I have to gloat a little bit. Back in early June I devoted my first "cheap eats" post to Szechuan Gourmet, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the city. It's a nondescript little place on West 39th Street that you'd easily pass right by if you were ignorant to the culinary delights served up within. So imagine my surprise when, opening up the Dining section of the New York Times earlier today (my favorite Wednesday morning ritual), I discovered that eminent Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni not only reviewed the restaurant but awarded it two stars! I was surprised, as Bruni usually reviews much more expensive--for me, less accessible--spots. Had I not already known about Szechuan Gourmet, this would have been the first Bruni critique that I could actually follow up on by eating at the restaurant.
But what's important here is that Mr. Bruni's well-educated, no doubt highly sensitive palate registered many of the same pleasures that my perhaps greener, less professional palate did. Though some people find the numbing effects of Szechuan peppercorns off-putting, Bruni--like me--revels in their heat. He names the crispy lamb fillets with cumin as his favorite dish on the menu; it's mine, too. He also recommends the pork dumplings with roasted chili soy, which, for me, are certainly among the must-order items. Now I'm eager to go back to Szechuan Gourmet and try some of the dishes I had previously ignored, like the fish fillets with Napa cabbage, or the curiously intriguing stir-fried shredded potatoes.
The only problem? The restaurant will now be so overrun by loyal Times readers seeking a bargain that I'll never be able to get in again.