The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

hot chocolate memories + Grand Sichuan

Hot chocolate was awesome when I was a kid. "It's chocolate! And I can drink it! I DO NOT HAVE TO CHEW!" Granted, I don't chew non-liquid food that well anyway, chocolate! It's a warm sweet liquid that isn't bitter like tea or coffee, nor is it a savory soup.

But alas, the love has waned. The fun of dumping a packet of chocolate-sugar-milk powder in a cup of hot water, vigorously stirring the water to melt and unclumpify the powder and then burning my tongue due to over-enthusiasm is just a relic of the past. A RELIC. Like Mayan ruins, but not nearly as interesting or historically significant. The hot chocolate of my youth is a little hand-carved rowboat drifting off to sea without any passengers, and I'm on the shore, thinking, "...Yeah, that boat was cool when I was little, but it kinda sucks now."

hot chocolate
hot chocolate with whipped cream

I hope you read the other two paragraphs since they were meant to build up to this photo/paragraph. Then again, if I were you I'd probably just focus on the photo. Short attention span, ye know.

I hadn't been to Panya since last year, so naturally...I went to Panya yesterday to grab a quick lunch. It's right by my photography class so it does make some sense. Their proclaimation of "HOT CHOCOLATE WITH WHIPPED CREAM" ($2, $1.75 without cream) on their chalkboard caught my eye. "Hot chocolate, eh? Welll, I said I wouldn't go back to City Bakery anymore...although I really could use a chocolate coating in my stomach. But I can't; it's too far. And I made a pact. A PACT!" (Don't worry, I dont really talk to myself in that manner. Maybe.) As regular hot chocolate, there's nothing wrong with Panya's. It's a matter of fulfilling expectations; it would've been great if I wanted hot chocolate milk, but as for hot chocolate period, not so much. The first, tongue-searing sip reminded me of what I drank as a child. Ah. Nostalgia.

But it's not good enough anymore! BEHOLD:

even spicier chili hot chocolate
City Bakery hot chocolate

City Bakery has ruined me. Their hot chocolate is a gateway drink to harder things (my god, are there things harder than their hot chocolate), thus my palate now only feels delight when smothered with a drink that straddles the line between "You can safely swallow this, kinda," and, "Dude, that's an ice cream topping." While some people say that CB's hot chocolate is too rich, I can drink a cup fairly easily. A cup. More than one is a bad idea, "bad idea" meaning "pseudo-death".

muffin of the week!
muffin innards
muffin innards

Panya's Muffin of the Week (strawberry) looked mighty tasty, so I granted one the not-so-high honor of entering my digestive tract. This was a pretty good muffin: moist, not crumbly, not too sweet. Overall, not disappointing! Woo! Different from most muffins, this one had a cavity for a whole, mooshy strawberry (like coming upon an animal's entrails, mm!) and an awesome crispy-cookie-like top. I wouldn't say I'd get the muffin again, but it's one of the better things I've had at Panya.

pumpkin cupcake
pumpkin cupcake

Although I didn't buy one yesterday, I'd recommend the pumpkin cupcakes. Look, they have a mountain of them, just waiting for you!

Remember that $3 dinner thing I posted about the other day? I ended up getting Nancy to join me, so a little before 6:30 we headed towards Je Bon to see...lots of (mainly Asian) students. It wasn't Mecca during Ramadan (don't ask me why that was the first comparison to pop into my head), but there was a bit of a line forming eastward in front of the entrance. The restaurant started letting people in, and then...

...They stopped letting people in. We got up to the door, which wasn't very far from where we had originally stood, and heard a guy say that either the buffet was full or there wasn't one at all. I guess the first one makes more sense, except I don't see how it filled up that quickly. Maybe 50 people teleported inside, or my counting is off. The restaurant did offer 50% off for NYU students, but Nancy and I felt jipped so we decided to go somewhere else. I don't know if the even was over-publicized (I received two emails about it, one from the Restauranteur's Club and the Taiwanese student association whatnot, neither of which I'm actually in) or poorly organized, but at the very least I think the restaurant should've told all the people in line what they were actually waiting for.

After some discussion about where to go, Nancy insisted that she didn't care where we ate as long as it had food that was semi-fast and not going to kill her right away. Since I had been meaning to go to Grand Sichuan, we went up to the second-story restaurant for what I think was our first Chinese food meal together.

