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Wa Jeal -New Sichuan Restaurant 83rd/2nd Ave

Had a chance to try this new place twice this week. Food is very good. No liquor license yet so its byob for now. Had the Camphur Tea smoked duck (twice)-my newest favorite dish du jour. Very tasty w good deep smokey taste. Also the Wok tossed calamari w hua jiao-spiced salt was delicious esp w rice. I know this place will make it simply on the fact they serve very good food. Give it a try!

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  1. Have you been to Wu Liang Ye on 86th and 3rd? How does it compare?

    4 Replies
    1. re: glutton08

      They hired chef from Wu Liang Ye!!! funny you ask-also I see some waiters from there as well-so the food as good!

      1. re: UES Mayor

        I've been following (slavishly) that guy since he worked at Lion Pavilion in Queens. Thanks SO much for helping me bridge this gap. I brought a party of ten to Wu Liang Yee a couple of months ago and was embarrassed by the food being merely ok. After one bite of the hand-shredded chicken in sesame vinaigrette, I instantly knew he was gone. You've made my day.

        1. re: UES Mayor

          This is good to know. I have been to the UES Wu Liang Ye and been unimpressed. I will give this one a shot and report back as I have normally been travelling for my Szechuan fix.

          Have you tried any of the cold appetizers? Do they bring the numbing heat?

          1. re: UES Mayor

            ha! Thanks for the reply. Guess my go-to Szechuan just got a little closer to home.

        2. Hmm, sounds good. Given the non-standard (not Pinyin) Romanizationin the name, may be Taiwanese-run? Good to know about for next visit to the Met. Will check out, thanks for this tip!

          1. Great to know. (Always on the look out for good Chinese restaurants). I have been going to Wu Liang Ye so I wonder if there will be any decline in their quality since the chef and some waiters have moved to Wa Jeal.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ellenost

              ellenost, a restaurant's food is as good as the chef. The tablecloths and light fixtures don't cook the food! :)

              They may eventually land another genius chef.......but it won't be THIS genius chef. And, in the meantime, I can report that the current guy is sort of blah. Using the old guy's recipes, but tastes like photocopies.

              1. re: Jim Leff

                Thanks for letting me know; I'll try Wa Jeal (sorry to hear about Wu Liang Ye since it turns out one of the managers lives near my mother in Brooklyn, and they became good pals in her last few visits--maybe he went to Wa Jeal too?).

            2. I just hit this place up for lunch and was very impressed. While lunch might not always be the best time to try a new place out, I was hungry and wanted to give it a shot. The lunch menu is split between Sichuan dishes and Americanized Chinese. I got the Stir fried prawns w chili minced pork and vegetables as you cant really go wrong with seafood and pork. Six good sized shrimp scattered with minced pork, preserved cabbage, cucumbers, jicama and chilis made for a very good lunch. The shrimp themselves were very big and of high quality, very sweet. They were dusted in rice flour and butterflied. The sweet flavour of the shrimp went very well with the salty and sour minced pork and preserved vegetables. There was a good amount of heat from the chilis and the jicama cooled the palate nicely. No ma la peppercorn taste was detected but I am not sure if it was supposed to be there as this may have been more of a Hunan dish

              The wonton soup that came with it was decent too though a bit bland. The wontons themselves had nice thin skins and a good pork center.

              Definitely will come back to explore the real menu as there are a number of things I want to try.

              4 Replies
              1. re: MVNYC

                "No ma la peppercorn taste was detected"

                "Ma la" means "numbing and hot."

                There's no such thing as a "ma la peppercorn" any more than there's such a thing as a "sweet and sour sugar" or a "hot and sour vinegar." Sugar isn't sour, vinegar isn't hot, unless it's been adulterated. Likewise, the Sichuan so-called peppercorn is numbing ("la") but it isn't hot. If you want hot along with your numbing, you have to add chillis or other hot/piquant ingredients.

                I first came across this misbegotten usage in Todd Kliman's article about Peter Chang, but perhaps he picked it up from a previous misguided example. Apparently he couldn't be bothered to check Wikipedia for the straight story on "ma la." Ha also believes Knoxville is west of Atlanta, which makes me wonder how accurate the rest of his writing is.

                1. re: KWagle

                  I think that mvnyc is basically correct. KWagle is mostly correct.
                  Wikipedia says:
                  "The term málà is a combination of two Chinese characters: "numbing" (麻) and "spicy (hot)" (辣), referring to the feeling in the mouth after eating the sauce.

