somewhere else, somewhere completely different… the place across the street from Joe’s Shanghai, Famous Sichuan! They didn’t seem very excited, but I promised them if it was bad we could always go to Joe’s, and they begrudgingly relented. I don’t believe in democracy when it comes to food.
I wanted to go to Famous Sichuan because a few months prior, I’d had a really good lunch there. Sauteed Vermicelli with Spicy Minced Pork ($9.95) was pleasantly salty, but the spicy Lamb with Cumin Sauce ($15.95), heavy on the cumin, really blew me away. It’s very similar to the Crispy Lamb Fillets with Chilli Cumin at Szechuan Gourmet, but not deep fried and saucy. Fried is wonderful, but sometimes you want sauce rather than crunch.
My family isn’t too crazy about lamb, however, so we ordered a few other dishes on our trip across the street. All just as delicious.
At Szechuan restaurants, I always order cold beef tendon. At Famous Sichuan, the Sliced Beef Tendon with Chili Sauce ($7.50) was thinly sliced with just enough cool Szechuan pepper heat. I wouldn’t have minded a little more spice, but it was enough to keep me happy.
To satisfy our xialongbao cravings, we ordered the Crabmeat with Pork Meat Steamed Bun ($6.95). Compared to the soup dumplings at Joe’s, these had less soup and weren’t as flavorful, but were still tasty. The skin wasn’t thick, the crabmeat was plentiful, and for those who find the soup in Joe’s xiaolongbao too greasy, Famous Sichuan’s version were less so. Later we ordered another round of dumplings. One is never enough for my family.
I usually gravitate more to duck or pork dishes at Chinese restaurants, but the Braised Beef Fillets and Napa Cabbage with Roasted Chili ($13.95) was one of my favorites of the day. Braised, the meat was tender, and doused with a generous amount of chili oil and topped with lots fresh raw garlic, it wasn’t short on flavor. It was hot, cool, oily, and sharp; all at once. My tastebuds were happy.
The Double Sauteed Pork with Spicy Capsicum ($10.95) was decent. It wasn’t as greasy as it usually is at other restaurants, but the meat could have been more moist, and I would have liked more spice. Of course I still finished every single pork strip.
I normally don’t order General Tso’s anything, but I remembered Robyn raving about it on her blog, so I ordered General Tso’s Bean Curd ($8.95) for David. A fan of more Americanized Chinese food, and a recovering vegan, he loved the tofu. And I have to admit, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t horribly sweet, and the tofu was fried really well so it had a nice crunchy exterior. It was saucy yet still crunchy; I was impressed.
At the end of the meal, everyone declared Famous Sichuan their new favorite restaurant in Chinatown. I’d been worried we would have to go to Joe’s for dumplings after, but there was no need to cross the street except for the requisite bubble tea at Quickly.