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"No Reservations" Sichuan Cuisine

cmrobbinsii Jul 22, 2009 11:23 AM

To all those familiar with "No Reservations,"

In this past weeks episode, Anthony Bourdain spent time in Melbourne, Australia. One of the standout restaurants was a Sichuan establishment. If anyone knows of any authentic Sichuan restaurants in the Manhattan area, I would very much appreciate you feedback.

Many thanks,

CM Robbins II

  1. Bob Martinez Jul 23, 2009 07:52 AM

    My first choice in Manhattan would be Szechuan Gourmet on 39th St. They got 2 stars from the NY Times a few years ago - this wasn't an accident.

    Also good in midtown is Wu Liang Ye near 6th Ave. and 48th(?). I'd also add Grand Sichuan Eastern on 2nd Ave. and 55th. They were a part of the Gand Sichuan chain at one point and then went independent. The food quality hasn't slipped.

    The Grand Sichuan chain is pretty solid. The food at their 24th At. branch is very good but the ambiance leaves a lot to be desired. The 7tth Ave. South branch is considerably nicer and while the menu is a little more limited there's still plenty of choices. Avoid the St. Marks location - the food is really uneven.

    In Brooklyn Grand Sichuan House on 87th and 5th Ave. is outstanding. I've heard good things about Bamboo Pavilion in Bensonhurst as well.

    In Flushing Spicy & Tasty (2 stars from the NY Times) is as good as ever. Nearby Little Pepper is also an excellent choice.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bob Martinez
      bigjeff Jul 26, 2009 07:30 PM

      have you tried that sichuan place in sunset park on 8th ave? metro cafe; each time I'm there I'm already full from other places nearby and never seem to prioritize it but it sounds great!


      1. re: bigjeff
        diprey Jul 27, 2009 06:18 PM

        the metro cafe is OK, it's probably the best place to go for Sichuan food on the lucky 8th. My understanding is the regional specialties of that neighborhood are Cantonese and Fujianese.

        IMHO, Sichuan food is not *that* spicy, although it surely looks dangerous. Sichuan chillies (the round-tipped ones) are actually quite mild compared to their Thai little cousins: this is what makes some of most famous dishes (e.g., water-cooked anything) work, but I might be wrong.

        I feel most offerings of SG have about the right degree of hot taste, perhaps a bit closer to the lower bound; unless you look like someone raised in ChungQing, you might want to ask for your food prepared extra hot, but you only have to do it once. If you are looking for seriously hot (la) Chinese food, Hunan may be be a better option.

      2. re: Bob Martinez
        Peter Cherches Aug 27, 2009 07:31 AM

        Hey Bob, you're right, the 2 stars from the Times was no accident--Bruni was probably inspired to go by your reports!

        1. re: Peter Cherches
          Bob Martinez Aug 27, 2009 09:51 AM

          Thanks, but it was a group effort to write up Szechuan Gourmet. As I recall Dave Feldman was the first but there were dozens of great reviews by 20 or 30 people.

          I'm convinced Bruni mined Chowhound to find both Szecuan Gourmet and Spicy & Tasty.

      3. pdpredtide Jul 23, 2009 05:18 AM

        not sure about sichuan in manhattan, but try spicy and tasty in flushing, i had a great meal there and the spices they use were delicious


        1. s
          Simon Jul 22, 2009 03:13 PM

          in you enjoyed that episode, you should also try to check out the No Res episode where he goes to Chengdu, Sichuan...

          my fav in Manhattan is the GS branch at 9th Ave/24 St...i usually get guizhou spicy chicken, the prawn w/ chilies special, sliced fish and sour cabbage soup, and cold cucumbers in scallion sauce...

          1. scoopG Jul 22, 2009 01:46 PM

            For me, Szechuan Gourmet in Manhattan precludes a Flushing visit for Sichuanese. I think they have the largest and most extensive menu - including Pidan, the 1000 Year Old Egg with Green Chili appetizer which is wonderful. In Flushing, I prefer Little Pepper, Spicy and Tasty and Chengdu Heaven in that order. I've been disappointed by Chengdu Heaven the past couple of visits (Chef not in, bland Dan Dan Noodles.)

            9 Replies
            1. re: scoopG
              Peter Cherches Jul 22, 2009 02:55 PM

              While some dishes are better at Wu Liang Ye (like tea smoked duck), Szechuan Gourmet is probably the best bet in Manhattan. I think I may also prefer the dan dan noodles and ma po dofu at Wu Liang Ye. There's a spicy whole fish at Szechuan Gourmet that's really amazing (it might be a 4-pepper dish). I don't think any of the Grand Sichuans compare to either of these. In Queens I prefer Little Pepper to Spicy & Tasty except for the amazing selection of cold dishes at S&T.


              1. re: Peter Cherches
                Ann900 Jul 22, 2009 03:15 PM

                Yep, it's the cold dishes I crave at S$T .

                As for Kathryn's question of whether their food is spicy enough- is it spicy enough for you if it brings tears to the eyes of super spicy food fans?

                1. re: Ann900
                  kathryn Jul 22, 2009 06:40 PM

                  Maybe they toned it down for us because it was a mixed group (some Asian American, some not) and we ordered a mix of hot/cooked dishes?

                  SG brings tears to my eyes and clears my sinuses on a regular basis. Some of the food is so spicy, I can't even finish it.

