Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Return to Flushing

Flushing rarely disappoints. This time, I headed out for Hunan food at Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan. The room is noticeably smaller than most of the banquet hall dining rooms of outer Queens, the food just as potent. I took a tip from Sam Sifton and ordered what the Times recommended, with some deviation from the rules. Marinated wood ear mushrooms were slick and salty and chewy and bright; shards of cucumber came bathed in a vinegar mixture that coated each piece in some kind of miracle emulsion. Even the simplicity of fried pork dumplings astounded us. "These are how dumplings should taste," exclaimed one of my dining companions.

Braised pork Mao-style (you'll see a lot of reference to Mao in this spot, who, according to legend, shared a hometown with one of the proprietors) was really just fatty pork belly in a bright red sauce with baby bok choy. The texture isn't for everyone and harkens trotters, but trotters I can live with, really. Cumin coated lamb was crispy and aromatic and complimented by the leaves and stems of fresh cilantro and more than a few red Thai chiles.

Pea shoots sauteed with garlic were seasoned adequately, which is one of my usual complaints at Chinese restaurants that only serve greens as an afterthought. Actually, these greens tasted more of peas than some actual peas I have eaten.

For the rest of my companions, the evening's piece d' resistance was a whole duck, cooked in a mirepoix of vegetables and served over a bunsen burner, tableside. The waiter picked the braised meat from the bones and left all of it to simmer in a roasting pan. But I found my plate laden with more bones than meat and the addition of caraway seeds was nothing short of overwhelming. It tasted more of rye bread than barbecued duck, which is what it had been billed as. Also, cooked celery gives me the creeps and always has, so I had no particular longing to repeat my duck experience. Next time, I'll order what Sifton recommended: sliced pork with dried turnips.

Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan
42-27 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

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