Wu Liang Ye on Lexington Does Not Measure Up
I tried it for lunch today, after a number of happy visits to 48th and one happy visit to UES. Lexington & 39th is decidedly inferior to both of the others based on my benchmark sample of dan dan noodles and ma po tofu. Both dishes seemed spicier and less subtle than at the sister branches. In retrospect, I don't know if they were spicier, or only seemed so because the strong red chile flavor was too one-dimensional. If there were Sichuan peppercorns in these dishes, I didn't notice them. The ma po tofu had a heavier sauce with less meat than at the other branches, and an overall over-saltiness rather than a brown bean accent. The dan dan noodles did not have enough of the vinegar component to balance the flavor. If this had been the first branch I had tried I might have become the Wu Liang Ye enthusiast I am today. Overall I prefer the other two Wu Liang Ye branches to Grand Sichuan in Chelsea or Clinton, but those places are superior to this one.
I still have to get out to Spicy & Tasty.
I'm trying Szechuan Gourmet next week.
I've been to all three and have to say that 48th Street is definitely the best one and the one on Lex IS inferior. At least it was in terms of service - the staff was actually surly from my experience and I never went back. As a matter of fact, I went to the one on 48th just last night and had the sauteed sliced chicken with asparagus - Excellent! One thing to remember - they don't accept telephone take out orders for a long period of time during lunch. The place gets so packed that they just can't handle it.
I have to agree, the 86th st Wu Liang Ye has its limitations. Although I enjoy the authentic bold Sichuan flavors, I find the execution uneven at times, with a high oil/grease factor to boot. One time the jellyfish in scallion pesto was sublime, another time it was crusty and inadequately presoaked. The roasted chili vinaigrette wontons have a divine if oily sauce but the wontons themselves are dense. The ma po tofu is tasty but too oily (I used to have a similar, even better version at the now defunct Dynasty on the Upper West Side). Overall, I like that it has a true Sichuan menu, but I think again the quality/execution could be improved.
With all respect to spchang, I've had the same experience as Peter has. And yes, while the 86th Street Wu Liang Ye is pricey in comparison to Grand Sichuan, it is nearly always better. I also think that now, after a few years of witnessing some of the worst delivery disasters ever known to Chinese cuisine, that I'd order from ANY Wu Liang Ye in preference to ANY Grand Sichuan (but especially the Hell's Kitchen one). Dining in the restaurant is a different story, of course.
When you say that dining in the restaurant is a different story, what do you mean by that? That Grand Sichuan and Wu Liang Ye are not so overwhelmingly far part in house?
Also, to put this in context, I chose to go to the 86th st. Wu Liang Ye on a thursday night for my birthday after hearing all of the praise. And I was disappointed, especially in the double cooked pork we received which was quite bland. Sichuan wonton in red oil weren't tender, but approaching rubber ball texture. Shredded chicken w/ spicy garlic sesame vinaigrette was good, but not transcendent. Based on that one experience alone, I thought all of the praise was exaggerated, but then again I haven't given it another chance.
This is very interesting, I have had the opposite experience. I had an uninspired dinner at Wu Liang Ye on 86th st. That visit was enough for me to stick with Grand Sichuan.
Sounds like 48th st. Wu Liang Ye is pretty consistent for you, so maybe I'll try that some time. (Actually just read your comment that 86th st. is cheaper than 48th st. Already thought 86th st. was expensive enough in comparison to Grand Sichuan.)