                2. re: Peter Cherches
                  scoopG Jul 22, 2009 05:25 PM

                  I think the midtown WLY is the only good WLY. The best Dan Dan Noodles I've found so far are at Strange Taste in Chinatown.

                  1. re: scoopG
                    allisterk Jul 25, 2009 02:01 PM

                    Strange Taste closed and now I'm lost.... I miss those guys... anyone know where they went? Where now for Dan dan & Zha zhang?

                    1. re: allisterk
                      bearmi Jul 26, 2009 07:49 PM

                      I like the Dan Dan noodles at Szechuan Gourmet on 39th. Some folks here like the ones at Wu Liang Ye. I have also tried the Dan Dan noodles at Grand Sichuan on St. Marks.. not bad either... (I think my favorite is the one at Szechuan Gourmet.) You can check them out and see what's your favorite.

                      1. re: allisterk
                        Emmmily Aug 4, 2009 06:33 PM

                        Went by Strange Taste today, not realizing they'd closed, and a woman inside said they'd be opening tomorrow. So something's moving into the space, not sure yet what. I'll be stopping by soon to check it out and will report back.

                        1. re: Emmmily
                          squid kun Aug 5, 2009 01:16 AM

                          Yeah, it had been closed since sometime in spring, then earlier this week I saw the gate was up and a woman and her kids were sitting at a table. But they seemed to be the new tenants and it was clear they weren't yet open for business. Never made it to Strange Taste so I don't know if these were the same folks.

                          1. re: squid kun
                            Lau Aug 27, 2009 05:30 PM

                            never got to try it either, but i walked by it a few days ago and i believe its another fujian place as thats what it was advertised as (literally said fuzhou food in chinese) and all the dishes looked like the typical fujian stuff

                3. a
                  Ann900 Jul 22, 2009 12:05 PM

                  Flushing, Queens is the #1 go-to place for Chinese food in NYC. I would post your question on the outer boroughs board.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Ann900
                    Ike Jul 22, 2009 01:05 PM

                    I must agree. I've eaten some pretty good Sichuan food in Manhattan (particularly at Grand Sichuan St. Marks) but if you want the REALLY excellent stuff, you really have to go to Flushing. Little Pepper and Chengdu Heaven (or Chengdu Sky House or however you translate it) in Flushing blow the Manhattan choices (or the ones I've tried anyway) out of the water, and the food really tastes like it does in Sichuan Province. But not much English is spoken.

                    1. re: Ike
                      Ann900 Jul 22, 2009 01:40 PM

                      For me the ultimate Sichuan place in Flushing is Spicy and Tasty.

                      1. re: Ann900
                        kathryn Jul 22, 2009 01:52 PM

                        I've not explored the menu enough at S&T but it seems really tasty to me but not quite spicy enough. I may need to request it?

                        My favorite in Manhattan is Szechuan Gourmet. GS St Marks is good but you have to order carefully. Whereas SG is amazing and up there with Chengdu Sky House aka Chengdu Tian Fu aka Chengfu Heaven in the Golden Shopping Mall.

                        1. re: kathryn
                          Ike Jul 26, 2009 06:03 PM

                          My one visit to Szechuan Gourmet on 39th St. was slightly disappointing, because there wasn't any serious heat in any of the dishes, even the ones that were supposed to be spicy. Nor were they as flavorful as what I've eaten in Flushing. They weren't bad at all, but there wasn't much kick. But a Chinese friend was ordering and maybe she instructed them not to make it too spicy. I don't think she's as keen on Sichuan spice as I am. I'll have to go back and try it again.

                          1. re: Ike
                            bearmi Jul 26, 2009 08:05 PM

                            Yeah.. give them another try. Based on my experience, their food can be quite hot and spicy so I think your friend probably asked them to go light on the heat. I actually know quite a few Chinese people who prefer to eat lighter, less spicy food for various reasons so it's not uncommon for them to order less spicy versions of Szechuan food.. even though they are Chinese.

                            1. re: Ike
                              kathryn Jul 26, 2009 08:15 PM

                              In my experience, there was a slight decrease in consistency right after Bruni's review in the NYT, but a few months later, they were certainly back on track.

                    2. k
                      kathryn Jul 22, 2009 11:39 AM

                      Some good Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan are Szechuan Gourmet (two locations), Grand Sichuan (multiple locations), and Wu Liang Ye:


                      Szechuan Gourmet

                      Grand Sichuan

                      Wu Liang Ye

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: kathryn
                        kelea Jul 22, 2009 12:41 PM

                        definitely second wu liang ye!

                        1. re: kathryn
                          Pan Aug 27, 2009 01:22 AM

                          I want to emphasize that only the 39th St. location of Szechuan Gourmet is very good.

                          1. re: Pan
                            buttertart Aug 27, 2009 10:43 AM

                            Boy you can say that again!

                            1. re: Pan
                              TongoRad Aug 27, 2009 05:43 PM

                              The one by Columbus Circle has really disappointed me the past three or four visits, even when I beg them for 'extra spicy'. But it's not just that, it's almost like they lost a whole level of complexity in the sauces and can't get it back. I was starting to wonder if it is just the lunchtime kitchen staff that has slipped, or the whole place in general.

                              1. re: TongoRad
                                buttertart Aug 28, 2009 05:46 AM

                                Based on their attitude and cooking the first time we went there, we will never return. The food at the 39th St restaurant is brilliant.

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