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 genuine—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.
69 Mott Street, New York NY 10013 (map) 212-964-0003
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.