Sunday, March 7, 2010

when things taste bad

It was hard to commit to posting this. Because when things taste bad, I'm hesitant to share. No need to discuss mediocre, less than perfect bites right? But what good am I as a restaurant "critic" if I recommend everything? If I raved about all? I would no longer be reliable. I would be lying.

And since "tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth" (quote from Sheryl Louise Moller in Eat, Pray, Love) is a favorite quote of mine, and one I think we all would benefit from referencing, I think I'll avoid the whole lying thing all together and be straight up with y'all. Grand Sichuan in Chinatown is not good, my friends. In fact, it's quite bad. I digress.

Saturday could not have been lovelier. Well, maybe Sunday was. But that's neither here nor there. Saturday was gorgeous and the entire day was spent roaming lower Manhattan on a mission/non-mission of sorts. When we hit Spring and Elizabeth, people started to get hungry. "Perfect!" I thought, "we're in a great area for food." But I blanked. As per usual. (When friends ask for a restaurant recommendation in a certain area, I'm able to spit out suggestions within seconds. When I need one for myself, my brain shuts down. Convenient.) So we continued to walk down Bowery, passing by the ridiculously inspiring and exotic Asian produce and seafood stalls, when someone (who shall remain nameless) decided she wanted noodles. We were now on a mission for a noodle bar and/or a Chinatown feast.

While I could not have been less in the mood for Chinese food (I should note I'm never in the mood for Chinese food. Way, way too greasy), I happily agreed for the sake of expanding my horizons and trying a much talked about Chinatown spot: Grand Sichuan. You want to talk about no frills? Look no further. But that's never something that bothers me, in fact, I find it kind of exciting (à la Pam Real Thai). Sadly, this time around that was not the case.

In their defense, I was not my usual hungry self and I abandoned any and all menu decision making. I could not have been less myself in that regard. A seafood noodle soup, pork and chive dumplings, spicy broccoli, and spicy shredded duck with ginger sauce. Everything sounded perfectly fine to me. Until the soup arrived.

I'm a seafood fanatic. Even walking through the seafood stalls in Chinatown, that overwhelmingly pungent smell of fermented fish doesn't bother me. In fact, it kind of excites me. But this soup smelled nothing short of dank. Funky. Stinky. No thank you.

There was nothing wrong with the broccoli. And that along with some white rice was what I filled myself up on. Crunchy, salty, and absolutely spicy. The shredded duck was no where near shredded. It was more like a plate of gelatinous fat and random bones. I'm shaking my head with disappointment just typing this. I kept thinking to myself, when I stared at the sad plate of duck, "how dare they."

The dumplings were fine; nothing out of the ordinary. But if there's any indication of how I really felt about them, let's just say I only ate one. And had to really try to force myself to eat the whole thing. Meh.

But here's the thing: my culinary idol, Ruth Reichl, adores this place. Talks lovingly about their dishes. So I'm willing to admit that perhaps it was a combination of my mood and what we ordered. Maybe. But until I am seated at a table with Ruth, you certainly won't find me rushing back anytime soon.

Sad, right?
Can't win 'em all.

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