Monday, May 28, 2007

On the Road #6: The Grand Sichuan

I wasn’t terribly hungry after my trip to Sonar Gaow, so I waited a few hours before I left for dinner. And this time I was determined to take another stab at the Grand Sichuan. By subway and taxi (I’m finally starting getting the hang of the NY Subway) I made it to Chelsea, the tight-shirted center of New York’s gayborhood. I found the Grand Sichuan on 24th St, and this one was actually open – and boy, was it open! Packed to the gills, I had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. Once seated I got a hold of the menu and started scanning it for the cheap stuff. About a third of it was cheap stuff, specifically the noodle and noodle soup dishes, plus lots of cold dishes. Traditional greasy wok standbys – the triple delights, the candied beefs and orange chickens – were priced a bit higher, and I came here to save some dough (which I desperately needed to do, considering the expensive taxi rides I took all over Manhattan later that night).

I could have played it safe but I wanted to be adventurous. That’s me, Mr. Adventurous! (I should do a TV show with one of those British guys who goes all over the world for Lonely Planet. Er, or not.) So I scanned past the pork, chicken, shrimp and duck and went straight for the cold section. I got my first taste of conch, smothered in chili oil, with some leaks sprinkled on for flavor and decoration (for $7).

Conch is an interesting creature. It lives in those little shells you put up to your ear at the beach. Survivorman Les Stroud killed and ate some right for the cameras. For me, it was a mixed bag. I don’t know if the fault lay in the preparation or in the nature of the beast itself. But I didn’t really like it. I liked the flavor alright, but some of it was just so tough, while other parts were very nice and tender. Between it and a very standard vegetable roll, I ended up filling up very fast. Before the white rice (not complementary) and Diet Coke, my meal came to about $10 – again, the cheap eats abound if you know where to find them!

I was not as enthralled with the conch as I had hoped I’d be. But many other people were enthralled with their dishes, so I guess there’s something to this place. If I find myself back at Grand Sichuan, though, I’m steering clear of the conch.