John Zhang has a terrific little property in his restaurant portfolio, located in Greenwich Village and managed by partners, Jenny Fu and Tao An. Now that he's got an MBA, he is less of a presence in his properties and more frequently found on his blog! For aficionados of the earlier Grand Sichuans, the first thing that strikes you about this new property is the design. Zhang himself describes it best: In the first decade of the Grand Sichuan, roughly from 1996 to 2006, our restaurant designs were typical Chinese prototype, and the first one in Chinatown was a typical Chinatown style. Entering into the second decade of our business, we decided to change. We all share holders agreed that the restaurant design, the second generation of Grand Sichuan, had to adapt to its environment: the west village culture. Travelers to the homebase of Sichuan cooking—Chengdu and Chongqing—know that this flair for modern design hasn't really caught on yet in America, and thus it is refreshing and pleasant to know that while New York's Thai restaurants have innovative and creative design, finally some of the top-end Chinese properties do as well.
Some surprises await you here; in addition to some of the favorite menu items you'll find at the Second Avenue and St. Mark's locations, there are some innovative Sichuan and Hunan offerings. If you've traveled around rural Sichuan, a simple dish we know as Mung Bean Noodle with Spicy and Peppery Sauce can be tremendously satisfying. The delightful cold Five Spiced Beef Salad appears on the menu here as well. Don't be afraid to try chewy Sliced Pig Ears; you'll find them an interesting taste sensation. Of course, several sorts of the beloved dumplings can be found here, as are the addictive Sichuan Wonton in Red Oil and Dan Dan Noodles.
While Zhang has cleverly included 18 of the beloved American Chinese dishes on this menu to please every palate, there are number of classic Sichuan dishes you'll want to try. In addition to the tea-smoked duck that's become well-known in New York, Shredded Chicken with Sour Cabbage and the Sichuan classic spicy Double Cooked Pork are superb. Several types of Hunan and Sichuan fish are expertly prepared and sliced tableside for you. Do not miss the Sliced Cured Pork w. Dry String Beans, a wonderful and flavorful combination of meat, fat and chopped beans. If you've never experienced Sauteed Pork from Bone or Sauteed Mixed Preserved Meats, do give them a try. As with many dishes on this menu, they are available in smaller portions if you dare not order the full-size portion. Want more recommendations? Try Sliced Fish Sauce Soup, Beef w. Cumin Flavor, and Sauteed Cured Dry Bean Curd.
Grand Sichuan — West Village is located in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The western slice of Greenwich Village—although some will tell you it's a separate neighborhood altogether; don't listen to them—the West Village is a somewhat sleepier version of its larger neighborhood, with many tree-lined streets populated by residential buildings and punctuated ever-so-lightly with restaurants and bars. The locals have fought notoriously hard throughout the years to keep raucous bars and clubs from staying open—or even opening at all—to preserve the relative quiet of their neighborhood. The West Village stretches east from the Hudson River to 6th Avenue, and north from Houston Street to West 14th. It's northwestern corner is chewed off by the Meatpacking District, where the very sorts of restaurants and bars West Village residents try to keep out of their 'hood flourish. The majority of Bleecker Street's dining, shopping, and drinking options exist on the West Village's end of the street, with a small shopping mecca surrounding the intersection of 7th Avenue, where many high-end retailers have stores, like Brooks Brothers' Black Fleece, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, and a whole lot more. There's plenty of history here, and the bars are no exception—Dylan Thomas famously stumbled out of the White Horse Tavern heavy with whiskey on the night he expired at the Hotel Chelsea. For those aiming to avoid the thumping, throbbing nightclubs of the Meatpacking District, jazz can be had at Fat Cat, the legendary Village Vanguard, and smaller, quieter establishments like 55 Bar. If you'd like a more structured day of drinking, the folks at the Literary Pub Crawl put on a fantastic and informative tour. The sophisticated residents of the West Village have led a number of excellent restaurants to open in the neighborhood, from Italian favorite Sant Ambroeus, April Bloomfield's game-changing gastropub The Spotted Pig, Yerba Buena, and Perry St.. Of course, if you're not in the mood for high-end cuisine in mood-inducing settings, there's pizza on offer at John's of Bleecker Street, but you'd be better served by walking a little further east and feasting one our favorite New York slice at Joe's. And if it's a burger you're looking for, the city's first Umami Burger is lurking over on 6th Avenue, while perennial favorite Corner Bistro is on 7th. While the West Village is low on museums, it has two of the best independent cinemas in the city between Film Forum and neighborhood landmark IFC Center.
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