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Your Favorite Szechuan Dishes in Wu Liang Ye, Szechuan Gourmet and/or Grand Sichuan

Please name your favorite Szechuan dishes (entrees/appetizers/sides) at WLY, SG and/or GS. A search of WLY was lacking in specifics but I may have missed old posts. I am particularly interested in beef, chicken and noodle dishes but if there's some other amazing dish that you need to tell us about, please do. Spicy is great.

Here's what I've tried:

WLY (W48th):
Dan Dan Noodles - Really outstanding. Noodles are perfectly firm like nowhere else. One of the four times I ordered this dish, the noodles were drowned in peppercorns but it never happened again.

Sauteed Beef Filets - might be my favorite entree but I don't find myself running back for it.

Sauteed Chicken with roasted chili & peanut (kung pao) - meh and not spicy at all.

Stir Fried Chicken with spicy capsicum - meh and not spicy at all.

General Tao's Chicken - this was ok but I am well aware I should be ordering a Szechuan dish here and I'm guessing this was General Tso's Chicken. I ordered this the last time I went out of exasperation of identifying a great dish, thus the purpose of this thread.

SG (W39th):
dan dan noodles - not firm, tasteless, no comparison to WLY but I only tried them once here.

Wok Tossed Crispy Beef Filets with roasted chili cumin - I think this is the entree I ordered about a yr ago for my first and only visit but whatever I ordered had a very unusual flavor. It took several bites to decide whether I hated or liked it but I now find that I am craving it. I never tasted anything like it before. I thought I had tasted cumin before but somehow this was different.

GS (Lex):
I don't remember what I tried here but I had decided I would not return. Sorry. Not too helpful but there was nothing special about it.

GS (9th Ave):
This was the worst of the bunch. The Dan Dan noodles were terrible and I did not like the entree I ordered at all. Again, no recollection even after looking at the menu just now. It was a meat dish with lots of thick, heavy brown sauce in a bowl (it wasn't a soup) and lots of veggies. I thought I had ordered from the speciality menu rather than straightforward Chinese.

So, I am aware I may not be ordering the best dishes and would like to hear about yours. Details on the reasons you enjoy the dish and additional ordering instructions when placing an order (especially if you are Chinese) would be greatly appreciated. THANKS!

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  1. Szechuan Gourmet:
    Ox tongue and tripe (cold dish, refreshing and spicy)
    Hand shredded chicken with chili sesame (cold dish, nutty and thick black sauce, with a kick that only appears 5 seconds afterwards....oh, slow burn!)
    Spicy cucumber salad (they use Japanese cucumbers! spicy, crunchy, refreshing)
    Szechuan pork dumpling with roasted chili soy (one of my favorites, we usually order this)
    Braised cellophane noodles with chili minced pork (good but very very carb-y, tough to finish)
    Crispy lamb with chili cumin (doesn't really taste lamby but very, very good, we ALWAYS get this)
    Chef's "ma paul" tofu (the *best* thing on the menu IMO, so so good, I LOVE this dish and we ALWAYS order it)
    (BTW I have never really been impressed with the braised meat with chili/napa dishes)

    Grand Sichuan:
    Smoked tea duck
    Dan dan noodles (I like them a lot here but they are nuttier here than other places)
    Gui Zhou spicy chicken (a must)
    Ma Po tofu with pork (though SG's is better, theirs is still pretty good)
    Eggplant with garlic sauce
    Shredded potatoes with vinegar sauce
    Sichuan wontons in hot oil (addictive, I always get these)
    sour string beans with pork
    pork soup dumplings (not Sichuan food, I know, but I can't resist)
    beef with cumin flavor (different than SG's prep by a little)
    cold cucumbers in scallion sauce (highly addictive! I had a friend who basically licked the plate clean the first time)

    1. SG:
      Thousand Year Old Eggs with Green Chili Jam
      Sliced Pork Belly with Chili-Garlic Soy
      Braised Whole Bass with Spicy Hot and Chili Scallion
      Gong Bao Chicken (on their menu it is listed as Stir Fried Chicken w/Roasted Chili Peanuts)
      Sauteed Spinach with Garlic
      Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly with Chili Leeks
      Cumin Lamb

      I've found the best NYC Dan Dan Noodle rendition at Strange Taste in Chinatown.

