Grand Sichuan 74 is a no ambiance joint that is part of the Grand Sichuan mini-chain in New York City. Apparently each of the Grand Sichuan restaurants has the same Sichuan style base menu but has their own executive chef that adds addition dishes. Grand Sichuan 74’s menu includes dishes from Chong Qing, a large municipality that was part of the Sichuan Province until the late 1990s. Chong Qing has its own regional style of Sichuan food, notably a style of hot pot. Grand Sichuan 74’s menu includes General Tso’s Chicken and Orange Flavored Beef, so they have taken the route of offering typical Americanized-Chinese dishes as a gateway to some more adventurous Sichuan dishes (e.g. Chong Qing Sliced Fish And Sour Cabbage or Spicy Mung Bean Noodle or Ox Tongue & Tripe).
The Dumplings: The appetizer section of Grand Sichuan 74’s menu has a pretty extensive dumpling list; Crabmeat & Pork Soup Dumpling, Pork Soup Dumpling, Sichuan Wonton with Red Oil, Steamed or Fried Pork Dumpling, Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, Steamed or Fried Vegetable Dumpling, and Roast Pork Bun.
Pan Fried Vegetable Dumplings – These veggie dumplings were mainly filled with a shredded white cabbage, with some greens and flecks of carrot mixed in. Both the wrapper and the filling had a mushy consistency and the filling tasted like overcooked cabbage; they had that same sulfurous smell too. On top of the overcooked cabbage flavor, these dumplings also tasted of old burnt cooking oil. I do not recommend trying these dumplings.
Pork Shu Mai – Each of these steamed Shu Mai was adorned with a green pea or two and was filled with a dense ball of pork with carrot mixed into it. There was a problem with the wrappers on these Shu Mai, as I picked each one up the wrapper sagged away from the filling and fell off the meat ball, back into the cabbage leaf lined steamer. This was not a chop-stick user error, but a defect in either the consistency of the wrapper or the folding and attachment of the wrapper to the filling. The Shu Mai were also really greasy, so I ended up with a pile of broken wrapper dough laying in pools of grease that had collected on the cabbage leaves that lined the bottom of the steamer.
Wonton in Red Oil – OK, the best for last. Grand Sichuan 74 uses relatively large and floppy wontons so there was a good amount of noodle to mop the sauce up with and the pork in the wonton tasted great. The sauce was a mix of chili oil, soy and probably sesame paste or tahini. The chili oil was flavorful and packed a punch, by the end of eating the dish my lips and tongue felt a solid burn. There was just the right amount of sesame paste in the sauce so it had a velvety smooth, creamy texture and some nutty sesame flavor, without going overboard and producing a sauce that was thick and gloppy. When I used the Fried Vegetable Dumplings to mop up the chili oil that remained after I ate the wontons, the sauce was tasty enough that the veggie dumplings actually tasted OK. I would certainly get these wontons again.
The Dipping Sauce: The Pan Fried Vegetable Dumplings came with a standard soy based dipping sauce that was quite strong tasting, but was not able to hide the sulfurous and burnt oil taste of the dumplings.
The Location: Sichuan Grand 74 is on Amsterdam Avenue between 74th and 75th streets on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This area of Manhattan has tons of Chinese restaurants that I have been touring over the past few months.