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Wu Liang Ye At Lunch

I've been to Wu Liang Ye 86th St for lunch 2x's now. I ordered from the lunch special menu, the 1st time, kung po shrimp, and yesterday, tangerine chicken. Both times I requested the food to be VERY VERY VERY spicy, also pointing out that my daughter who is 7 wouldn't be eating it, so please make it really spicy. What I got were dishes that were super mild. I ended up using an entire dish of hot chili oil to spice it up more. After the 2nd visit I asked the waiter what do I do the next time I come back, he said "just tell me when you order, the kitchen will do as I ask". Is this just something that happens at lunch? Any other suggestions? I'm not up there all that much, but had always heard good things about this place.

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  1. That's interesting because once when I got delivery from them the food was all so spicy that I could barely eat it and it all tasted the same. On the other hand, I've had some wonderful meals in the restaurant, in which the spice level was good but not out of hand. The dishes that I've enjoyed there:

    House Cured Pork sauteed with Garlic Bolts
    Sauteed Sponge Cucumbers
    Sliced Scungilli with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette
    Sliced Beef Tendon with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette
    Hand Shredded Chicken with Spicy Sesame Vinaigrette
    Julienned Jelly Fish with Scallion Pesto
    Sichuan Pork Dumpling with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette.
    Pine Nut Duck (not on the menu, I believe)

    4 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Perhaps it is being on their "lunch menu". These dishes you mention sound really great, but none are on the fixed lunch menu. I think I need to stray on our next visit.

      1. re: michele cindy

        I think it might have something to do with the fact that what you ordered is on the set menu and therefore more prone to rote, non-individualized production.

        1. re: michele cindy

          Lunch (elsewhere, not as good) reminds me that their ma po tofu was among the best I've had even with a request from a chile-intolerant fellow diner to tone it down. I used to eat their lunch specials a LOT (over a few years) but never could move them far from their routine - those dishes are fine, but kind of standard-Americanized, which they do, but don't seem to be very "interested" in. If you want spicy (other than MPT), try things labelled spicy, and as someone else suggested, try asking them to make them "properly" spicy or something to that effect.

          One thing I always liked their and have never been able to quite duplicate at home is the shrimp with scallion pesto - it's not spicy, but it's quite good.

          1. re: MikeG

            I like the ma po dofu a lot, as well. For the record, Chinese folks from outside of Sichuan 'dumb down' the really spicy dishes, too. VERY few people who don't grow up eating and acclimating to it could handle anything out of an authentic, full-fire Sichuan Kitchen.

            WLY makes their ma po dofu with about the same degree of heat as my mother does -- i.e. about 1/8 of it's 'proper' spice level.

      2. Other than pleading again and again to make it very spicy, I don't know what else you can do. Maybe let the manager on duty know as well how you like it spicy before you sit down. I think the midtown branch of WLY is better than the 86th Street one, where they seem to change chefs and managers every six months - even going so far as to post "help wanted" ads in Chinese on the door!

        1. I think it may have been what you ordered. I haven't gone to the one on 86th Street but ordered stuff from the Midtown location. I also ordered from the regular menu as opposed to the lunch menu. The things that were supposed to be spicy were sufficiently spicy.

          I'm not so sure if tangerine chicken is an authentic Sichuan dish -- sounds more on the lines of orange chicken, sesame chicken, etc. -- the market for that dish is for "Americans." And kung po shrimp, while authentic Sichuan -- I've seen that dish on the menus of virtually every Chinese take-out joint. So the restaurant may be making it less spicy because they think that's what people want.

          I can understand how frustrating it must be for you. I'm sure the restaurant has had experience with people sending back food because it's not spicy enough. Some people just don't have high thresholds -- I used to live with somebody who thought Taco Bell was spicy.

          My suggestion would be to order things not on the lunch menu, and tell them you want it very spicy -- just like how they would do it in Chengdu or something like that. Perhaps once they get to know you, they may kick items like tangerine chicken up a bit for yor.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            You mentioned 86th St: I went to the one on 86th once, and it was "typical terrible", no relation to the midtown branch which I like quite a bit.

            And as it pertains to this discussion, in my experience the lunch specials at a discount price in a chinese restaurant are almost certain to be noticeably less enjoyable to ordering a la carte.

