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Best General Tso's Chicken in Manhattan or Brooklyn- HELP?

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I know this topic has been covered before, but I haven't found really good info on it: where, pray tell, is the best General Tso's chicken in NYC (Manhattan or Brooklyn)?

(What does "best" mean? Well, sweet and spicy, crispy, with a sauce that tastes so yummy that it itself on white rice could constitute a meal!)

Please weigh in here- there are a gazillion places in NYC that have this dish- but which hit it out of the park? Oh, and by the way- if any of you have ever tried the General Tso's Chicken at Tai Chi on Polk street in San Francisco- that is what I consider to be heaven on a plate. I dream about the dish at that place.

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  1. I haven't tried the General Tso's specifically, but Szechuan Gourmet did the best fried dishes of any Chinese restaurant I found in Manhattan. Another place I liked was Home's Kitchen, which flavored the sauce with actual fruit. Avoid Grand Sichuan's version, which is never crisp.

    9 Replies
    1. re: a_and_w

      Szechuan Gourmet's version isn't very good.

      1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

        Thanks for the replies, people. I wish more posters were interested in this subject- I know it's not as glamorous a topic as "what should I order at Babbo"? but it's still important.

        We're talking about General Tso's, here- let's get our priorities straight!

        1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

          D'oh! Try the crispy chicken with spicy garlic sauce. Like a spicier, more garlicky, less sweet version of General Tso's.

          1. re: a_and_w

            Tried this dish today. Bleccch. Usually "...with spicy garlic sauce" at SG means the meat item is evenly and thoroughly coated in a tasty,greasy and spicy sauce laden with slices of garlic. This was basically just hot sauce poured on top of some refried chicken chunks. They completely missed one side of the dish so i had some pieces of chicken that were completely uncoated. The chicken chunks themselves were way overcooked, some of the pieces were actually hard. They were dark meat pieces too which was why I was so surprised. I guess they were refried because I don't think enough time elapsed for a fresh batch of chicken to be ruined like that. My order was picked up within 10 minutes of it being placed.
            I also tried the Stir Fried Intestines w/ Chili & Snakes beans. Absolutely delicious. The outside was perfectly crispy, almost crunchy in texture (it reminded me of pork rinds) while the inside was soft and creamy. Initially I wondered why this dish was unsauced and very dry but once I got about halfway through it I figured out why. The pieces of intestine were still crispy and not soggy like they would've been with sauce. If it wasn't 14.95 I'd eat this every day.

            1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

              Sounds like you got a bad batch. The chicken should be fried twice, which keeps it crisp in sauce -- yours was obviously overcooked. The sauce should come in a separate container and have lots of minced garlic. I'm curious, did you have this experience at dinner or lunch?

              1. re: a_and_w

                It was lunch. I've had coworkers (who didn't believe me about the dish) order the same thing and end up with the same result. it's just really really deep fried pieces of chicken with their chili oil poured into a corner. I haven't seen any bits of garlic.

                1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                  Weird. I'm not dismissing your experience, but I have ordered this dish many times. For years, it was part of my weekly dinner rotation. Unless the recipe has changed, or it's different for lunch, the sauce is not just chili oil (at a minimum, there's also cornstarch), there should be lots of minced garlic, and everything should be packed separately. When you say your coworkers were surprised, was this because they'd ordered it before and expected something different? Sorry for all the questions -- I'm just trying to figure out the reason for our disconnect.

                  PS: When you say the sauce was just chili oil, do you mean like the mapo tofu?

                  PPS: I was just looking at the menu. Do they no longer offer the deep fried diced chicken (bone-in) with chili?

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Hang on...I was just looking at an old menu...I may be thinking of the Amazing Spicy Chicken, which was "fried chunk chicken, broccoli, fried potato in chef's special sauce." Looks like that and the deep-fried diced chicken (with bone) with chilis are no longer on the menu. Sorry for any confusion.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      im confused... we were talking about L23 Crispy Chicken with Spicy Garlic Sauce right? My coworkers and I were surprised that it was just pieces of chicken with chili oil drizzled on top. No garlic to be found anywhere.

                      I don't think I've had a deep fried bone in chicken with chili dish.

