Chinese is the ethnic food of the suburbs circa 1987, a time when no one knew what Thai food was, not to mention Vietnamese. Once I discovered these alternate Asian cuisines, I was happy to jettison Chinese from my diet. A childhood of MSG-infused takeout left me with a visceral reaction to Chinese not dissimilar to the sensation of being a shipwrecked passenger in the middle of the ocean: extreme thirst followed by the feeling that my stomach is full, and yet I am hungry.Hunan Delight was going to have to do a lot to win me over.
to my relief, they did. The large chunks of Sesame Chicken ($9.50) were all-white meat, and they were coated, not drowned, in a pleasant sticky-sweet sauce. Substantial pieces of beef punctuated the onion, egg, and green pepper mixture of the lively Moo Shu Beef ($9.25). Eating the Pork Fried Rice ($3.95, small) was like eating a good bagel — it fills you up, but the taste isn’t particularly memorable.
Hunan Delight will provide brown rice at no extra charge, and they have an extensive vegetarian menu if you’re down with the bean curd. This is Chinese with a healthy aesthetic — a concept I wholly support.
Grand Sichuan International 229 Ninth Ave
On Grand Sichuan International’s menu, Chicken with Broccoli and Sesame Beef are neatly classified as American-Chinese Cooking — a category that helpfully differentiates between “Chinese” food and Chinese cuisine. (And a category that adventurous diners and gourmets should avoid.)
Unlike mystery meat in many wonton cousins, the pork in Fried Pork Dumplings ($4.25) was delicate, juicy, and gristle-free, but whet our appetites for something more exotic. Next, we dished out a Shanghai Cooking Chef Specialty, Aui Zhou Spicy Chicken ($8.95), and discovered morsels of chicken in a fiery red sauce loaded with Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers. From the whimsically named dishes of the Prodigal Daughter (listed only on the in-house menu, but available for delivery), we sampled Green Parrot with Red Beak ($ 5.95), young spinach shoots marinated in a light dressing that were bursting with the tang of fresh-grated ginger. The meal’s only weakness was Sautéed Duck and Bitter Melon ($14.95) from Mao’s Home Cooking. Bitter melon (the main ingredient, garnished by specks of duck) may have been one of the chairman’s favorites, but we found it far too biting to risk another bite. The moral of this dinner story? The dangers of experimentation may be real, but the rewards are great.