            1. re: acidity

              I feel compelled to say that I've eaten dozens, perhaps scores of meals at the 86th street location. The chef there is a fellow I've been following for ten years (since he cooked at the late lamented "Lion Pavillion" in Queens). And I think he's an absolute genius.

              He might not be there every day, which would account for some of the mixed opionions. But I've never had a less than splendid meal there. Of course, I only order serious Sichuan specialties (best one here: hand shredded chicken in chili vinaigrette).

              1. re: Jim Leff

                Wow, too bad his staff does not follow him as closely as you do!

                Rest assured, I scoured that menu for "the good stuff" (attached please find a photo I just took of my own personal bag of sichuan peppercorns, seriously, I know what I'm looking for), ordered half a dozen things, and they were none worth eating at all.

                Thanks for the tip, I'll have to try to figure out when he's there.

                 
                1. re: Jim Leff

                  Went back last week for a banquet. My chef is gone...I knew it upon my first bite. They're still using his recipes (his signature chopped chicken with chili vinaigrette is still a treat, though not as deep as when he made it). But the dude's out of there. And I must find him again.

                  Any fans of the old Lion Pavilion who are likewise trying to track him?

            2. Yes, I've long suspected they lower the heat for the lunch menu...

              1. I only go to the midtown one, and while i like the food there, nothing ever sets my tongue on fire. I think that when you say I want things spicy, they just don't believe you. They don't think americans can handle the regular spicy and make everything nebraska spicy. To be fair, most of the people in my usual lunch party can barely handle what is given to us so in most cases they're probably right.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Renguin

                  Nebraska spicy!!!! LOL!!!!!

                  I'm stealing that...

                2. The 86th st branch, which is around the corner from me, has been banned from my list of preferred restaurants.

                  I agree that if you want spicy there, do not order from the Lunch Special menu. The little chili icons next to the names of some of the Lunch Special dishes on the menu don't really mean much.

                  The lunch combo special is a steal at about $7. But if you want spicy, you're going to have to order from the regular menu -- go for dishes that are described on the menu as having spicy capsicum, roasted chili, or Sichuan chili.

                  1. Any updates? I had an bad dinner there a while back and concluded I should have gone to Szechuan Gourmet:

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/563814

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: a_and_w

                      I am sorry to hear about your experience. I think It might just be a matter of personal preference. Based on a lot of reviews on the board, I think I am one of the few (if there is more than one!) here who prefer Wu LIang Ye to Szechuan Gourmet.

                      I got takeout from Wu Liang Ye's on Lex and 39th a few weeks ago and I was happy with what I ordered. I always order the same dishes (A more authentic dish- Braised Beef Filets and Napa Cabbage with Roasted Chili and a more Americanized dish- Sauteed Shredded Chicken with Rainbow Vegetable) and they were both good as far as I remember.

                      To be fair, I think Szechuan Gourmet's Dan Dan noodles and Spicy Wontons are better than WLY's. However, to me, there is something not balanced about the flavor in some of the dishes at Szechuan Gourmet, especially in the hot/spicy braised category. For example, in the "Water Cooked Beef" (aka "Braised Beef Filet in Napa Cabbage"), they tend to use a lot of Chinese celery and have fewer pieces of beef than WLY's (I was a little disappointed when I took the dish home and discovered it's mostly sauce and veggies). The intense flavor of Chinese celery was covering up the flavor of the garlicky, peppery Szechuan sauce. Another time, I dined in at Szechuan Gourmet with friends and we ordered some spicy casserole with seafood (and maybe intestines?). This time, the casserole had a lot of seafood/intestine ingredients, which were very good, but the chef had used a lot of cinnamon in that dish so I felt that the sauce was becoming too one-dimensional, again making the flavor "unbalanced". I have not tried any of their stir-fried dishes so I should give them a try next time to make my final assessment...

                      Anyway, that's just my opinion... I am sure their cooking style appeal to a lot of folks here that's why it seems to be the more preferred restaurant on this board. If people like Szechuan Gourmet, they should keep returning... nothing wrong with that. Although, I seem to prefer WLY at this time, I am not going to stop going to Szechuan Gourmet either. I am sure I will eventually find something I like there!!

                      1. re: bearmi

                        I concur that WLY on 48th>Szechuan Gourmet. I've also gotten some unbelievably spicy food from them. I get delivery from there to my office every now and then; rarely go to the restaurant and rarely order from the lunch menu.