I think I may be off the Grand Sichuan on Ninth and 24th for good.
it's been ages since I had a meal to equal the quality this place put out in its heyday. My last BUNCH of meals here have disapppointed. This one, as usual, had gaffes (hypersalty tea duck, leather-tough conch with not enough wild Sichuan peppers), echoes (only three truly flavorful chunks of pork in the red pork with chestnuts), and near misses (dan dan noodles not quite at escape velocity, something wrong with the smokiness of that same duck), and successes (loofah right on, perfect texture; shredded potatoes also good).
I just can't rely on this place to do things right. It's like Russian Roulette trying to figure out which dishes are going to be ok any given time, and also trying to figure out which location the top chef's in.
I'll try the Canal St and Hell's Kitchen branches a couple more times. But there's a lot of good food in this town, and I really have limited patience for this kind of wild inconsistency. The whole thing reminds me of Joe's Shanghai...started out great, branches opened, the top chef started doing a "Where's Waldo" routine, and in the end I wound up swearing off the whole chain. Too many disappointing meals.