                  The numbness is caused by Sichuanese peppercorn

                  1. re: RichardMW

                    If you understand the meaning of "ma" and "la", and have tasted huajiao, the so-called Sichuan peppercorn, it should be clear to you that huajiao does not produce the sensation known by the name "la". "La" is what Americans call "hot" and huajiao does not produce that flavor or sensation. The most common ingredient that causes that sensation is (drum roll please) "lajiao."

                    Maybe MVNYC wasn't using language well that day, and intended to say "no ma peppercorn taste was detected, nor was any la taste from any of several possible sources detected." But if (as I read it) MVNYC was referring to a "ma la peppercorn" which provides a "ma la peppercorn taste" then they aren't "basically correct." They're actually incorrect. Huajiao may be many things, but no matter how hard you hope and pray, it just isn't "la."

                    1. re: KWagle

                      I was mistaken, I believed that mala referred to the numbing sensation. Sorry I did not double check my sources as I really don't want to see someone get so worked up over it.

              2. Ordered delivery from Wa Jeal last night:
                A1 - hand shredded chicken - very tender chicken but the sauce could have used more heat, whether it was meant to be spicy or not, I also wish they would leave the skin on to really accentuate the flavor of chicken you get when they make the chicken this way (like Hainan chicken prep, forgot chinese, 白鸡?)

                A2 - ox tongue & tripe - the most impressive heat of any Sichuan restaurant I've eaten between NYC and Boston, everywhere else seems so timid. Wa Jeal's version really piled on the chilis and hua jiao.

                A36 - wok tossed calamari - 椒盐鱿鱼 - not meant for take out and the salt & pepper was a bit weak, though it didn't like it was coated in MSG, which I don't mind either.

                C20/C32 - cumin lamb, I asked for '自然羊肉' or lamb cooked naturally, which is typically lamb stir-fried in a lot of cumin and cilantro with maybe some hua jiao. I don't really see it specifically on the menu as C20 is lamb ribs in cumin, c32 is lamb filets with hua jiao. FYI, dish is priced at
                $18.95 like C20. It came as a lamb with cumin and cilantro but also with onions and bell peppers, much like 葱爆羊肉 would. Thankfully, the onions and peppers did not get in the way of the cumin lamb. Probably still needs some more cumin and a bit more hua jiao. The last time I had a great dish of cumin lamb was at the Zoe's in Brookline, MA.

                2 Replies
                1. re: avial

                  The cumin lamb at Hunan House in Flushing is extremely good. Looking forward to trying this place.

                  1. re: avial

                    Try the cumin lamb at Little Pepper.

                  2. We ate there yesterday - good but I prefer the Grand Sichuans. The pickled beg was nice and spicy (dressed in hot oil, I actually prefer it plain) and the salt and pepper squid was OK. The cumin lamb was not terrific (there shouldn't be big hunks of green and red peppers in it), the lotus root was delicious (in the same preparation as the squid, I love lotus root and couldn't resist it). The standout dish was the "Ma Paul" fish - cubes of fish and fried doufu in an excellent spicy ma po sauce. The service is very good and the main waiter we had (from Malaysia - may have been the owner) was very pleasant. My questions: in what dialect is Wa Jeal the transcription of a restaurant name of which the first character is Hai (sea)? And why name a Sichuan restaurant Hai anything? Hmm.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: buttertart

                      I have yet to visit this restaurant but based on the way Wa Jeal is pronounced in English, I think it's maybe the Cantonese dialect or perhaps one of the Fujian dialects. "Wa Jeal" sounds a little like "Hua Jiao" to me in Mandarin Pinyin, which means "Szechuan Peppercorn". If that's the case, then the name matches well with the cuisine this restaurant serves. I should walk by Wa Jeal to check it out and confirm its Chinese name (if there is one) soon. Thanks for the review.

                      1. re: bearmi

                        I see, that could be it. However, here's a website showing the characters. http://wajealsichuanchilihousenyc.com...
                        First character doesn't look like "hua" flower to me, nor the second like "jiao" pepper. (I'm not terrific with cursive and am only familiar with Mandarin pronunciation so would not have twigged to the name being a variant of huajiao, but the characters do not seem to bear this out). Also even if so, why transliterate a name of a Sichuan restaurant in Guangdong or Fujian pronunciation? I doubt Sichuanese would.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Thanks for the website! I tried to look for it but apparently, their web address contains more words than just "wa jeal" so I was not successful.

                          Wow.. you are right. The first character is "海 / Hai" = Ocean.
                          I had a hard time understanding the 2nd character too but I then looked in the Yellow Pages from local Chinese Newspaper on-line and the Chinese name is listed as "海納川" I did a search on that name and looks like there is a Sichuan restaurant inSuzhou, China with the same name.

