I'm obsessed with a certain foodstuff. And it's not wheat based. Or sugar based. Or fat based.
BUT ROBYN, WHAT ELSE COULD BE WORTHY OF YOUR OBSESSION?, you ask. In italics.
Sautéed string beans. Specifically, the ones from Famous Sichuan. Observe the time line of my madness.
November 18: My first visit to Famous Sichuan and my introduction to their string beans—solid, slender pods blistered to a crisp with a hint of chewiness, and bursting with beany, garlicky, salty, sweet juices. The seed for addiction has been planted.
November 30: My third visit (the second being on the day before) and my second time ordering the string beans. They taste as good as they did the first time. The addiction grows.
December 11: My fourth visit and third time ordering the string beans. Surprisingly, there is no photographic evidence of the dish, but the bill tells all. The total is quite reasonable for a party of ten. I convert possibly nine other people to the Church of the String Bean. I've done good.
December 17: My fifth visit and fourth string bean experience. Every meal at Famous Sichuan from now on must follow the formula of string beans + [other dish]. I am ready to form an "I LOVE SAUTÉED STRING BEANS CLUB."
Sometime in between my second and third string bean gorging, I tried the sautéed string beans from the Grand Sichuan International in Chelsea to do a comparison. While they were still mega tasty, they didn't garner a spot on the Wall of String Bean Fame—the beans weren't as fat and juicy as the ones from Famous Sichuan's. Sadness.
Having eaten at Famous Sichuan five times now—possibly the most times I've eaten at any non-take-out restaurant over the period of a month—I have a few recommendations.
Double sautéed pork with spicy capsicum: I didn't think I'd enjoy it, yet I ordered it anyway. And now it's one of my favorite Sichuan dishes. I had it once before at Grand Sichuan International and found it fatty in an unpleasant, overly chewy way, but Famous Sichuan's version was fatty in a pleasant, melty-fatty way. I'd give it a three out of four on the spicy scale: it might induce tears, but it won't make you choke.
General Tso's bean curd: I would have never ordered this if not for Tristan's vegan palate—and what a shame that would've been since this might be the best deep-fried tofu dish I've ever eaten. Biting through the light, crispy coating of the large tofu chunk reveals a smooth and creamy fresh tofu center. If you don't like this, then something is just terribly wrong. ...With you, not the dish.
Dan dan noodles with minced pork chili sauce: These noodles are softer than the ones in GSI's version. I haven't decided whether I like them better or not. No matter what, the combination of thick wheat noodles, spicy minced pork glop, and spinach can't not be tasty.
Braised beef filets and napa cabbage with roasted chili: I never had this dish before eating at Famous Sichuan. It's a big bowl of super tender beef strips in a thick, spicy sauce with lots of cabbage. It wasn't love at first bite, but after ordering it twice, I'd say I'm a fan.
Fried whole fish: Possibly served with sweet and sour sauce, but I can't remember. My favorite form of fish is whole, steamed, and seasoned with ginger and scallion, but fried would be second. The fish is plucked fresh from one of the tanks at the front of the restaurant; if that freaks you out, look away. The fish is partially sliced so you can easily pull off its large, lightly crisp chunks of sweet flesh-o-the-sea.
Sautéed snow pea leaf: One of my favorite Chinese vegetables dishes of all time. Sweet, tender snow pea shoots infused with garlic and more garlic. Oh, how the drool flows.
Stir fried chicken with capsicum: Tender, juicy chicken nublets soaked in hotness? Bring. It. On Although chicken is usually boring, in the hands of a Sichuan restaurant it tends to be 1000% awesome. This is on the side of awesome.
Soup dumplings filled with crab and pork: I found these much meatier and a little less soupy than most typical soup dumplings. Not a "must order," but worth getting if you're craving soup dumplings.
Spicy candied peanuts: These come free at the beginning of the meal—at least, on my fifth visit they were, while during my first four visits we were given complimentary pickles. Upon first bite the peanutsa're sweet and crunchy, while a moment later the pepper burning sensation kicks in. It's a sharp burn, so be careful.
Methinks that's enough food porn for now.
While there have always been a few other tables occupied during my visits to Famous Sichuan, overall I'd label it as alarmingly empty. As nice as it is having a place I can rely on for impromptu parties of 10 or more, I'd also like for Famous Sichuan to stay in business. So go forth and eat, my hungry padawans.