Spicy Pork and Crispy Tofu at Famous Sichuan

20081125-famoussichuan.jpg

I have yet to come across anyone who has eaten at or heard of Famous Sichuan in Chinatown—hell, I only found it by searching for "Sichuan" in Menupages after getting an intense craving for tingling hot Chinese food. The restaurant was nearly empty when I ate there last Tuesday night, possibly because it was overshadowed by the bustling Joe's Shanghai across the street, or because it's only a few months old and has yet to gain much attention. I only tried three dishes so far, but I'm already a fan.

20081125-famoussichuan-beans.jpg

A mountain of sautéed string beans satisfied my need for fibrous vegetable matter in my mostly meat and starch-based diet. The bright green, garlicky string beans were beautifully blistered and had an addictive crispy and chewy texture. You can get the beans with minced pork, but we got ours meatless. I'd happily just eat these string beans for a meal.

20081125-famoussichuan-pork.jpg

But I can't ignore the pull of pork, more specifically double sautéed pork with spicy capsicum. I had a dish like this once before at another Sichuanese restaurant, but found it undesirably chewy. I'm glad that didn't deter me from trying it again since this version is now one of my favorite dishes. The thinly sliced fatty pork (the pork is first boiled whole, sliced, and then sautéed) with leeks, crispy chunks of green peppers, and fermented black beans was tender with a bit of chew. There were a few moments where a particularly spicy slice punched my throat with searing hotness, resulting in some hacking and tearing of the eyes, but it's worth the pain.

20081125-famoussichuan-tofu.jpg

The surprising star of the meal was the General Tso's Bean Curd, possibly the best fried tofu I had ever eaten. The light, crispy outer shell of the hulking tofu chunks gave way to soft, custard-like innards. The only disappointing part was the gloppy, not very spicy sauce, although we shouldn't have expected anything mind-blowingly hot from a General Tso's-style dish. If they used the same sauce as in the double sautéd pork, we'd have a winner.

Famous Sichuan

10 Pell Street, New York NY 10013 (b/n Doyers Street and Bowery; map) 212-233-3888
famoussichuan.com