La Vie en Szechuan's Fried Mushrooms, Dressed with Salted Egg Yolk


[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

This fried food needs no dipping sauce because the sauce is already there. Just add water.

Here are La Vie en Szechuan's fried mushrooms ($18.95), slim and tender within their crisp, tempura-like batter (some slivers of green pepper join the ride). The seasoning is light, just enough to bring out the mushroom's natural flavor, and the batter is grease-free. They are good fried mushrooms and would do well in any bar.

But here they're also topped with a dusting of finely shaved salted, cured egg yolk, which is as addictive as finely grated Parmesan and as interesting to eat as the shaved frozen foie gras at other, more expensive restaurants. The yolk shavings melt in your mouth, equal parts salty and sweet, and they form something akin to insta-mayo as you chew.

If La Vie en Szechuan has a specialty that sets it apart from all the other midtown spots, it's their ever so slightly unconventional versions of more classic dishes New Yorkers have gotten used to, like Chongqing chicken with crunchy cracker-like snacks tossed among the chilies, or these mushrooms and their surprisingly creamy dusting of yolk. The menu is huge and a little intimidating, though it rewards exploration.