Grand Sichuan

The restaurant has a nice interior. Not too bright or dark lighting, carpeted floor, mellow colors, and plenty of space.

soup dumplings
tiny pork buns (soup dumplings
soup dumpling innards

We started with the pork soup dumplings since I've heard this dish recommendation a number of times. It was good, although as usual, I don't know how it compares to previous soup dumplings I've had. I've tried them at Joe's Shanghai, New Green Bo, Goodies, Chef Liu's, and Shanghai Cafe; there's no clear winner. If I am to go by price, I'd pick Chef Liu's, which was...really cheap. Mmm, I like cheap. Grand Sichuan's may have been less soupy than other ones I've had, but I could be wrong. There was enough soup in it; I certainly don't want the thing to explode on me.

Sauteed Shanghai Bak Choy
Sauteed Shanghai Bak Choy

For something plant-based at an attempt to be marginally healthy (per Nancy's request, we also got brown rice instead of white), we got this mountain of sauteed Shanghai bok choy. I can't think of anything bad about it, so I guess that means it's good. (How much more vaguely can I describe food?) It wasn't too greasy, overcooked, or overly seasoned. Mm, veg. I need fiber.

Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken
Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken

For the "killed animal" part of our meal, we ordered Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken. The waiter explained to us that they had special fresh killed chicken, and the more freshly killed, the more delicious! Death is tasty, folks! We went for freshly killed spicy chicken bits. God, who can resist? WHO?!

Half of the mountain you see in the photo is composed of chile peppers. When they say spicy, they mean it. Being the dumbass that I am (very uninitiated with dishes involving piles of chiles), I decided to eat a forkful of them at once.

"Ah, it can't be that bad." *shoves in mouth*

"...How is it, Robyn?"

"Surprisingly, it's not that bad. Hm." *chew chew* "I don't taste much spiciness. That's odd."

"...Hm...I couldn't eat all those peppers."


Moral of the story: don't shove a forkful of chiles in your mouth and chew thoughtfully while wondering when the flavor's gonna kick it. It will kick in. And punch/stab your mucus membranes. It wasn't the spiciest thing I had ever eaten, but I did wolf down some rice and water and anything that wasn't spicy to alleviate the heat. Afterwards, my mouth felt tender, as got smashed. I'm all better now, but god, that was weird.

Oh, the chicken part! It was pretty good, but not really my cup of tea. I liked the spice combination; unfortunately, I'm bad at identifying spices, thus I can't tell you what they were. Nancy said she tasted star anise, which disagreed with her tastebuds. I tasted hot firey death. It wasn't bad! A complaint I have is that most of the meat was on these tiny, pokey bones that would've been cool if they were replaced with nuts, but THEY WERE BONES, which are less edible; I think the dish would've fared better in the form of boneless chicken. But that's just my preference.

The final bill came to about $18 per person after tax and tip. Not bad, but not a bargain either. I wouldn't necessarily recommend or not recommend Grand Sichuan. It might be the only good Chinese restaurant in the area, and it's a comfortable place to eat, especially for Chinese food (which tend to lack in the "interior design" aspect). They also have a cheap mini-menu that's probably not bad. Just don't eat a gazillion chiles.

And then I went home and felt constipated, but that's another story (and unrelated to Grand Sichuan since I already felt clogged beforehand...and yes, this is too much information for you, but we all have similar problems).

EDIT: Some addendums!

Behold, the most saliva-inducing message I've ever received from my RA:

Pancake Night

Feb. 21 - 27 is National Pancake Week as well as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Come celebrate by learning about Eating Disorders and enjoying lots and lots of Pancakes!

Sunday Feb. 26 8:00PM
Room 402

Hot damn, if that's not a good way to celebrate National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I dunno what is! I'll probably develop a disorder after excessive pancake-ing. Great.

I Heart Guts! is selling t-shirts! I'd totally go for a smiling yellow stomach, but I want a men's size and there aren't any smalls. Poot! Surely one of you would like a cute stomach shirt.

Latest blog subscriptions: Weird Meat documents Michael's weird meat eating experiences. I can imagine trying some of these things once, but others...I dunno. Poo goes out. OUT. Not back in. Hear me? (That's my favorite t-shirt, by the way. Classy.)