      1 Reply
      1. re: scoopG

        kathryn and scoopG, Countless thanks! These are two amazing lists and I am looking forward to trying many of these suggestions! Thanks again.

      2. Agreed that the dan dan noodles are better at Wu Liang Ye than Szechuan Gourmet. I don't think any of the Grand Sichuans are in the same class as those two. Otherwise it is indeed a dish by dish distinction. I haven't had the crispy beef at Szechuan Gourmet, but I always have the crispy lamb, which is fantastic. Wu Liang Ye makes the best tea smoked duck. In general, spicy dishes will be prepared spicier at Szechuan Gourmet than Wu Liang Ye.

        http://petercherches.blogspot.com

        1 Reply
        1. re: Peter Cherches

          Glad to hear that you concur about the dan dan noodles. The dish is sublime and it keeps me running back ...but then I'm stuck when I need to choose an entree, thus the impetus for this post.
          Now that you mentioned it, I did experience spicier dishes at SG. THANKS for the feedback.

        2. "dan dan noodles - not firm, tasteless, no comparison to WLY but I only tried them once here.
          ...
          I think this is the entree I ordered about a yr ago for my first and only visit"

          It's somewhat unfair to pick favorite dishes at Szechuan Gourmet, one of the two NY Times 2 star Szechuan restaurants in New York City, based on a *single* visit.

          If you ever go back to SG you should have the double cooked sliced pork belly with chili leeks. It's outstanding.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Yeh, I just had to point out that I've only tried them once so it warrants another visit. Thanks for the feedback!

          2. I visit Wu Liang Ye and Grand Sichuan St Marks often so I will share my experiences with you. I don't think I go to Szechuan Gourmet enough times to comment on their dishes but overall I prefer Wu Liang Ye..... Here is my summary:

            1) Wu Liang Ye (West 48th Street location unless specified otherwise:)
            a) Sliced Beef Tendon with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette (very spicy and portion size is kind of big)
            b) Sauteed Shredded Chicken with Rainbow Vegetable (I think they use MSG in this dish but I am not allergic to it and I actually love the "umami" taste from MSG so it works well for me; the "shredded vegetables" are: red and green bell peppers and shitake mushroom; I usually order this dish when I visit with my non-Chinese friends who do not eat hot spicy food.)
            c) Hot&Spicy Crabs (it's not in the regular menu but on a sheet of paper taped to the inside of front menu cover. This dish is made with blue crabs. The Spiciness comes from the Szechuan Peppercorn and hot, red peppers.. it's not too too hot/spicy for me and I think the sauce flavor is good; I have ordered this dish 2 times and both times the crabs were full of orange-colored roes, in which I like...not the most healthy but they tasted good.... I am not sure if this dish is available in English translation since I only remember the Chinese name.. its something like "Mah-Lah Xie" 麻辣蟹- This dish is only available at the 48th location.)
            d) Sea Cucumber with Szechuan Chili-Minced Pork (this one is so so.. the flavor was excellent.. nice and spicy.. but I think the sea cucumbers were kind of bland in flavor and the texture was kind of crunchy... i usually prefer them to be a little gummy and slimy and perhaps softer...)
            e) Braised Beef Filets and Napa Cabbage with Roasted Chili. (I have ordereed this dish at their W 48th St, E 86 St, and Lexington/39th location and they all taste the same so this recipe is probably standardized, which is a good thing. This one is my all-time favorite at Wu Liang Ye. It is very spicy and I usually take the leftover home and add tofu to it the next day. Again, the spiciness comes from hot red pepper and szechuan peppercorn.).
            f) Mouth Watering Chicken (Kou-Shui Ji / 口水雞 ) (I think this was either available at W 48th location or E 86th location.. can't remember... but it's one of the dishes behind the front menu cover, which might have been written only in Chinese. This is a spicy chicken "salad" with sliced boiled chicken thigh meat... with skin on... and mung bean jelly with spicy soy/chili oil / szechuan pepper sauce and crushed peanuts on top.. I remember it's served cold or maybe lukewarm so it's more of an appetizer.).
            g) Northern Szechuan Cold Jelly ("Chuan Bei Liang Fun" / 川北涼粉): (Again, I can't remember if I ordered this at the w 48th street location or the East 86th location... probably the latter but I am not 100% sure. Again, this dish was listed on the inside front cover of the menu. This is similar to the Mouth Watering Chicken but it has no meat in it... the sauce again, is very spicy and a layer of red chili oil floats on top).
            h) Sauteed Baby Shrimps with Rainbow Julienne Vegetable.. ordered at the East 86th Street location. (I had assumed this is similar to the "chicken with rainbow vegetable" dish but I was wrong. This dish was made with frozen peas and carrots! The shrimps tasted good but I just don't like the frozen vegetables.. reminded me of cafeteria food in Junior High.... I will not order this dish again!).

