|Lan Sheng Grilled Fish smothers a whole red snapper in meaty mushrooms, celery, seeded hot peppers and potatoes (yes, potatoes). The fish was overcooked, but swam in a delicious cumin-flavored sauce (yes, cumin).|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
When we pulled up to Lan Sheng, a bright spot on a drab stretch of Paterson Avenue in Wallington, three employees were outside the Szechaun restaurant, cleaning the windows.
Late Saturday afternoon, we were the first dinner customers, and three cooks dressed in white sat at separate tables inside, using mobile devices as soothing Chinese music played on the sound system.
Wallington's Lan Sheng, which opened more than a year ago, is a branch of a restaurant on 39th Street in Manhattan that has earned one highly coveted Michelin star in the last two years.
The dinner we had was terrific, but our whole fish had been overcooked, and my small bowl of brown rice didn't seem fresh and was impossible to eat with chopsticks.
|House Specialties are listed in English and Chinese (on the other side of this table card). A Chinese couple in the next booth were having Spicy Catfish in a Hot Pot, which included tofu and looked delicious.|
|My wife says Szechuan Pickled Vegetables, a cold appetizer, is reason enough to return to Lan Sheng. We are big fans of kimchi, but this dish gives the Korean fermented cabbage a run for its money.|
Cold appetizers, whole fish
We started with two cold appetizers, Szechuan Pickled Vegetables ($5.95) and Spinach with Minced Garlic ($6.95).
My wife loved the crunchy diced carrots in the pickled-vegetable dish, and said she'd like to return to Lan Sheng to have them again.
I was wowed by the cumin-flavored sauce in Lan Sheng Grilled Fish, but the whole red snapper was overcooked ($22.95).
I added the sauce to my brown rice, and ate it with a spoon. The hot green peppers on top of the fish had been seeded, but they still packed heat.
It's a good thing the server had placed a few paper napkins on the table to supplement the cloth ones, something that many other restaurants overlook.
The waiter had recommended the Braised Whole Fish with Szechuan Chili Miso Sauce, which is shown on the picture menu ($22.95). Next time.
We also ordered a vegetable, Sauteed String Beans and Bamboo Shoots without minced pork ($10.95).
Two dishes to go
Before we left, we ordered takeout, sending the three cooks sitting in the dining room back into the kitchen:
A house special of Steamed Prawns in Garlic Taste ($19.95), which we were told takes 15 minutes to prepare; and Chicken with Broccoli ($12.95) for a family member who doesn't eat spicy food.
As we left, a waitress was asleep, resting her head and arms on a table in the window.
Lan Sheng in Manhattan
This was my first visit to Lan Sheng in Wallington, but it turned out I once stopped at the original in Manhattan in June 2012, though I didn't eat there.
See: What a pisser!
|Sauteed String Beans and Bamboo Shoots.|
Lan Sheng has a full bar. The restaurant is a bright spot among auto-repair and service garages on Paterson Avenue.
|Chinese lessons are given on the back of the fortunes. How do you say, "Great food and service," in Chinese?|
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 only.