ALSO, IMPORTANT, surely someone would come to me with this food writer event:

New York University’s Fales Collection, the home of one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious archives in food studies, will host a panel discussion entitled “Food Writers in Greenwich Village” on Friday, March 10, at 11 a.m. The event is free for those with an NYU ID; for the public, a $10 donation is suggested. It will take place at NYU�s Bobst Library, 3rd floor, Fales Collection, 70 Washington Square South. For more information or to make a reservation, call 212.992.9018.

The panelists include:

  • Mimi Sheraton, food writer and veteran food critic for The New York Times
  • Madhur Jaffrey, author and leading authority on Indian food; known for her BBC food shows
  • Betty Fussell, author of My Kitchen Wars, among other books; food historian
  • Mitchell Davis, food writer; director of publications, The James Beard Foundation
  • Jeffrey Steingarten, food critic for Vogue and author of The Man Who Ate Everything

The discussion is moderated by Clark Wolf, AIWF NY chapter�s founding chair and president and founder of Clark Wolf Company, the food, restaurant, and hospitality consulting firm.

Two other events are planned in this series: on Thursday, June 15, at 4 p.m., NYU will host “Women Who Cook for a Living in New York and Why There Aren�t More of Them” and on Thursday, October 19, at 4 p.m., “From There to Here: the Chains and Systems of Food.”

I save $10! Sweet. I knew that $40-gazillion tuition would pay off. Who's with me?

Lastly, thank you so much to people who have pre-ordered poofy shirts. Tomorrow is the last day, so if you think you want one, get your order in. I have enough unisex-size orders so that I don't have to buy extras (although I probably will), but I have some orders for women's sized shirts left to meet the minimum.


mini / February 24, 2006 5:52 PM

i had the chong qing chicken once before. never again ... i ate one tiny piece and it set my mouth on fire :( I think there is a similar dish for the's called cheng du dry and spicey chicken ...just don't mix em up!

kathryn / February 24, 2006 7:22 PM

Yes, the Chong Qing chicken isn't really a bargain, but many of the other fresh chicken dishes are. I recommend the Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken instead. Most other times I've gone there with two people, there's enough for leftovers the next day.

I think Grand Sichuan really shines when you have a whole bunch of people together and can order several dishes family style.

Liz / February 24, 2006 9:44 PM


Deep breaths, deep breaths! :-(

City Bakery has ruined me. Their hot chocolate is a gateway drink to harder things (my god, are there things harder than their hot chocolate)

I doubt it.

roboppy / February 24, 2006 10:41 PM

Mini: Oh no, set your mouth on fire? My mouth hurt because I ate the actual chiles, but I didn't think the chicken itself was too spicy, just spicier than most stuff I eat (of course, after eating chiles, nothing tasted that spicy). I would've been better if I DIDN'T EAT A BUNCH OF CHILES. D'oh.

Kathryn: Damn, the dude recommended that dish to us! We asked for something chicken that was spicy. :P *shakes fist* I thought the dish was good, even though it's not something I'd really want to eat again.

I asked about the Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken too! Since it was...right under the one we ordered. I forgot what the waiter said but he didn't make much of a distinction. MRAAH, WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY?!

Wawit, I don't want leftover!...ah, someone else can take em home. Leftovers in the hands of Robyn = doom!

If you ever wanna go there with a bunch of people, invite me? :) That's actually what I wanted to do before the Stars show tomorrow, but not all my friends wanted Chinese food We're going to Piola instead, which I've heard good things about (and whoa, I'm gonna eat pizza). That'll be interesting...

Liz: Dinner party, oh god! I'd be doomed. Um...but no one would ask me to do such a silly thing, hehe. You can cook, you'll be fine!

A place near me sells "brewed fudge". That has Robyn written all over it. Shall have to see how it compares to City Bakery.

janet / February 24, 2006 11:45 PM

argh!!! can i quit my job so i can go to that panel?!?!? i want to sit in the presence of jeffrey steingarten so that maybe his writerly humor and smrt-ness rub off on me ... i'm almost done with 'the man who ate everything'. eeeeee


Georgia / February 25, 2006 3:47 PM

Hot chocolate can never be too thick! The best hot chocolate in the world is cioccolato caldo, which is the consistency of pudding and needs to be thinned with hot milk to be drinkable. Especially good for dunking croissants in cafes in Tuscany (if, of course, you can find a way to get there). Or maybe hot chocolate made for dipping churros into in Spain. Maybe the reason we don't drink more hot chocolate is that we live in the US.