        2. Sounds unlikely: it's at Vynl on 8th Ave in Hell's Kitchen. No mystery parts, the sauce is great and has a touch of sesame oil, and it's served with some nice broccoli. It was a special for a long time and they recently added it as a permanent menu item.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jakew8

            Vynl is on 9th Ave at 51st. I haven't ever dared to sample this dish there. Overall I've found the food quality has gone way downhill since their rapid expansion.

          2. My partner and I visit The Nice Green Bo (formerly The New Green Bo) on Bayard Street weekly for their General Tso's chicken. We order the all-white meat version and request it extra-spicy (I'm usually a dark meat guy, but the white-meat version is more crispy).

            If you're there with a group, also try the salt & pepper squid and the eggplant with garlic sauce. We also get the pork soup dumplings from time to time, but have to admit that Joe's Shanghai's version is much tastier.

            1. White meat General Tso's is most certainly heretical in my book. Also, my hunch is the best General Tso's (at least as far as this thread is concerned) is not going to be found in Chinatown, but somewhere that caters to non-Chinese clientèle.

              Twan, I'm glad you asked the question, it's a good one and I wish I had a worthy answer for you. Unfortunately I've not found a General Tso's in the city that really stands out. I think one probably exists, but I haven't heard of it.

              It's probably worth giving Yummy House a try. I haven't had their General Tso's, but I think they're a cut above most neighborhood Chinese joints (I'm a big fan of their Chicken and Eggplant).

              5 Replies
              1. re: zEli173

                kind of funny that im this post since im pretty anti-americanized chinese food, but i believe shun lee invented the dish in the 70s, you should try it there

                there is an article (might be NYT) about it, its based off a dish from a taiwanese chef, which is in turn based of a hunan dish i believe...shun lee and another restaurant in turn created an americanized version of the dish which was nothing like the chinese or taiwanese dish

                1. re: Lau

                  Yes, Jennifer 8 Lee of the New York Times explains all this in her book, Fortune Cookie Chronicles, which establishes the early 1970s New York city roots of this dish at Shun Lee and Hunam restaurants.

                2. re: zEli173

                  I think it's amazing that I've gotten so few answers to this (great) question! I'm just looking for that one kick-ass General Tso place! Where oh where is it? I know it exists! Anyway, thanks to all who responded.

                  1. re: twan55

                    My hunch is that Chowhounds tend to be a bit too selective (ok, pretentious) about their Chinese food to order General Tso's when there are so many other enticing options on the menu at most destination-worthy establishments.

                    I'm counting approximately 7 recommendations that have been halfheartedly tossed around so far, but you'll likely have a tough time finding any sort of consensus on such a stigmatized dish around these parts.

                    If you don't mind all white meat, I'd second JimJohn's recommendation of New/Nice Green Bo. I've had the dish forced upon me unwillingly by unimaginative out-of-towners, and it was quite pleasant. They also offer an equal-opportunity version, if you're staunchly opposed to meat racism.

                    1. re: CalJack

                      I don't know why this has to be a food snob issue. Yes, there are more expensive/more esoteric topics, but hell, General Tso's chicken- WHEN DONE RIGHT- is one of the most delicious "cheap eats" around. There are countless chefs at high-end establishments who LOVE to eat dishes like General Tso's chicken (again- when done right!) during their off time. It's a delicious guilty pleasure, not something to eat every day, but certainly not something to be ashamed of! After all, this is an eating site, not a high-end eating site. Anyway, thanks for the tip about Nice Green Bo. I'll try it out.

                3. Panda on 54th and 1st

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: kcijones001

                    Thanks for the recommendation- I'll try Panda out too. I'll report back on how I found it to be, for those Phillistines interested in such a lowbrow topic.

                    1. re: twan55

                      You probably should post on the Outer Boroughs Board for Brooklyn. I think the outer boroughs are more known for the "old school' Chinese that you're looking for. Here's a thread with some suggestions but they are not in Brooklyn. I remember going to one place in Brooklyn near Ave. R and Nostrand that was supposedly famous, but it was absolutely nasty. I'll bet that Panda Express is probably better.

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/470057

                      I'm not sure why you think that the Chowhounders have this General Tso's bias. True, it's probably not on the radar of most posters on this board, but nobody ever condemned your choice (unless there were nasty posts here that were deleted). I think you've received a few places to try on this thread. Good luck finding your chicken!

