TGI Fry-Day: Spicy Fish Filet Sichuan Style at Shanghai 456

TGI Fry-Day

Explorations of the frying arts.

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

If you order a "Sichuanese" dish at a Shanghainese restaurant, you probably shouldn't expect something that's actually Sichuanese. That holds true at Shanghai 456, but the Spicy Fish Filet Sichuan Style ($6.95 as a lunch special with soup and rice, pictured; $14.95 for a full platter) is good enough that I don't mind at all.

Fried chunks of cornstarch-dredged flounder come with in a sweet and spicy brown sauce with tender mushrooms and seed-in fresh and dried chilies. And lovely fish it is: tender like a scallop with a fresh, clean flavor and a thin, crisp crust that doesn't overwhelm.

You'll have to look for ma la elsewhere, but this sauce is several steps above your typical kung pao or General Tso. The sweetness is restrained, the cornstarch is present but not gloppy, the heat is genuineā€”and a slurp of soy sauce cuts through it all. It does all that, yet still lets the fish shine through every bite. The Shanghainese leash on wild Sichuan heat doesn't hold this dish down.

Shanghai 456

69 Mott Street, New York NY 10013 (map) 212-964-0003