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Great Sichuan Meal at Wa Jeal

ChiefHDB Jun 18, 2010 07:20 PM

Wow, just got back from Wa Jeal at 82nd and 2nd... definitely one of the better Sichuan meals I've had in a while. Went with 4 other friends, one is familiar with Sichuan, the other 3 are newbies, but everything we ate satisfied veteran and freshman alike.

First up, "pork and cucumber roll with chili garlic soy." That's from the take-out menu, but it's listed as pork belly on their in house menu. The head waiter smiled at me when I picked it, so I knew I was in for something good. I asked for everything "ma la" and authentically spiced, and the chef complied. This was great, thin slices of pork belly rolled around green onions dipped in the typical chile soy garlic sauce, but with an extra nuance. Sichuan pickles were also great, with lots of hua jiao and delicious pickled radishes.

Next was a sop to my non Sichuan eating friends: fried spring rolls and wontons. Both were good as well.

Dan dan noodles were very good... but I still make better ones at home.

Our mains were a nice variety. Loved the mapo tofu with diced fish (tilapia), great mixture of textures with a very flavorful sauce. Sauteed string beans with ya cai and minced pork had great wok sear and were very well seasoned, a big hit. Chengdu spicy dumplings were some of the best I've had in Manhattan--- their chile/soy/garlic/ginger sauce is really fantastic with great nuance. Tangerine chicken is not something I usually eat, but this was perfectly fried and crispy with a flavorful, sweet sauce. Really outstanding, even with low expectations.

One of the coolest dishes was listed as limb ribs with chile and cumin, but was actually 6 pieces of rack of lamb. The lamb was slightly overcooked, but the sauce was fantastic, cuminy and rich but not too spicy.

The bartender recommended diced rabbit and whole fish with minced pork and chile sauce for our next visit. She also boasted about how much she loved to pour strong drinks...so check that out. I'll definitely be going back, everything was nicely favored with great nuance, nothing was overpowering at all. It was fairly crowded at 8-930 on a Friday night, I'm glad they're doing well, but it's always helpful to give them more business. The waitstaff was very nice and excited once it was clear we wanted some authentic food. Highly recommended.

www.lawandfood.blogspot.com

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

  1. saturngrrl Jun 19, 2010 05:35 AM

    Sounds awesome and delicious! Thanks for the report. Have you eaten at Grand Sichuan in Chelsea? If so, how do the places compare?

    Grand Sichuan is one of my all-time faves and while I used to stick with a few staples time after time (Beef with Spicy Green Pepper, Au-Zhou Chicken and crab and pork soup dumplings) I have started branching out and experimenting with some of the other things like bitter melon, which I was delighted to discover I LOVE!! I'm not wild about their ma po tofu - it's spicy, but the sauce is rather runny/soupy and the flavors aren't all that interesting or complex to my taste buds. Just HOT. I also recently tried the smoked tea duck and that was a wow to me. But only in combination with a bolder, spicier dish for balance. I'm going to add Wa Jeal to my "list" and check it out next time I'm in the vicinity...

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: saturngrrl
      ChiefHDB Jun 19, 2010 06:32 AM

      Haven't been to the Chelsea Grand Sichuan, probably the only one of that group I've missed. I particularly like, Grand Sichuan East on 55th and 2nd, Sichuan Gourmet and Lan Sheng (not including some of the Flushing places). Wa Jeal is a nice addition to the rotation, but I cook a lot of Sichuan at home, so I'm not always craving it in a restaurant.

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

    2. u
      UES Mayor Jun 19, 2010 06:27 AM

      I am sooooooooooooooo confused about your blog. I am a regular at Wa Jeal and was first to write about it last year whn they first opened. BUT what bartender are you talking about-there is NO BAR! unless i am so confused but I was just there yesterday and ahve been for the past 6 months.

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

      2 Replies
      1. re: UES Mayor
        ChiefHDB Jun 19, 2010 06:31 AM

        UES Mayor: I read your reports and that's what had excited me about Wa Jeal when I realized we were right by there and craving Chinese.

        They apparently just got their liquor license and she was the one recommending and making the drinks, so to me she was the bartender and not our waitress. Not really a bar per se, but we were sitting at the table next to the counter, so it had the feel like she was a bartender. Sorry for the confusion.

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

        1. re: ChiefHDB
          hungryinmanhattan Dec 31, 2010 09:36 PM

          We went to Wa Jeal today because we didn't feel like schlepping too far. I have had mixed dishes-some great and some not great. If you ask me, they have very very good MaPo tofu (sp?) and very good 1000 chili chicken. We have found non-schezuan dishes bland and tasteless, so we stick to the spicy dishes and find them tasty and very hot if you tell the waiter to make the dishes like your father ate them- a line a fellow chowhound suggested! We also got the shredded pork with garlic sauce which was very good-not as spicy but quite flavorful, all agreed. The dumplings are good also but the soup was watery.

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

      2. pups224 Jan 1, 2011 05:13 AM

        We order out from Wa Jeal a lot. I think that they have the finest Chinese food on the UES. Yes, their Sichuan fare is better than the non-Sichuan, but even then, it's better than the other options in this area.

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

        1. tbone Jan 2, 2011 05:47 PM

          Wajeal is the best chinese on the UES. I have tried pretty much all that exists south of 96th, and north of 57th. I have even enjoyed their non-szechuan dishes, and have been surprised how tasty and authentic they have been, and have not found any dish to be bland or tasteless. I have never been dissapointed, and have been a regular since they opened last year, and have found their food to be extremely consistant.

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