Saturday, October 23, 2010

Forty-First Week

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grand Sichuan Restaurant, 125 Canal Street, is one of six or so around Manhattan (with branches in Queens and Jersey City, as well). For some reason, I overlooked this site, which might even be the mother ship. This location, on a stretch of sidewalk that is the edge of the Manhattan Bridge off-ramp, is plain looking and seems smaller than some of its sisters which I have visited. Zagat’s puts Grand Sichuan (collectively) just below the top tier of Chinese restaurants.

The menu had a couple of interesting wrinkles. The first is a full page labelled "Mao Ze Dong Style, Chairman Mao’s Favorite Dishes." Even if steamed whole fish with black bean sauce or diced chicken and potatoes with kung bao sauce were also my favorites, I would be deterred by the memory of the tyranny and cruelty of Mao so effectively conveyed in Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. The second is "Authentic Chong Qing Hot Pot," something we had in China. Each diner gets a pot of broth, spicy or mild chicken consomm√©, placed over a burner (I’ll call it Sterno if a trademark lawyer isn’t watching). You toss in seafood, beef, vegetables, spices and let them cook. Grand Sichuan charges by the ingredient. You fish out the cooked ingredients and eat them, and at the end, you have, you hope, a richly-flavored soup. In China, our group more typically had burnt lips and tongues, spots on the front of shirts and blouses, and near-immolations as the flames flamed.

I stayed wrinkle-free and ordered tea smoked duck ($16.95), which I fondly recalled from meals at other branches of Grand Sichuan, and got half a duck with a smoky, salty flavor, not fat-free, but negotiable, accompanied by a small bowl of a dark brown dipping sauce. I paid an extra buck for white rice which came in handy at the end to mix with the remaining sauce to make all gone.

The way to really have fun at Grand Sichuan is to bring Boaz or another kid 2 years 8 months and 15 days old and sit at one of the tables at the front of the restaurant, right by the near-unobstructed window. Sitting there, you face the traffic coming off the Manhattan Bridge and that means cars and buses and taxis and trucks. You can skip feeding the kid rather than interrupt his excitement as the vehicles seem to be coming right at you. Of course, there is the possibility that some out-of-town motorist might join you for lunch without an invitation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

According to the New York Times, the blog that displayed what was alleged to be quarterback Brett Favre’s private parts got 3.2 million hits in the week that followed, more than 5 times its normal traffic. So, I’m wondering if I should take similar measures in order to expose myself to a wider audience. Might there be millions of folks out there would like to see me in a different light? Should I display the real Alan Gotthelf? Does a little bit of Alan Gotthelf go a long way?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I delayed one day in going to my 100th Chinatown Asian restaurant for lunch, because I could not think of an appropriate choice. Every place I knew, I’ve been, with one exception. While I wanted to surprise myself, Pongsri Thai Restaurant, 106 Bayard Street, was very familiar to me although unvisited this year. It is just across the street from the lockup (fabled as the Tombs), adjacent to the criminal courtrooms at 100 Center Street. I had eaten there in the past, but in the current cycle I have been frustrated by a wait for tables in this smallish joint. Most of the 99 other restaurants I’ve patronized have been busy, but I was seated almost immediately upon entering. At Pongsri, I had walked in, waited and walked out 3 or 4 times already this year. So, it was an appropriate choice for # 100. Except, it wasn’t. Even though no one was waiting ahead of me, I waited long enough to realize it was not meant to be and left once more, even as 8 or so other people came in behind me.

I thought I’d go to Forlini’s, my favorite inexpensive Manhattan Italian restaurant, just up the block from Pongsri, order a meatball hero at the bar, and put off my 100th Chinatown Asian restaurant for another day. Passing by Pho Pasteur Vietnamese Restaurant, 85 Baxter Street, I could not recall eating there this year, although I knew I had been to Nha Trang One Vietnamese Restaurant, 87 Baxter Street, and Thai Son Vietnamese Restaurant, 89 Baxter Street, its immediate neighbors. So, with the Century mark in mind, I enjoyed Tom Chien Lan Bot ($10.25) in Pho Pasteur, only to learn when I returned to my desk that Pho Pasteur was # 78 on my list, but I failed to report it when I visited on either June 22 or June 23. Hold on, it gets worse. Apparently, as much as I enjoyed Jaya Malaysian Restaurant, 90 Baxter Street on June 24, I left it off my list of restaurants. It should take its place as # 79, resulting in all behind it moving down (up?) a slot, which makes Grand Sichuan # 100. The combination of tea smoked duck and trucks rushing at you made it the right choice after all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
I paid return visits and ate modestly at restaurants these two days, because each evening we had dinner dates with some of our favorite people, Dean Alfange, Thursday, and Jill & Steve, Friday.
Next week, I start on my second century.

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