                          Now we know this restaurant's Chinese name and English name are pronounced differently and there is no reference to peppercorn in its Chinese name (but maybe its English name)... I wish I know what 海納川 means though... The characters mean "river merging into the ocean" but I am sure there is deeper meaning than just that!

                          1. re: bearmi

                            There is a stock phrase which begins ""Hai na bai chuan...; The sea receives the hundred rivers..." Since Sichuan was long a source of grain for the Suzhou region, it makes sense that a Sichuan restaurant located in Suzhou (downriver, by the sea, in comparison to Sichuan) would use this name. Maybe the romanization is phonetic for the beginning of the phrase in Wu dialect? Suzhou dialect is very dissimilar to standard Mandarin (and even to plain old Wu). The Suzhou connection makes the restaurant more appealing to us Suzhou fanciers, must go back soon.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              Are there any specific Suzhou dishes to look or ask for?

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                Not here, it's a Sichuan place, nothing Jiangzhe on the menu at all as far as I recall. Don't know of any real Suzhou dishes (lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and simmered in syrup, river shrimp, etc.) at any of the Shanghai places either for that matter. Too bad, there is some very good food indeed to be found in that most fascinating city.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Thanks for the info. Based on some of the reviews, I don't know if I will be eating there any time soon but still might worth exploring if I am in that neighborhood. If you visit again, please let us know how your experience is. Thanks again!

                                  1. re: bearmi

                                    We'll doubtless do so, since we now know of the putative / possible Suzhou connection (husb is historian of Chinese urban socioeconomic history, specialty Ming dynasty Suzhou, have spent a fair amount of time there) and it's a good pre-Metropolitan Museum visit location. Will of course report.

                    2. I went last Thursday night with 2 friends. For appetizers we ordered Dan Dan Noodles (A26) and Sichan Pork Dumplings w/ Chili-Garlic Soy (A32) and both were very good but not great. For our main courses we ordered Double Cooked Streaky Pork w/ Spicy Capicum & Leeks(C17), Crispy Sea Scallops w/ Black Peppercorn Sauce(6) and Baby Eggplant w/ Spicy Garlic Sauce (45). I enjoyed the tasty pork and the scallops were quite good and the eggplant was excellant.

                      The service was very good and the interior was very nice. The food may not be Grand Szechuan or Sichan Gourment but I will definitely be back to try more items so close to where I live.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: TryThis

                        Would you (or others) rate this as better food than Wu Liang Ye?

                        1. re: ellenost

                          I think it's fine for the neighborhood (and will be useful for trips to the Met etc, since we live in Bklyn) but is not a place I would set out for as sole destination.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            I agree with buttertart. Six of us went 9/8 and were under-impressed. It's a nice place with friendly people but the food was ok... for example, Wu Liang Ye on W.48th St. is better (E.86th St is not). Certainly not up to the better places in Flushing or the Bay Ridge place. Too bad... we wanted to like it more but they didnt seem to get the rich flavors out of almost any of the dishes. And we ordered a lot so I think we got a good overview. Oh well.

                            1. re: Steve R

                              It's also more expensive than the other places, by about 20%. Sichuan for the UES. "Ma Paul" fish and the lotus root dish were good though.

                              1. re: Steve R

                                Glad you mentioned Wu Liang Ye on West 48th. It has been my favorites for many years. Seems like most folks on this board like Szechuan Gourmet on 39th, which I do not dislike but I still prefer Wu Liang Ye. Which one do you like better?

                                1. re: bearmi

                                  I've only been to SG on 39th once and liked it more than Wa Jeal but nowhere near as much as Wu Liang Ye on W48th. However Wu does not have a similar menu in many ways to the ones I frequent more often (S&T, Little Pepper, the one in Chelsea, the one in Bay Ridge) so it's hard to compare specific dishes... however, I think the food at Wu is fresh, well made and flavorful and its definitely one of the best in Manhattan (not so, their E86th St branch.... eh).

                            2. re: ellenost

                              In my opinion much better-especially since they don't have a cat running around the restaurant like Wu Liang Ye on 86th Street did. That was a real turnoff for me. BTW just had dinner there recently-food still very good!

                              Wu Liang Ye
                              36 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036

                          2. We've now been there twice and loved it both times. The first time we had the thin sliced beef tendon, wok tossed calamari with hua jiao salt, double-cooked streaky pork with spicy peppers & leeks, and the ma paul fish with crispy tofu. Wow wow and wow. The tendon was the best I've had, and everything was spicy, but emphatically not one-dimensionally so. The sauce on the ma paul fish was so fragrant, I could have just smelled it and been happy--well, not really because I wanted to keep eating it and eating it.