            Grand Sichuan St Marks.

            a) LooFah and Chicken Soup (This dish was all soup and had very little Loofah and chicken.. I was a little disappointed but the flavor was good.)
            b) Beef Tendon with Special Sauce (This is the non-spicy version of "Beef Tendon with Spicy Peppery Sauce". The flavor was very good and it's not spicy but the tendon, which was cooked in soy sauce, was still very flavorful even without the spicy sauce. This is served cold/lukewarm).
            c) Minced Chicken with Green Pepper and Vegetables (The chicken is chopped finely and stir fried with peppers. The flavor is good but on a couple of occasions I felt that the oil they use was kind of "old" tasting.. as if they used the oil from the deep fryer that cooks eggrolls, etc to stir fry the chicken but if you go on a day when the oil is fresh.. it should taste good. )
            d) Sliced Pork with Home Special Sauce. (I think this one is a "Hunan" dish.. It has a lot of black beans but no Szechuan Peppercorn. It's slightly spicy/hot. I like this dish a lot too. Goes well with bowls and bowls of rice.)
            e) Sour String Beans with Minced Pork (This dish is extremely salty and sour. I was not able to eat it after ordering it as a takeout. The meat was kind of dried up but I think this is the "authentic" way of preparing it. I think this is meant to be eaten with bowls and bowls of rice but with my high blood pressure I just can't consume high sodium foods.)
            f) Red Cooking Pork Balls (I think it should have been "Red Cooked Pork Balls" but their Chinese translation was written correctly ... ha.....This dish was kind of bland and the pork balls tasted like they had fillers in them... not a very memorable dish but I usually don't find new favorites unless I keep trying new things on the menu so I had to do it...)

            Hope you will find it helpful... Sorry for babbling on and on.. I am a naturally detail-oriented and wordy person but I wanted to make sure I give you enough info so you have enough info to decide what to order when you revisit these places. Wish you good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: bearmi

              Thank you, bearmi. This is one heck of a great list!

            2. I work close to SG, so let me stick to what I know best:
              (1) water-cooked fish (aka, shui zhu yu, braised fish with Napa cabbage - but I wouldn't recommend a similarly cooked beef),
              (2) sauteed pea shoots (dou miao) with garlic - the most consistent rendition I've ever had,
              (3) dry-fried (gan bian) string beans,
              (4) pidan (century egg) with green chilli jam,
              (5) double-cooked pork bellies with chilli, leeks,
              (6) spicy cucumber salad,
              (7) ma po doufu,
              and of course Sichuan soup at the end of the dinner: just ask what is best

              14 Replies
              1. re: diprey

                I am curious to know why you didn't recommend the water cooked beef at SG. I didn't really like the version at Szechuan Gourmet either. Can you explain? Thanks!

