Old Sichuan – Good Sichuan Food in Chinatown
Last night I went to Old Sichuan 老正川 with some chowhound people. It is a new Sichuan restaurant that is located where the now defunct Yeah Shanghai Deluxe used to be. According to some people on chowhound, it is the same owners as Yeah Shanghai Deluxe.
The owner was extremely nice and very talkative. She runs Old Sichuan and her husband runs Old Shanghai Deluxe down the street. I’m pretty sure she is Shanghainese, but I didn’t ask her specifically. She told us that the chef at Old Sichuan is from Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan province. He started cooking when he was 19 and has been cooking for 30 years.
The restaurant is reasonably nice with exposed brick and this weird bridge with a rock formation and water along the wall when you first enter to the restaurant. It’s clean and much nicer looking than most Chinatown restaurants.
On to the food:
Roasted Peanuts and Seaweed:
This was served at the beginning of the meal. Both of them were pretty standard and self-explanatory, but they were good. 7.75/10
Pickled Cabbage (Si Chuan Pao Cai):
I’m not a huge fan of this generally, it’s just pickled white cabbage. It’s a good version here though, crispy cabbage, good flavor and not overly sour. 7/10
Ox Tongue & Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce (Fu Qi Fei Pian):
This a famous Sichuan dish made of thin slices of tendon, tongue and tripe served cold in spicy red oil sauce with chopped up peanuts and chili peppers. The version here is excellent, very clean tasting and you could taste both the ma (numbing sensation) and the la (spicy). I really liked this dish a lot. 8/10
Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce (Suan Ni Bai Rou):
This was definitely my favorite dish of the night. The dish is thin sliced pork served cold topped with spicy red oil, garlic, chopped peanuts, diced scallions and red chili. The sauce was spicy, but really fragrant and slightly sweet. I really liked this and I could eat a whole plate of this with some rice and be happy. 8.5/10
Pan Fried Chicken Tiny Bun (Sheng Jian Bao):
Normally, I’d never order these at a Sichuan restaurant, but the owner recommended them and I believe she is Shanghainese, so it sounded like a reasonable idea. She told us how they use chicken meat instead of pork, which is the normal meat you use. The bottoms were perfectly crispy, the bun was not too doughy or thin and the meat inside was tender and flavorful. I thought these were really good. 8.25/10
Water Cooked Fish (Shui Zhu Yu):
I think this dish was actually on the specials menu which is only written in Chinese on a blackboard. In this dish, the meat is poached in water then put in a bowl with chili peppers and vegetables and then a bath of hot vegetable oil is poured over it. The result is very tender meat, but a very oily and spicy bath of sauce over it. The fish meat was excellent; it was a clean tasting white fish that was super tender although maybe too tender as it was hard to pick up. Although the sauce was quite spicy, I felt was missing something. When you have a really good version the sauce is very flavorful, but I felt it was a bit under flavored. Overall, I thought it was quite good, but not amazing. 7.75/10
Shredded Potatoes with Vinegar Sauce (Suan Liu Tu Dou Si):
This was interesting and was recommended by the owner. It was julienned potato strips with a few julienned sliced green peppers and carrots in it. The dish was served hot and had a sour vinegar sauce on it. I thought it was a bit plain; it would’ve been better if it more sour. I wasn’t crazy about it, it would have been better cold. 6.75/10
Lamb with Cumin Flavor (Zi Ran Yang):
This is the typical sliced lamb in cumin. The lamb was very tender here and not gamey. The cumin was not as strong as most places and was also not really noticeable on the outside like it normally is. I liked it, but I think Szechuan Gourmet’s version is better. 7.5/10
Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken (Chong Qing La Zi Ji):
Generally, I’m not a huge fan of this dish. This is small chunks of dark meat chicken on the bone in a bath of chili. The version here is pretty decent, but I’m still not a huge fan of the dish. 7/10
Sour String Beans with Minced Pork (Suan Dou Jiao Rou Mo):
This looks like a Taiwanese dish called cang ying tou, but tastes completely different. It was finely diced snake beans with minced pork and some other vegetables. The beans are sour, but I found the dish oddly bland. It wasn’t bad, but didn’t have that wok flavor or anything all that distinctive about it. I feel like it could be really good, but was just decent. 7/10
Sweet Eight Jewel Taro (Ba Bao Xiang Yu):
This was interesting, normally ba bao fan is made with nuo mi (sticky rice), but here she told us a specialty of theirs was to make it out of taro root. It’s a mound of mashed taro that has sweet red bean paste inside it and raisins and dates on top of it. They pour a condensed milk sauce over it. Clearly, an extremely healthy dish! I liked it a lot though, however it is a very Chinese old people type of dish, so I’m quite certain there are a lot of people who would disagree and not like it at all. 7.75/10
Overall, it was a mix of some very good dishes and some decent dishes, but a lot of promise. I thought the dishes were probably a little better executed than most Sichuan restaurants in the city. I definitely plan on coming back, so I would recommend trying this place out.
65 Bayard St
Manhattan, NY 10013
I am tempted to try this place. However, if I am going out of my way, is it worth going here instead of Sechuan Gourmet. I’ve tried other Sichuan places before in the city which have been not bad in their own right but still not as good as Sechuan Gourmet. I figure when the menus are so similar I might as well just go to the place that does the dishes the best.
well i can’t totally say b/c alot of the dishes at Old Sichuan i haven’t had at szechuan gourmet.
I think szechuan gourmet is quite good if you get the right dishes, however i am not of the belief that it is so superior to all sichuan restaurants in the city as i’ve had both good and awful dishes there.
Of thes dishes i’ve had at both:
– Ox Tongue & Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce (Fu Qi Fei Pian): it is better at Old Sichuan, i think they may have the best version i’ve had in manhattan or at least as good as any other version
– Water Cooked Fish (Shui Zhu Yu): while old sichuan makes a pretty decent version, i think SG’s was a little better although not alot better
– Lamb with Cumin Flavor (Zi Ran Yang): SG’s version is definitely better, but that is the best dish at SG by far and it is actually the main reason i go there
the Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce (Suan Ni Bai Rou) and Pan Fried Chicken Tiny Bun (Sheng Jian Bao) are both really good at Old Sichuan and i would go back for those alone
Alright then, I’ll give it a try (the suan ni bai rou was what I was most interested in trying which I haven’t had/seen at SG). I’ve heard good things about the douban yu as well. I frankly wouldn’t have normally tried a sichuan place that has shengjian/xiaolong bao b/c usually a mish mosh of such disparate regions of Chinese food is an effort to be all things to all people which fails. If the owner is Shanghainese and just threw them in for good measure then I’ll let it slide (important thing is chef is from Chengdu).
There are individual dishes which I’ve liked better at some places than SG, but on the whole I find the average quality to be higher there so I like it for a one stop shop.
the suan ni bai rou was really good, i was really surprised at it
yah ive read about the douban yu as well, we were thinking about getting it, but were too full to order it
as far as sheng jian bao, normally I totally agree with you, but I’m pretty sure the owner is from shanghai (her husband runs a shanghainese restaurant down the block) and she intelligently brought in a chef from chengdu….she said they were good so we tried them and they were way better than most of the garbage sheng jian bao you get in manhattan