Slideshow: Grand Sichuan International: The Mini-Chain Comes to the UWS's Rescue

Ma Po Tofu ($8.25)
Ma Po Tofu ($8.25)
JKLA: If you haven't figured it out by now, Mapo Tofu is my death-row dish. I love it, particularly the hardcore traditional Sichuan variety, which comes hidden under a crimson slick of fiery chili oil with a cloud of toasted Sichuan peppercorns floating on top.

Grand Sichuan's is good, but eases up on the heat and oil, instead choosing to employ a cornstarch-thickened thick red sauce. The flavor is good, but the heat and chili oil could be increased.

Dan Dan Noodle w. Chili Sauce ($4.50)
Dan Dan Noodle w. Chili Sauce ($4.50)
A dish marred by the quality of the noodles. Soft and spongy instead of slippery and stretchy, they could have done with more of the chili oil that defines this traditional Sichuan appetizer. The preserved mustard root mixed with ground pork that topped the dish was a nice pungent touch.
Sichuan Wonton w. Red Oil ($4.25)
Sichuan Wonton w. Red Oil ($4.25)
The same two problems as the Dan Dan noodles: the pasta skins here were mushy and waterlogged as opposed to slippery and stretchy, and there wasn't nearly enough chili oil to classify these wontons as "Sichuan," though there was no shortage of black vinegar.
Smoked Tea Duck w. Bone ($16.95)
Smoked Tea Duck w. Bone ($16.95)
This is about as good an example of this dish as you'll find. Crackly thin, greaseless skin over supremely tender meat with the light, camphorous aroma of smoldering tea.
Smoked Tea Duck w. Bone ($16.95)
Smoked Tea Duck w. Bone ($16.95)
Very juicy.
Braised Beef Filets w. Chili Sauce ($10.95)
Braised Beef Filets w. Chili Sauce ($10.95)
JKLA: The Braised Beef Filets were everything the Mapo Tofu could have been: plenty of chili oil and Sichuan pepper. The beef itself has a nice, slippery, slick, tender texture, nicely contrasted with the still-crisp braised cabbage hiding underneath.
Orange Flavored Beef ($10.25)
Orange Flavored Beef ($10.25)
KLA: One of the kings of the Chinese American table, and when done right, it ranks up there with my favorite Sichuan dishes. Grand Sichuan's version has plenty of orange flavor and a hint of heat with tender-crisp slices of beef and a not-too-gloppy sauce. The broccoli was a little overcooked, but they're really just there as vegetable mops intended to help soak up flavorful juices anyway.
Kung Pao Chicken ($8.95)
Kung Pao Chicken ($8.95)
JKLA: This is a classic Sichuan dish (see my recipe here), but the version served at Grand Sichuan is a clear concession to the Chinese-American restaurant palate. It's a pretty well done version, though: tender cubes of chicken thigh stir fried with celery, peanuts, a mild sauce, and a few token dried chilis (there's no heat to speak of).
Beef Chow Fun ($6.95)
Beef Chow Fun ($6.95)
JKLA: This is my kid sister's favorite dish, and I must have had it at at least a few dozen restaurants around the world. Grand Sichuan's ain't the best (head to East Ocean City in Boston's Chinatown for that), but it's certainly up there with fresh tasting steamed rice noodles, tender beef, not too much sauce, and plenty of smoky wok hei.