A Dry and Crispy Cumin Lamb Umami-Fest at Szechuan Garden
But rather, it's meant to sing praise to one special dish or delicacy found nearby. Writing this, I realize that one day, I should sing a Proustian song to delicacies lost to time: the cucumber salad once sold at PicNic's market, or Jean-Luc and Jennifer's peppery celery remoulade for that matter, would top the list. But so would the normal-sized buttery blueberry muffin with a lacy, crunchy edge from Positively 104th Street (now Café du Soleil), or the café con leche from La Casita with flattened toast when that restaurant sat at the corner of Broadway and West 106th Street (now a KFC). Maybe someone around here remembers the deliciousness that was Hudes deli going back 70 years? But probably not the even older "Old Vienna" and the "New Vienna" featured in the photo of a prior Throwback Thursday post?
Today's praise is lavished on a relative newcomer: Szechuan Gourmet. Already two and a half years old, SG ably inhabits a feng-shui challenged space under the old beloved Movie Place on West 105th Street just east of Broadway. You'll recall short-lived spots like Pitaya and Zen Palate that followed the longer-lived Métisse. (Have I missed any others that tried and failed?).
But now the space is in SG's hands and the place is on fire, if Christmas evening was any indication.
But I don't want to scare you away with all this talk of spicy. It's not mild, don't get me wrong. But there is umami aplenty in this dish. That juicy lamb, crispy on the outside, squirts its savory flavor through the cumin-salt coating. They also make a beef version of this traditional Sichuanese dish. However, the lamb meat must be less moist because it crisps up better. The beef tends to be softer and is good in its own way.
Top this off with a plate of garlic-sauteed greens or spicy cucumber salad and it's a perfect meal.
There must be a dozen other great eats here -- mostly spicy. But you'll come back to the lamb time and again. Also, it seems best to stay away from the Americanized versions and go for the authentic dishes.
I am determined to have the mapo tofu in the new year. King of mala. It will be another barometer of how good it gets here on W. 105th Street. I'll let you know if it is post-worthy!