La Vie En Szechuan Review: Spicy mapo tofu and weird credit card rules
Had this thought the other day, don’t you think that liberals back in the 80s thought that in twenty years, all the hicks and hill billies will have kids that grow up to go to college and all this shitty closed-minded views would have changed? I’m 30 and you know, that’s what I’m hoping for in 30 years. What is nice about present day is that you can find passable and delicious Sichuan or Szechuan food in many different restaurants in New York City. Hell, I’ve even had good Sichuan food in Detroit, that’s how prevalent this has gotten. What I like about La Vie en Szechuan isn’t so much that their food is better than their competitors or anything like that. They’re probably on par with Cafe China when it comes to lunch specials. What I love is the name. Instead of going with something that has ‘jade’ or ‘palace’ or ’emperor’ in the name, they went some French in the name. This is progress!
If you are like me, and basically 99% of Americans, you have no idea that La Vie en Rose was a song by the French singer, Edith Piaf. Most of us that know that phrase know it from the movie that won Marion Cotillard an Oscar. So the translation of La Vie en Rose (according to wikipedia) means ‘Life in Pink’ which means that La Vie en Szechuan would be ‘Life in Szechuan.’ The only funny thing is that French people pretty much never eat spicy food. If you wanted to open a restaurant frequented only by ex-pats in the heart of Paris, open a Chinese Sichuan restaurant. No Parisian would ever go, guaranteed. But back to the food! Oh the food…
I tried two lunch specials because I found a coupon for one of those online ordering sites which made the price of two lunch specials really affordable. See how much of a cheap chink I am? It’s lovely. I’ll also say that if you use an online ordering site, you escape the illegal $10 minimum that La Vie en Szechuan imposes on walk-in customers. I don’t understand this either, cuz I heard an interview about how much online ordering sites take, and they take around 10% of the order. It’s odd because if I want ONE lunch special for $8, I could either order it online where they lose 10%, or they can just let me use a credit card for $8 in store and only lose up to 4% credit card transaction fee. Always weird when restaurants that survive on single digit margins are so stupid to take a guaranteed 6% less just for what? When you can install online ordering apps on your phone and two taps gets you what you want, who needs to respect those stupid and idiotic credit card minimum rules? And actually the first time I walked into La Vie en Szechuan was a few weeks ago, and the sign back then said $30 dollar minimum for credit card usage. Now they updated the sign. Crazies.
The double cooked pork with leeks is not a winner when compared to places like Szechuan Gourmet, because the pork seemed like it was shredded instead of in whole pieces. The leeks were fresh enough but there was a lack of spiciness in the dish that kind of made me wish I had picked some other lunch special on the menu.
While the double cooked pork was sub-par, the mapo tofu was right on point. In fact, I would say it’s definitely better than most most of its competition in the lower Midtown neighborhood because they do not shy away from the heat. Some might find the slick of red oil on top to be a put off, but it’s just a sign that they doin it right. The dish left me sweating and you could feel the numbing ma-la even half way through the dish. Sometimes with these take-out orders, they just sprinkle a lil ground sichuan peppercorn on top, but I like it when the tofu can still give you some numbing heat with the last bite. This alone means that La Vie en Szechuan is a worth contender for anyone’s lunch specials routine. And if you want to order online, just fine one of those online ordering sites and bypass the stupid $10 minimum rule.
La Vie En Szechuan14 E 33rd St.New York, NY 10016212-683-2779
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