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When one thinks of lychees, one probably thinks of the chilled, sweet fruit served at the end of a Chinese meal. However, over the last three years, when New Yorkers hear the word “lychee,” many of us think of Lychee House on East 55th Street.
The partners of Lychee House chose the name because the lychee tree is found not only in China but also throughout Southeast Asia. This suited the restaurant’s owners because Chef Ken, Lychee House’s number-one chef, prepares dishes found from Guangzhou to Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai to Singapore, and Chengdu to Hong Kong.
If you’re content with Chinese classics like General Tso’s Chicken and Grand Marnier Shrimp, you’ll find them here. But as good as they are, come for the menu that makes Lychee House a standout among the multitude of Chinese restaurants in Manhattan.
Say you’re hungry for Shanghainese cooking. Lychee House won’t disappoint: It will delight you with dishes such as Tung-Po Pork, a tender and rich braised pork belly named for the Sung Dynasty poet Su Tung Po. Pair this with the Sliced Chicken with Abalone Mushrooms, and finish with thick, rich, sautéed flat noodles.
If you’re a fan of Szechuan food, you’re also in luck. Chef Fu, the restaurant’s well-known second chef, prepares complex and mouth-dazzling classics such as Twice-Cooked Pork, a savory mix of Chinese bacon chunks, pressed bean curd, cabbage and leaks; Ma Po Tofu, the famously spicy Bean Curd dish; and a terrific Three-Pepper Chicken. These dishes are not simply spicy, but tease your mouth with the real “ma la” numbing sensation that aficionados of Szechuan cooking crave.
If you want to enjoy a quiet, lingering meal, visit after 5pm and on the weekends to relax and enjoy what many believe is the best Dim Sum outside of Chinatown.
Any mention of Chef Ken’s gifts must include his Braised Lobster or Prawns, finished with his XO sauce. At Lychee House, this condiment, originally invented in Hong Kong to enhance Cantonese dishes, does not come out of a jar; Chef Ken makes his own sauce from scratch using dried sliced scallops and shrimp cooked with chili peppers, onions and garlic.
There are too many good things to eat at Lychee House to list here, so I’ll simply suggest you come with an open mind and a healthy appetite. If you do, you’ll leave with a new appreciation of what we New Yorkers call Chinese food
141 E. 55th St., 212-753-3900; lycheehouse.com
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