                            Tonight we had the ox tongue and tripe, pork dumplings, camphur tea smoked duck and assorted fresh mushrooms--which were especially delicious with the duck. The ox tongue and tripe was as mouth buzzingly hot as the tendon--so good! And that duck is pretty addictive.

                            This is a great addition to the neighborhood!

                            1. We just had dinner at Wa Jeal tonight. It was delicious and fairly authentic if you stay with the Chef's menu, not the Meats section which is the Americanized menu. The dumplings coated in chili oil were very good, but you'd get a better taste/cost ratio if you just go to somewhere in Flushing like White Bear. The broiled fish 水煮鱼 (A13?) was tender, fragrant but surprisingly not as spicy as the one-chili-pepper-rating beef with chilis.

                              It wasn't very busy when we went, compared to the other restaurants. I assume there's a lot of inertia in the neighborhood when it comes to trying something new without a trendy facade, which is not to say that it doesn't have a nice atmosphere. I think the multi-colored string of opening day style flags deters that particular crowd. It was mainly Chinese families (always a good sign) and elderly couples--a demographic I prefer for a quiet Sunday evening. We also had a good experience with the service and would definitely go again, which is rare for us.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: tsarwonderful

                                Went last night with a friend. Neither of us can handle overly spicy food. From the cold appetizer list we ordered the Diced Rabbit and Peanut in Chili Garlic Black Jam, Stuffed Porkbelly with Cucumber in Chili Garlic Sauce. From the Chefs Meny we had Shredded Camphor Tea Smoked Duck, Wok Roasted Lamb Ribs and Baby Eggplant with spicy Garlic Sauce.

                                The Rabbit though very good had small pieces of bones and was fiery hot. The waitress returned it to the kitchen and it was toned down. The rest of the meal was incredible. We couldn't stop eating The Porkbelly. The Lamb ribs are really Baby Lamb Chops and totally delicious. The Camphor Tea Smoked Duck though good could'nt compare with the lamb. We both felt that we had had an extraordinary food experience.

                                The restaurant as noted by others is brand new, co-owned by the chef and a Sichuan woman named Vicky. The restaurant was almost empty which is such a pity when it serves great food and hasa very friendly and attentive staff. Right now it is BYOB so the dinner tab is not as high as it will be later.

                                1. re: Nywoman

                                  Please please please please PLEASE, when you visit a restaurant of a cuisine that's known to be spicy, ask the waiters ahead of time to make your food very mild.

                                  Complaining outsiders who ask the kitchen to re-prepare dishes to suit their outsider palate make it incredibly difficult for those of us who want authentic preparation to get it. There are Thai and Sichuan restaurants where I've literally gotten down on my knees and tearfully begged the waiter not to tell the chef I'm a gringo, and tried to assure the house that I love spicy food and have eaten copious amounts of it, and was served powderpuff b.s. because they DIDN'T BELIEVE ME. Because they've been burned before. And they've reached the conclusion that gringos don't want real Sichuan food.

                                  And while I have no personal issue with your spice tolerance, I'm sorry, but Sichuan food without the spice isn't real Sichuan food, anymore than classical French food is real Classical French food without the butter. If you can enjoy it unspicy (and tell the kitchen ahead, so you don't make them rue the entrance of gringo clientele), that's great. But you're spurning the heart and soul of the cuisine.

                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                    Truer words were never spoken or a better lament voiced. Caught the "Martin Yan's China" episode on Chongqing (major city in Sichuan) - never ever saw so many peppers and pepper preps in my chili-loving life and travels (haven't been in in Sichuan, yet). The market scenes were astonishing. Chinese food has to have "zhen wei" (authentic taste) - and while not everything in the cuisine is spicy, without chili heat, the majority of Sichuan dishes don't have it.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Since this place has gotten mixed reviews, I need to post a positive one.
                                      We have taken out form there twice and I much prefer it to Wu Liang Ye, now sadly closed.
                                      The dishes are fragrantly spiced and have a very sophisticated flavor.
                                      Standouts are: The lamb ribs, celophane noodles (ants on trees), Szechuan dumplings, Fried tofu and fish was outstanding and sesame noodles. Do not order off the Chefs menu. It's just Chinese food. I did not find it too spicy, just fragrant and delicious.

                                      My last meal a month ago from Wu Liang ye was awful. So spicy that not even I could eat it. Just hot and no nuance.

