I am embarrassed to admit this but prior to last night my experiences with the Grand Sichuan International trio had been severely limited. Long ago I had read some favorable reviews on CH and had marked it down as a place worth visiting. Then two years ago they opened a branch in midtown on 2nd Avenue which I checked out within a few weeks of the opening. Based on a single visit I thought the dishes were well made but not particularly spicy. I never got a chance to get back there since I changed jobs shortly afterwards.
Last night, suffering a craving for Szechuan peppercorns, I finally visited their Chelsea branch at 23rd and 9th Avenue.
I walked in at about 6:40 and the place was jumping - some 2 tops were available but just. I got the strong feeling that if I had been along 10 minutes later I would have had to wait. Pretty crowded for a Wednesday night.
I ordered some staples - Dan Dan noodles and double sautéed sliced pork. And of course a Tsing Tao. The beer came right away. And then I waited, gnawingly hungry, for 15 minutes, until the pork arrived. I took the opportunity of it's arrival to mention the lost tribe of Dan Dan and it was deposited, with an apology, a minute later.
The food was, quite simply, excellent. No need to beg for the hot stuff, no secret code words were necessary. You order and they just give it to you. What a concept.
The noodles blazed and buzzed and the pork was suitably spicy and accompanied by bright green scallions and peppers. The portions were substantial no New Age tiny food here. The only slightly sour note was that said pork was served with fat slices of ginger which I initially mistook for my favored bean curd. Ach. I am second to none in my love of ginger but this was a bit much.
I left, supremely full, 50 minutes later. The bill - $20.65 plus tip. That included 2 beers. Dirt cheap. I know GSI occasionally pops up on the board but it doesnt get mentioned enough.
This one's a keeper.