                1. re: bearmi

                  I tried all variations of shui zhu meat dishes at SG and I didn't like any of those: too watery and the taste is kind of thin. Which is, IMHO, good for the kind of fish they use (not too overbearing) but not for beef or lamb. Also, the meat texture is just OK. Frankly, I prefer the way they cook it at Tian Fu in Flushing

                  1. re: diprey

                    I always felt that something wasn't quite right with their water cooked dishes but I couldn't really articulate it. Thanks for sharing that.

                2. re: diprey

                  The pea shoots are good but last time I think they were $15.95 or something ridiculous!

                  Century egg = thousand egg old egg?

                  People keep recommending the double cooked pork belly with chili leeks but it seemed a bit on the chewy side and too thinnly cut. I guess I'm just used to really thick, tender pork belly that's been braised.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    i agree with u on the double cooked pork belly, i havent been a fan of any of the places version although i really like that dish...i really wish the SG in hell's kitchen was still open, that was the best place in manhattan

                    btw i've really been like the cumin beef at SG on st marks lately

                    1. re: kathryn

                      yep, Century egg = thousand years old egg, or 皮蛋

                      1. re: kathryn

                        i like SG's double cooked pork for the reasons you dislike it. I like that it's chewy and, on the occasions when they really cook it, almost bacon-y. I'm not a fan of really large chunks of mushy braised pork fat.

                        1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                          Does it ever seem too tough to you? I love bacon but don't really like tougher bacon, and the sliced pork belly just seems like really tough bacon to me.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            I guess you don't go in for tough love.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Not to me. The really think slices of double cooked pork served at some other restaurants seem more prone to toughness to me.

                              1. re: kathryn

                                I guess the pieces where there's more lean meat than fat sometimes gets tough but luckily most of the time the fat to lean meat ratio is 2:1 or more so I don't notice it as much. The texture also isn't consistent from order to order because some orders are cooked way more than others.The pork slices can range from a "normal" greyish brown color (slightly chewy but mostly just limp) to a really deep brown, almost black color (chewier, more bacon-y).

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  LOL!!! I just finished eating double-cooked pork bellies with chilli, leeks about 15 minutes ago. The dish full I had was very tasty and not tough at all. I love the description in the reply of SomeRandomIdiots "fat to lean meat ratio is 2:1". No truer words have been spoken.

                              2. re: kathryn

                                The double cooked pork belly with chili leeks is my favorite dish there. Although I'm gonna check out a few of your recommendations for sure next time I go.

                              3. re: diprey

                                Many thanks, diprey! Will need to return to SG,

                              4. Not sure if this qualifies as Sechuan, but WLY on 48th makes something very close to a Steak Poivre that is really very tasty.

                                The tea smoked duck is great too.

                                1. Also in midtown, the Ollies on 42nd street has a number of fine sichuan dishes -- and it's 50/50 laowai and hanren, so I think it's authentic, despite the fact that all of the waitresses are from Fujian. I like the husband and wife there, maybe even better than SGs (they slice the tongue and tripe very thin).

                                  1. If you love Szechuan food...get yourself to Lan Sheng on 39th St. It's the best of the lot, by far.

                                    20 Replies
                                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                                      Posted this elsewhere, but has anyone tried Mapo Tofu on 39th and Lex? I'm ready to take one for the team, but I have yet to try Lang Sheng, so I think I may satisfy my Szechuan craving by checking that out first.

                                      1. re: ChiefHDB

                                        not alot of reviews, but its getting good reviews on yelp so far:
                                        http://www.yelp.com/biz/mapo-tofu-new...

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          This is the old Wu Liang Ye space on 39th/Lex. I suspect it's the same folks, or at least some of them.

                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                            Yeah I realized that, but it seems like some of the other WLY branches are getting some new love after reopening. I did see some protesters outside too, so I don't want to be a scab or anything.

                                            Also, thanks for the link Lau, I've never been one to trust Yelp reviews too much (especially in NYC), but that's for another thread.

