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Nov 10, 2007 01:26 PM

Szechuan Gourmet - latest trip

My uncle was in town and wanted chinese food, so we decided to go to Szechuan Gourmet, which I debately think is the best sichuan food in the city right now...this trip was good although i thought it was lacking with previous trips, which is probably b/c of what we ordered. Here's what we got:

- Sichuan wontons - these were good though not great, simply wontons in hot oil and some soy sauce...i think the version at GS is better mainly b/c i like the wontons better there (nice skin, better filling)
- Dan dan mian - pretty good, but again i actually like the version better at GS, the noodles were fine, but it was the sauce, not enough tang and too salty
- Cucumbers in hot oil - i really like this dish at SG, but it wasn't as good as previous although still very good. I think it was the cucumbers themselves, previously when ive had it they were sliced small and tasted very delicate, but for some reason they were bigger and just tasted a bit off
- Dou miao - this was great, i dont know what this is called in english, but its kind of like spinach...really great, sauteed with some garlic, not too oily or garlicky
- Jia chang dofu (home style tofu) - awesome, fried tofu in a thick spicy black bean sauce and i asked them for beef in it, the beef was veyr good, nice and tender slices
- Hong shao niu rou (red cooked beef) - this was on the specials board, so even though its not really a sichaun dish i figured it would be alright since it was on the specials board...HORRIBLE, i mean this was literally the single handed worst dish i've had at a chinese restaurant in years...beef ribs were ridiculously tough, sauce was a watery gravy with no flavor...never order this no matter what u do

Overall, it was a good meal with the exception of one dish, but i still really like the restaurant...i shouldve gotten the cumin lamb, which i always get (its awesome)

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  1. No argument - Szechuan Gourmet is one of the tops in Manhattan.
    One of my favorite dishes there is stir-fried pork belly with chili leeks.
    It's the closest version I've been able to find to a similar dish that used to be served at the now-defunct Dynasty restaurant that was on 110th and Broadway (although, as I recall, at Dynasty they weren't afraid to call the meat bacon).

    2 Replies
    1. re: racer x

      I think their shredded pork is better than the pork belly. The leeks/garlic slices are always sort of undercooked while the pork belly is overcooked.

      1. re: racer x

        Absolutely. Strangely enough the water cooked beef they serve there is also the closest to Dynasty's version.

      2. So what are their best dishes? Also, when you say best Sichuan food in the city, does that include Flushing, Queens? Thanks for this review, I really must try it.

        25 Replies
        1. re: Brian S

          no when i say "city" i'm talking about manhattan only, flushing obviously has better options that you are definately well acquianted with (you've post alot haha)

          i think their cumin lamb is outstanding, i like their dou miao, cucumbers in hot oil, water cooked beef, i had a great intestine dish although i can't remember what its called. I've been there about 4 times and ive found some great dishes, but i'm pretty sure there are a lot more. Interestingly everytime i go there its gotten more and more popular (always more crowded) and its been all chinese clientele

          1. re: Lau

            It seems to have picked up some of the clientele from the Grand Sichuan on 9th and 51st after it closed.

            1. re: fgf

              its unfortunate they closed...that was the best GS branch by far

              1. re: Lau

                I've always preferred the Chelsea branch.

          2. re: Brian S

            Yes, SG has the best Szechuan food in Manhattan in my opinion. Best dishes? My idea of "best" might not match your idea because we'd favor different things. That's why I always prefer to avoid anointing certain dishes as "must haves."

            Hole in the wall restaurants might only be good at one or two things but full fledged restaurants ought to have great kitchens that are able to turn our great dishes across the board. SG meets those criteria and their atmosphere is lightyears better than GSI.

            Make 2 or 3 visits and order around the menu. Trust your own taste and don't depend on tipsters. You'll do just fine.

            1. re: Bob Martinez

              I like your recommendations. I recently ordered something you recommended three years ago, "Enhanced Pork", and it was fantastic.
              Even if the poster favors different things from me, his recs are still of value because it's all too easy for me to fall into a rut of ordering the same things.

              1. re: Brian S

                OK, because I like you I'll give you one. :-)

                Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly with chili leeks. It's a great dish.

              2. re: Bob Martinez

                Frank Bruni reviewed Szechuan Gourmet in today's NY Times and awarded it 2 stars, the same ranking he gave to Spicy & Tasty. Well deserved.


                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  Dammit, there goes my "midtown great Chinese food" secret!

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    good review...he found alot of the good dishes too (i love the cumin lamb)

                    1. re: Lau

                      I love the cumin lamb as well -- it's great. Funny, I think I've ordered all but two of his recommended dishes. I can only guess that he's reading our CH reviews.

                      The review says lunchtime is busy, but actually I've never been for lunch, only weekend dinner (Fridays, Saturdays) and there's usually a wait for a table around 7:30, 8pm...luckily they do take reservations.

                    2. re: Bob Martinez

                      They're definitely feeling the effects of the review. I called to place an order 10 minutes before the restaurant opened up so I'd avoid waiting forever for my food. Usually, I get the food within 20 minutes. Today, I had to wait for 55 minutes for my order to arrive!

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        The food is generally the same -- ordered dan dan noodles, mabo tofu, prawns with asparagus and pork and braised fish in chili miso with the exception that the prawns (a dish I have ordered numerous times) were swimming in oil like it was mabo tofu. I'm sure this had to do with them hurrying to fill all the crazy number of orders. I think I'll wait a bit before ordering from them again. Lunchtime was always chaotic before the review. I'm kind of scared to see what it's like today.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Give it a few days for the neophytes to try it once and then forget about it.

