Nostalgic for the Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine of the pre-Lao Sze Chuan era? Lan's Old Town may be the restaurant for you, especially if you live in the neighborhood and have a taste for takeout, which accounts for a lot of its business. In fact, the kitchen's takeout tasks slow service to the stylish dining room, which is mostly held over from Heat: plush gray chairs, curvilinear wall sconces, black stones artily embedded in the wall behind the low sushi bar. The little paper takeout menu concentrates on standards--moo shu this, kung pao that, Mongolian beef, ma-po bean curd--and on my visit zucchini seemed to sneak into almost every dish. The kung pao chicken, normally prepared with diced bamboo, dried red chiles, and toasted peanuts, had zucchini, carrots, and bok choy in addition to mushrooms--practically a garden's worth of vegetables. On the other hand, tender moo shu pork with julienned zucchini and egg lacked the cloud ear fungus necessary for its distinctive character. And forget about cloud ear, wood ear, or tiger lily buds in the hot-and-sour soup, though it did benefit from a good hit of vinegar. A variation on pot stickers, tasty panfried fish dumplings irregularly shaped enough to have been made by a home cook, were the most unusual of the 11 openers listed as "dim dum." Shrimp with pea pods and asparagus stood out among our entrees, thanks to the generous quantity and high quality of the lightly cooked crustaceans. Ma-po bean curd needed something, despite being ordered spicy and arriving laced with whole dried red chiles. Service was friendly and considerate, but didn't keep me from concluding that the takeout customers had the right idea.
Payment Type: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa