|Whole Fish in Szechuan Chili Miso Sauce at Lan Sheng Restaurant.|
Editor's note: Technical problems with my iPhone camera resulted in gauzy photos of the food we ordered at Lan Sheng in Wallington, and only one of the photos I took uploaded to my computer.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
On our second visit to Lan Sheng Szechaun Restaurant in Wallington, the three dishes we ordered made us feel like we were working in a salt mine.
On our first visit, the kitchen overcooked our whole red snapper, which was grilled and served in a cumin-flavored sauce.
The restaurant wasn't busy on our two visits, so Lan Sheng isn't living up to last year's 3-star rating (out of 4 stars) from a reviewer for a North Jersey daily newspaper.
And it certainly doesn't sound anything like the Manhattan original, which received a coveted star from a Michelin inspector who ordered the same miso- and chili-simmered whole fish we tried in Wallington last weekend.
We started with Szechuan Pickled Vegetables ($5.95), the spicy cold appetizer we loved on our first visit for its crunchy cabbage and diced carrots, but this time we also noted the modest size of the portion and the pronounced salty taste.
The Whole Fish in Szechuan Chili Miso Sauce ($22.95) was recommended by the manager, and the meaty red snapper we choose couldn't have tasted fresher.
But the sodium-laden sauce, which I spooned over white rice, was a shock.
The salt assault continued in our second entree, Prawns with Mixed Vegetables ($16.95), which came swimming in one of those ubiquitous brown sauces Chinese restaurants of every price level seem to push on American customers.
The Lan Sheng in Wallington has a liquor license and full bar, but surely that isn't the reason the food is so salty -- to encourage customers to order $5 bottles of Chinese beer.
We got goblets of ice water along with a pot of tea, and the servers did a great job keeping those glasses full.
I'd be happy with fish, vegetables and other dishes prepared with garlic and chili peppers -- I don't need sauce.
As a final blow, Lan Sheng charged us $3 for two small bowls of white rice after we finished the small complimentary portions we got with our entrees.
That's reason enough not to return.
Here's a link to our first visit:
A serene setting for spicy Chinese food
Lan Sheng Szechuan Restaurant, 209 Paterson Ave., Wallington; 1-973-773-7100. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner, but closed between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
Reservations taken. American Express credit cards are not accepted. Limited street parking. Free municipal lot across the street.