                                            1. re: ChiefHDB

                                              well generally i find yelp reviews to be reasonably accurate once there are alot of reviews, but when there are only a few reviews like this then they can be quite inaccurate

                                              1. re: Lau

                                                Fair enough. The pictures from the yelp review look ok, but I might just try Lan Sheng today since I'll be over there anyway. Mapo Tofu delivers, so I'll probably hit them up later.

                                                1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                  Review of my lunch today at Lan Sheng: http://lawandfood.blogspot.com/2010/0...

                                                  I had an interesting interaction with the owner, he was not very helpful. The dan dan noodles were awesome.

                                                  I'll be trying mapo tofu soon so I will report back.

                                                  1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                    What's weird is that the owner, who could not have been nicer or more helpful when I went, it a woman. And her English is fine.

                                                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                      Yeah, it was an older guy I spoke with, not a woman.

                                                      1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                        Gutsofsteel:
                                                        I edited the post to refer to him as a waiter. What do you think? Should I have sent the dish back?

                                                        1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                          Yes of course. If a dish is crappy, it's crappy. You're the customer.

                                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                            Yeah I should have sent it back. Whatever, I will show my displeasure by giving my business to SG.

                                                            1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                              Your loss. The food at Lan Sheng is better. It's superb. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.

                                                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                                I didn't say I'd never go back, there's other Szechuan to try in the city though. Specifically, Mapo Tofu and Szechuan Chalet, which I want to check out before I head back to Lan Sheng (the dan dan noodles were very good though).

                                                                1. re: ChiefHDB

                                                                  Szechuan Chalet is good, but I still think the food at Lan Sheng is better. I think Mapo Tofu is simply the same Wu Liang Ye that was in the space, just re-named because of reorganization. The Wu Liang Ye on 86th St closed too...

                                                                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                                    Yeah that's my hunch, my expectations for Mapo Tofu are pretty low. I'll probably try Szechuan Chalet first.

                                                                2. re: gutsofsteel

                                                                  How is it better if they refuse to serve you what your ordered?

                                                                  1. re: ESNY

                                                                    I've eaten at Lan Sheng twice. Each time I ordered dishes that appealed to me and the results were excellent. If that's all it takes to get a great meal there I'm willing to make the effort.

                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                      Stopped in at Lan Sheng for a light lunch the other day. Had the dan dan noodles and the stir fried chicken with spicy capsicum (small order) - both were excellent.

                                                                      1. re: Striver

                                                                        I must be the odd man out on the Lan Sheng dan dan noodles. I found the crushed peanuts a flavor distraction and the sauce too sweet. I much prefer them at Szechuan Gourmet, and even Grand Sichuan Eastern.

                                                                        http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                                      2. waiting for an order of hot & sour noodles with pork, Gui Zhou chicken and Sliced Beef with Cucumber...

                                        This is super helpful: http://www.grandsichuan.com/takeout.aspx

                                        pictures!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: janethepain

                                          helpful, but not particularly appetizing. those very pictures have detoured me from ordering on a few occasions. obviously they're just bad photos, but i can't get around it to figure out what i want to eat.

                                        2. Recently I was treated to dinner at the 48th street Wu Liang Ye. It's been ages since I've eaten there, so I'm not sure how long they've had this. When I saw the Sichuan style steamed buns on the menu (I don't remember how it's worded on the menu now) I got all nostalgic for buns that Mrs. Tan of the former Mai Xiang Tan in Flushing used to make, with the unique Yibin pickles 宜宾芽菜 in the meat mixture. I asked the waiter whether that's got the pickles in the filling, he said yes. We ordered it. While the filling was more polite, less earthy than the version I remembered, it was still quite good. The wrapping was very delicate and tender. I would definitely go back and order it again when I have the means.

                                          I liked their Liang Pi, and the Husband Wife Fai Pian had well sliced (thin and even)beef tongue and tendon. Basically their cold appetizer sauce is very savory, smokey, and flavorful, not over powered by trying to be too spicy or too numbing. I respect that.