                          1. re: ESNY

                            Yeah, I'm going to probably wait a week or two. They also forgot to pack a container of rice. Can't really blame them though. The delivery man told me they were getting slammed.

                          2. re: Miss Needle

                            I would agree to wait on ordering or even going there for lunch. I stopped by to pick up a menu around 1:30 today and the line was literally out the door.

                          3. re: Miss Needle

                            If you want your order fast, just do pick up. I place an order and in the time it takes me to get there, about 5 minutes, my food is bagged and waiting on the counter already. My coworker ordered at around 11:30, just right after they opened and said it was quick like usual.

                            1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                              Normally, I would pick it up, which is what I usually do. But I just can't at the moment. So it will have to be delivery for a while.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                end of the day, you want them to get slammed b/c it will keep them in business...hate when a restaurant u love goes out of biz b/c no one knows about them

                                1. re: Lau

                                  I'm really happy for them. They've always been very good to me, even when I call them (as they can't recognize me that way). I've had not-the-best experiences with a lot of Chinese restaurants on the phone. SG has always been so sweet and nice.

                                  I thought they were doing really well before (but I could be wrong). During the day, you had the huge lunchtime crowd. During the evenings (weekends as I don't think I've been there on a weekday evening), it's been pretty packed with mostly Chinese customers. I just hope SG can handle the new influx.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    now that i think about it, ure right the people at SG are incredibly nice now that i think about it esp for a chinese restaurant

                                    the only place that is that nice to me is GS on st marks but thats b/c the same waiter has been serving me at that branch and the old hell's kitchen branch for many years

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Every time I've been there for lunch (I mostly do take out) there has been a wait for a table and a handful of people lingering around waiting for their take out. I usually go between 12:30 and 1:30. Could only imagine what it was like today.

                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                        Actually I hated dealing with those two disgruntled women up front who took care of the takeout. Rude and impatient, especially when I needed a coupla secs to remember all the names of the stuff I was picking up. Was pleased when both of them were replaced in recent weeks.
                                        The lunchtime crowd seemed to be smaller the last few times I went for takeout. There were empty tables and noone waiting upfront for takeout.

                              2. re: Bob Martinez

                                If the Manhattan Szechwan Gourmet and Spicy and Tasty get two stars, how is the original Szechwan Gourmet in Flushing doing? I thought it was comparable, if not better, than the Manhattan branch. It's been over a year since I've been, and I'm not sure if I've heard anything about the Flushing branch in that time. Bruni does mention it, but I wonder if he's actually compared them or simply relegating it to the second tier. Hard to read between the lines.

                            2. re: Brian S

                              Brian, you really need to check it out. Make sure to try the mapo tofu.

                            3. Is Szechuan Gourmet better than WuLiangYe? Is that possible? (Where is it located?)

                              I have heard of more than one instances of Chinese nationals who would dine at WuLiangYe every day during their stay in NYC. WuLiangYe has an interesting menu (compared to the mostly unimaginative and unchanging menus in almost all Shanghai and Cantonese places.)

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: newportt2004

                                i like it better although WLY is very close. Its on 39th bet 5th and 6th. Something to note is that people tend to compare SG, GS and WLY to see whats best. While i think SG is probably the best right now, i do think each of them has certain dishes that they make best. For example, I think the mapo dofu at WLY is the best, wontons in red oil are the best at GS etc etc. Also, if you really like sichuan cuisine (and it sounds like you do), highly recommend going to flushing as its better there (xiao la jiao, spicy & tasty and a new place that Brian S is recommending Chengdu Heaven or Chengdu Tian Fu). Flushing is well worth the trip (LIRR takes 15 mins from the city, dont take the 7 it'll take an hour)

                                Also, i think that the statement "compared to the mostly unimaginative and unchanging menus in almost all Shanghai and Cantonese places" is a sort of unfair statement b/c Wu Liang Ye is simply a different type of chinese cuisine from a different province, the dishes they serve are the generally most classic (and generic) sichuan dishes, i've been to chengdu (capital of sichuan) and the breadth of the cuisine is far greater than what you see here. If all the people that came to the US from china had been from sichuan you'd probably saying the opposite because then all the chinatowns would be filled with sichuan restaurants that arent that different from each other (instead you have a bunch of cantonese restaurants like that). Also, i think people dont always order the right stuff at cantonese restaurants and hence get alot of food that is pretty mediocre. Cantonese done right is probably one of the best chinese cuisines (my opinion obviously). Though i do agree on shangahinese restaurants in the city, but thats mainly b/c none of them are very good period (as opposed to being unimaginative) exception i think the sheng jian bao (fried tiny buns) at moonhouse are very good (passable in asia)

                                1. re: newportt2004

                                  I've only eaten at Wu Liang Ye a couple of times, whereas Szechuan Gourmet was pretty much a weekly meal. In my opinion, however, there's no comparison -- Szechuan Gourmet all the way.

                                2. Is this restaurant affiliated with Szechuan Gourmet in Flushing? Both have the same Chinese name (and the Chinese name is not Szechuan Gourmet) and both have menus with the exact same scrollwork and flowers design on the top.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Brian S

                                    yes its a direct branch of the flushing Szechuan Gourmet

                                  2. I've been a fan of WLY so I'm very interested in trying Szechuan Gourmet. Is there anything you can recommend that I must try?