                                      Wa Jeal
                                      1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                              2. Going tonight! Looking forward to it. I am trying to narrow down what to order. If there is a chance you all will see this any time soon, would appreciate reply. I have a LONG list based on my chowhounds! WAY too long!

                                1. Hi! This is hungryinmanhattan's son, Mr. Starving for Heat in Manhattan. :D

                                  We went to Wa Jeal tonight based off recommendations of the Chowhounders here. The food there was tremendous! From the appetizers to the chicken with the thousand chilis. It was fantastic!

                                  We started with the Dan Dan noodles. It tasted really good. It had a little punch of heat, but had a ton of flavor. Another appetizer we had were the Sichuan pork dumplings. By far our most favorite dish. The dumplings were crispy, and there was a ton of flavor. Mom would love to have a bowl-ful of this dish if she had the opportunity. And, again, it had a spicy kick in it.

                                  For soup, we had the Chengdu Wonton Soup. The wontons were very good, but the broth could've had more flavor, so we "doctored" it with some of the chili oil.

                                  Now come the main courses. *sinister chuckle*

                                  Based on recommendations from the chowhounds here, we got two dishes from the chef's menu: Double Cooked Streaky Pork * with spicy capsicum & leeks, and Wok Roasted Diced Chicken * with thousand chili (the latter much to Mom's chagrin; she likes "hot," I like "hotTER" :P).

                                  The streaky pork was delicious and tasted like bacon. Great flavor and yummy, and had a hot kick. Made me jump a little from the surprising heat, much to my delight. But then came the thousand chili dish. Chicken was everywhere, and the chilis were PLENTIFUL. A variety of cut up, dried, hot chilis sprinkled everywhere, from flakes to whole chilis. This was absolutely to DIE for! It was SO good, but extremely hot: It was a two-pitcher-of-water meal (we saw this dish all over the restaurant).

                                  Unfortunately, we didn't get to try the lamb, but we will next time. This restaurant is fantastic, and I recommend anyone who dare trek into the realm of hot Sichuan food to try it. Just ask for a pitcher of water and a miniature fire extinguisher to go with it.

                                  Wa Jeal
                                  1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                                  1. Excellent food! Attentive service. Good looking restaurant. I took my mom to Wa Jeal (she doesn't eat Szechuan food), so we ordered more standard fare, and all the dishes were great: scallion pancakes (not heavy or greasy); shrimp toast that my mom classed as the best she's eaten anywhere; they were full of shrimp. The chicken chow fun was full of tender chicken; both the noodles and chicken were full of rich flavor. My favorite dish of the meal was the prawns and vegetables with toasted rice in sizzling platter. I've had variations of this dish elsewhere, but Wa Jeal's version was superb! The brown sauce, while not hot, had a nice "kick" to it (more like Chinese garlic sauce). There were 7 true jumbo shrimp. Plenty of veggies too (mushrooms, red peppers, greens, etc. Definitely would order the chow fun and the shrimp dish again.

                                    Wa Jeal
                                    1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                                    1. I LOVE the spicy stir fried miso chicken, the salt and pepper lotus root, and the hot and sour soup. We get take out from this place at least once a week. It's outstanding.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: teach

                                        I'm glad people are enjoying this place-I still am!!

                                        Wa Jeal
                                        1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                                      2. Finally managed to stop in here. I really do not think they have hired any of the old chefs from Wu Liang on East 86th for three reasons. Wa Jeal was open well before WLY shut down, it is easier for them to tell inquisitive minds or former WLY customers that that is what they did and the menus are different.

                                        Overall I am glad to see them doing well despite the 2nd avenue subway woes (Tony DiNapoli’s longtime Rib Joint up the block folded) and while Wa Jeal is an appropriate choice for the neighborhood it is not a destination Sichuan restaurant. In general I found over-emphasis on using hot chili oil over Sichuan peppercorns.

                                        Dan Dan Noodles: Not enough meat sauce relative to the noodles.

                                        Chef’s Sichuan Pickles: barely pickled were these and like Buttertart noted, swimming in hot oil.

                                        Kung Pao Chicken: their version had water chestnuts and green bell peppers. Shudder! Short on ma-la.

                                        Double-Cooked Pork – despite the heavy handed use of chili oil, this was the best tasting dish.

                                        Sautéed Spinach – in garlic and oil. Slightly over-cooked.

                                        Service was very friendly and attentive.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          When they opened, it was him (I've been following this chef since 2000, when he opened Lion Pavilion in Queens, and I know his touch).

                                          Recent meals have been spotty, so either he's moved on (and management is not admitting it) or he has assistants cooking some of the stuff for him.