                      1. re: twan55

                        I'll weigh in with a couple of diverse options. I happen to love General Tso's chicken, even if I'm more likely to rave about a meal at Little Pepper or street food in C'Town or Flushing. I don't see why you can't have the best of both worlds.

                        My two favorites are, in no particular order, the General Tso's at Dinersty (not a typo), which is a fast-food place on 8th Avenue between 30th and 31st. The meat is fatty and crispy, the sauce is very good, and they also have pretty good hot and sour soup (you get combo plates here). I always ask them to make it extra spicy, but they rarely do. When they do make it spicy...even better.

                        The second place is Joe's Shanghai. I've only had this dish in Flushing, but my experience has been that they make really good versions of the standardized American-Chinese food, and their General Tso's has always been pretty close to perfect.

                        Let us know what you come across on your (admirable) quest.

                    2. Ok, I'm gonna chime in here now b/c we haven't received too many recommendations. I've been holding back primarily b/c I think I'm gonna get mud tossed at me for this suggestion and, secondly, because this isn't "rock your world" worthy.

                      At this point, and unless I'm in Chinatown, I only eat Tso's right in my nabe at Ivy's Cafe on the UWS. I happen to like it there b/c the chicken is typically crispy yet tender and I like the taste of the sauce. Sometimes it is hit and miss, like any other place, and many of the other dishes are not so great here. But if you give them some specific instructions when you order you might get what you want. Better yet, I'd suggest that you walk right over to Ivy, who practically lives behind the register, and ask her if they can prepare it the way you want it. She'll care enough to go back into the kitchen to call the shots. This is strictly a neighborhood place. It is nothing fancy nor attractive but it is clean inside and they are generally pleasant.

                      According to their website, http://www.ivyscafenyc.com/, Tso's has a "regal rendering here... with nice chunks of luscious leg and thigh meat." Ivy also cooked for the Chinese President several years back when he and his 130 associates stayed at the Waldorf Hotel for 10 days. Does that mean anything? Maybe not. But I actually believe that, if she were in the kitchen, the food would be much better and it really depends on the amount of direction she has given to the person back there.

                      If all else fails, order a side of peanut sauce (not sesame sauce but straight up peanut sauce) and dip it over a noodle dish or an order of scallion pancakes. The sauce here will rock your world! Please let us know if you wind up trying this place.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: nativeNYer

                        Agree with you 100% nativeNYer...Ivy's is decent. I used to live around the corner and ate there regularly. Solid fare, always dependable if not blow your mind stuff...but sometimes at 11pm all you want is good honest chinese comfort food and Ivy's always hit the spot for me.

                        1. re: Scotty100

                          yup, another big plus is they are open until midnight on weekends.

                      2. For what its worth the orange chicken at Mama Buddha in the West Village is phenomenal...They don't seem to bread the chicken all that much if at all but its really flavorfull...If they prepare the General Tso dish they offer in a similar way you cant go wrong

                        1. Chinatown Brasserie on Lafayette. It has great flavor, great quantity per serving, and while it is certainly crispy, it isn't nearly as greasy and over fried that most general tso's usually is.

                          1. I work in downtown Manhattan and the office favorite is the General Tso's from Au Mandarin. It's located at the World Financial Center.We have it delivered but they do have a nice restaurant and bar.Delicious.Hot enough to get a bead of sweet going on the forehead but not so overpowering that you can't enjoy the overall flavor.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: foodnwine

                              I agree. Most of the places in the WFC are crap, but the general tso's here is pretty tasty.

                            2. Two more quick thoughts on this subject. Twan's quest (LOL!) may be complicated by the difference between east and west coast styles of in General Tso's. When I order General Tso's in CA, I typically get something more like crispy orange chicken. I've never tried Tai Chi in SF, so I can't say for sure, but it's something to keep in mind.

                              Additionally, I've found that the best versions of General Tso's is found at more Americanized Chinese places. This seems confirmed by the experience of other Hounds who recommend restaurants where the General Tso's is one of the few standout dishes on the menu.

                              1. There's only one place to go, in my opinion, for General Tso's chicken....and that's Pig Heaven on the UES. No one holds a candle in the wind when it comes to their GT chicken....and their spare ribs, for that matter.

                                1. Just wanted to thank my fellow Chowhounders for their recommendations. I finally tried the General Tso's at Au Mandarin and I gotta say: PRETTY DAMN GOOD!

