Our latest edition of Quick Bites brings us to a Long Island mini-chain trying to make it in Manhattan.

For a well-regarded, apparently ambitious, deep-Queens/Long Island mini-chain making its first foray into Manhattan, the new Sichuan restaurant Grain House is surprisingly half-assed in its execution.

The location is certainly well chosen, in the Manhattan Valley section of the Upper West Side, near enough to Columbia to lure in students but also filled with families in search of some new neighborhood fare. The actual space itself, however, is uninspired to the point of deflating whatever expectations you allowed yourself to have when you set off for your meal.

A wide ramp flanked by institutional handrails greets you upon entering, left over from when this was a Dunkin' Dounts two tenants ago and creating a barren expanse of linoleum leading up to a counter to which you do not need to approach (you order from your table). The decor is pure odd lot: black and white photos of China, a small wooden wall clock, a typographic poster of the alphabet hung on its side.

Staffers stare at their phones whenever there's a momentary break in the action (meanwhile a towel-less situation awaits you in the bathroom); plates and the clearing thereof need requesting; complimentary tea is served either too tepid or scalding hot. The whole thing just feels tired, and after only a few weeks since the opening.

The Grain House menu is loaded with Sichuan crowd-pleasers and classics, and all five dishes we ate over two dinners were... just OK. Despite its "chili-pepper-icon warning" the Burning Noodle didn't, though it was cooked with competence and packed just enough punch to satisfy on a snowy day. The Mapo Tofu arrived looking promising, all glistening in chili oil and craggy with ground beef, and the textures were as one would hope, but again, the dish didn't live up to its fiery promise.

After I idly commented on the lack of heat and numbing toward the end of my first visit, owner Beichen Hu readily admitted that "Caucasians" are given milder versions of everything because "otherwise they send it back". He recognized me the second time though, and the spiciness level rose accordingly.

Thankfully, the kitchen didn't skimp on the peppercorns (nor the headliner spice) with the Cumin Lamb. I wish the meat itself had been a little more perky, and a little less wilted, but this dish delivers on that very specific Sichuan craving. The same could not be said for the Ox Tongue and Tripe, the flavors of which never managed to emerge from the ocean of oil that threatened, nerve-wreckingly, to overflow the walls of its serving vessel and onto our slanted table.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing we ate was the Beef and Sour Cabbage Sauce. The broth had a delightfully tangy base beneath the chilis and peppercorns, while a mess of glass noodles hiding below the surface added a nice slipperiness to the crunch of cabbage and chew of the meat.

(Scott Lynch/Gothamist)

If you live right nearby you'll probably wind up at Grain House some night for dinner, and maybe feel fine about your meal, no real reason to hurry back though. (Related: I noticed there's a Xi'ian Famous just a few blocks down on Broadway). Maybe things will change; I can't help but think that if they put a little more energy and a lot more love into the project, the place could become a neighborhood staple.

Grain House is located at 929 Amsterdam Avenue, and is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (212-531-1130; grainhouseny.com)