The always-full-of-surprises Times critic Pete Wells files a glowing review on Flushing’s Guan Fu Sichuan this week, concluding that it’s rather pitch-perfect, finding almost nothing negative to say.
Wells’ big takeaway is that it exemplifies a new type of Sichuan in New York, due in part to the restaurant’s interior and atmosphere. He explains: “Atmosphere doesn’t fill your stomach, of course, but when it’s done right, it can slow you down and wake your senses to the smells and tastes on the way.”
Still, it’s the tastes that have Wells singing Guan Fu’s praises. Here he is on a few standout dishes:
I didn’t think I could love Sichuan boiled fish with pickled vegetables more than I already do until I tasted Guan Fu’s version. Here the body and flavor of what is typically a rather thin sauce is broadened with a stock made from fish bones. Fresh green chiles provide a heat held in thrilling check by the sourness. The broth is too intensely salty to qualify as soup, the server explained, but I still drank as much of it as I could handle.
The kitchen gives mapo tofu, that old war horse, a new lease on life. While the chile heat is not full-bore, the fermented beans and other components are. Shimmering over jiggly mounds of white tofu is a mapo sauce as deeply flavored as any I’ve tasted.
There are just a few misses, like minor inconsistencies in the kitchen. But overall, “Guan Fu is a restaurant with room to grow. But it is an exceptional one already, throwing open a window on Sichuan cuisine to show New Yorkers the nuance and rich variety that lie beyond the old blast of chiles.” Three stars.