                                  Now, definitely not as tasty as the transcendent General Tso's chicken found at Tai Chi in San Francisco (whose version- the best on earth- is both sweeter and crispier, the two things I consider paramount!)- but still, it was the best I've had in NYC so far.

                                  I also love how a poster on here pointed out the difference between the West Coast version and the East Coast version (as a rule, they make it sweeter out west). I agree wholeheartedly, and this observation has helped blunt my frustration over not being able to find an exact, Tai Chi-style General Tso's Chicken match anywhere in New York City. So thanks for that as well!

                                  I know that I'm responding to my original post quite late, but what can I say- better late than never...

                                  Anyway, Au Mandarin is the best GTC I've had so far in NYC, hands down.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: twan55

                                    Funny, when I read the headline of this thread, I immediately said, Au Mandarin - hands down, nothing even close. I didn't realize the thread started so long ago, but I am glad you found your way to Au Mandarin. I used to work nearby and ordered it once a week. Since moving uptown and living uptown, I just dont even bother ever having GTC unless I make a trip down to the world financial center to have it at Au Mandarin. Hard to not get an insane craving for it once in a while too... it's like deep fried crack.

                                    1. re: twan55

                                      Yours is a noble quest twan, hope you get some more good responses. I love authentic chinese food, but some days you just can't beat a Tso's. I'm afraid I can't give any recommendations though, I live downtown and all the versions I've tried around here have been sub par.

                                      1. re: twan55

                                        We just had Au Mandarin today at work and I had my beloved General's Chicken for the first time in a couple of months.It really hit the spot.Glad to hear that you were happy with it also.I was just out in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago on business and forgot about the General's at Tai Chi.I would have loved to have tried it if I had thought of it.

                                      2. J. East on 3rd ave between 16th and 17th. Amazing dinner combo special - good value.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: goldilox74

                                          Tried it yesterday (my goal is to try every GTC recommendation on here).

                                          Verdict: good, definitely a cut above the usual places, but not as good as Au Mandarin (a helluva lot cheaper though).

                                          Still, unfortunately, no place makes it like Tai Chi in SF- not even close. :^(

                                          1. re: twan55

                                            Twan, did you have a chance to try the GT at Panda on 1st as suggested in an earlier thread?

                                            1. re: eameyer

                                              Nope- but will do shortly- maybe even today.

                                              Will definitely report back!

                                        2. Had the GTC at Tai Chi last night was soggy, mushy may have unfortunately been the opposite of heaven on a plate.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: mick

                                            Holy crap really?! Oh God don't say that. I grew up eating it there, and everytime I re-visit SF I stop there and have it and it's ALWAYS great.

                                            I believe you, and I'm sorry you had to endure that- I just hope they had an off-night.

                                            When they're on, Tai-Chi makes the best GTC I've ever had by a fucking mile.

                                            1. re: twan55

                                              Figured it's been almost two years so I might as well go fishing again.

                                              Any ideas/updates or am I still out of luck?

                                              (sigh)

                                          2. You mean you have not been scouring the city all this time for your favorite dish?

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              Well, let's just say I've tried a few less-than-memorable Generals since 2009.

                                              None that packed that hot-spicy-crispy-saucy-sweet-tangy-crunchy-gooey goodness that I so crave.

                                              1. re: twan55

                                                twan!

                                                i was trying to figure out where to order some hopefully better-than-nyc-usual and read this post. i just ordered from ivy's cafe but am less than hopeful.

                                                i do have a suggestion...not general tso's, but satisfying in a similar deep-fried tangy comforting way. i am korean, so my mother would make the koreanized version of sweet-and-sour (thinly-sliced) beef..i find a similar rendition at hyo dong gak on 35th/6th in manhattan, which is korean-chinese food. their beef tang soo yook (and jja jang myun - wheat noodles with brown sauce is good) is probably a B+ for what it is, but it definitely hits the spot.

                                                -----
                                                Hyo Dong Gak
                                                51 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

                                                1. re: twan55

                                                  I also love General Tso's Chicken - I don't care what anybody says. I'll have to try Au Mandarin sometime.

                                                  twan - try Cafe Evergreen in UES. I had a very good version there not too long ago.

                                                  -----
                                                  Cafe Evergreen
                                                  1288 1st Ave, New York, NY 10021