Tokyo / February 25, 2006 7:20 PM

Robyn! I�m totally going to that food writers thing. I think I went to one of their events earlier in the year titled �Ethics and Luxury Dining�. Batali was there, and it was awesome. There was this food studies professor who also totally destroyed my mind with his empirically-supported theory that luxury dining had become much more accessible to all of America.

And now I�m linking it to you: It was terrific.

M / February 26, 2006 1:55 AM

Funny, I wrote about hot chocolate the other night on my blog. Love your photos, they not only make me hungry, but they make me want to cook more!

roboppy / February 26, 2006 11:44 AM

Janet: I have work that day!...but I can take off. It's for a good cause. It's school related! :D DON'T YOU WANNA MEET THE STEINGARTEN?! I might have to since a friend asked if I could get his autograph...ahhh...uh...

Georgia: Yes, never too thick!...that sounds like a challenge, hehe. :D PUDDING CONSISTENCY, YOU SAY? (mouth waters) That seriously sounds beying awesome. No no, you don't need to thin it! ;) What's with the US and the lack of thick hot chocolate?

Ani: I said that comment in my hea din a Homer-like voice. :D

Tokyo: Sweet jesus! I didn't know about their other department didn't say anything about it, or not conspicuously. :| Gonna read your entry now...

M: I came across The Hedonista's hot chocolate post, which reminded me to write chocolate. :D IT'S A GREAT TOPIC, YES.

I never thought I'd make anyone want to cook, haha! ;)

Mila / February 26, 2006 10:31 PM

We have a restaurant in manila that serves a spanish hot chocolate that sometimes reminds me of a dark chocolate pudding, it's that thick.

Always have a glass of milk when you eat spicy food; other things to control spice - lemons or other citrus food, raddish (in Chengdu, they'd serve a raddish soup after all the spicy dishes), tomatoes too. Water doesn't help, it'll just spread the heat around your mouth.

roboppy / February 27, 2006 7:35 AM

Liz: Oh yeah. >__Mila: Oh god, I want drinkable pudding! (hops up and down)

I don't think Chinese restaurants have milk, hehe. But the...rice helped, I guess. No citrus foods either (except oranges at the end). I know water doesn't help, but it's kind of a reflex for someone who doesn't eat much spicy food (or after stuffing my mouth with rice)...

Wei / February 27, 2006 10:58 AM

Ahh.. those are Thai chili.. pretty high up on the Scoville scale if I recall (oh.. bad imitation of Chairman Kaga). I recall my own experience w/ those little guys. Needless to day, I down a bunch of water and rice and it didn't help heh.

If anybody is hurting bad from hot foods, eat a packet or teaspoon of sugar. The sugar competitively binds to same receptors in your mouth where capasin (the thing that makes peppers hot) binds to. But.. even though it helps on the front end, the back side will still burn. >_O

Shawn / February 27, 2006 12:53 PM

Since you made a pact not to got to CB, you might want to try the hot chocolate at Jacques Torres' Chocolate Haven (I think you wrote a post about the place a while back). It's similar in its richness and thickness, and might just quell the stomach-coating cravings.

roboppy / February 27, 2006 4:20 PM

Wei: It was pretty hot, but I think it could've been much worse. I mean, I didn't die. SO IT'S ALL GOOD! I stuffed my mouth full of em! ;P

Sugar, good idea!...uh, Chinese restaurants don't put sugar on the tables, eh? Hehe. The ones that do don't seem to have really spicy food. I'll remember that though. I can carry around emergency sugar!

Shawn: YES, I had the same idea! It's a 10 minute walk from work; I was tempted to go today but I think I'll try it later. Mmm, chocolate stomach lining...

aussie / November 27, 2006 3:09 AM

Haha... I am eating the Chong Qin chicken right now, so I got curious and googled for the dish... that's how I got stumbled upon your webpage. The chicken is so good! And damn fiery as well.

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