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Szechuan Gourmet

missmasala Jul 1, 2010 01:22 PM

Had dinner at Szechuan Gourmet last night and thought I would start a new thread, as when I was searching yesterday I couldn't find any threads specifically about this restaurant.

Overall, we enjoyed the meal. Our waiter was great. If I needed a good meal in the neighborhood, I would def come back.

We had:

spicy cucumbers--these were great, would order them again
smoked tofu with asian celery--this wasn't bad, but doesn't hold a candle to the version served at spicy and tasty, which is one of my fave dishes of all time
dan dan noodles--i order these for the kids and they were fine, but not spectacular in any way
szechuan pork dumplings with roasted chili soy--these were excellent, the best rendition i've had. very garlicky. i would come back for these alone.
braised fish filets with napa and roasted chili--hands down the best dish of the night. unbelievably delicious, and much better than the version at S & P.
crispy lamb with cumin--good, but i prefer the version at grand sichuan in bay ridge and even the version at the st. mark's place.
stir-fried string beans--okay, but better other places
sauteed pea leaves--these were very good. at other places they are often either overcooked or greasy. here they were perfectly cooked and fresh-tasting
braised assorted mushrooms casserole--good dish if you like mushrooms, which i do
10 ingredient lo mein--not a bad rendition. i enjoyed it. this was ordered by a member of our party who ordered a lot of cantonese dishes. the pork spare ribs were awful, the wonton soup mediocre and the general tso's chicken okay, but these things aren't what i go to a szechuan restaurant for. i would order the lo mein again, tho, partly for the kids and partly as a complementary dish for all the spicy szechuan stuff, b/c it did taste good here.

haven't tried the other szechuan place across the st, so can't compare, but on the whole i would say better than the st mark's or 23rd st place, but not as good as S &P or grand sichuan in bay ridge. Still haven't made it to little pepper, so can't speak to how it stacks up there.

-----
Szechuan Gourmet
21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

  1. g
    gutsofsteel Jul 1, 2010 01:29 PM

    Give Lan Sheng a try. It's on the same block at Szechuan Gourmet.

    -----
    Szechuan Gourmet
    21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

    Lan Sheng
    60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

    3 Replies
    1. re: gutsofsteel
      scoopG Jul 1, 2010 05:25 PM

      LS is just not not as good as SG and has a much more limited menu.

      1. re: scoopG
        buttertart Jul 2, 2010 05:22 PM

        Agree strongly.

      2. re: gutsofsteel
        m
        Mr Porkchop Jul 3, 2010 10:19 AM

        Yes, I think SG has gone way down hill. Probably a victim of it's success after the Bruni review. I much prefer Lan Sheng these days, though like all Chinese restuarants in Manhattan there are some land mines on the menu. Beef dish with napa cabbage was a positive stand out. Also really enjoyed some of their rabbit dishes.

        -----
        Lan Sheng
        60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

      3. k
        kathryn Jul 1, 2010 02:59 PM

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/591930
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/631403
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/459240

        5 Replies
        1. re: kathryn
          missmasala Jul 1, 2010 06:24 PM

          thanks. but how do you pull those up when the search is limited to the last year?

          1. re: missmasala
            scoopG Jul 1, 2010 06:30 PM

            If you type Szechuan Gourmet into "search this board" you can cull from 10+ pages of various reviews, not all about SG though. But enough.

            1. re: scoopG
              missmasala Jul 2, 2010 05:43 AM

              I did that, but none of them had "Szechuan Gourmet" in the heading.

            2. re: missmasala
              k
              kathryn Jul 1, 2010 09:36 PM

              I sorted by relevance and changed the date to "past 5 years."

              1. re: kathryn
                missmasala Jul 2, 2010 05:44 AM

                hmm, didn't know you could do that. not that techno-savvy. but thanks for the tip!

          2. scoopG Jul 1, 2010 06:02 PM

            SG obviates the need to have to head to Flushing for good Sichuan chow. That said, IMO Little Pepper is better than Spicy and Tasty.

            4 Replies
            1. re: scoopG
              missmasala Jul 1, 2010 06:29 PM

              i will make it to little pepper one of these days. lately my sichuan meals have all been with a big crowd, and for some reason i assume little pepper is too small to accomodate us.

              1. re: missmasala
                d
                djk Jul 2, 2010 11:38 AM

                little pepper is better than spicy and tasty (to me) and would def be fine for a large group as i have done that often. they move to a new and bigger space sometime this summer fyi. but SG is a great manhattan substitute as is lan sheng!

                1. re: djk
                  scoopG Jul 2, 2010 02:34 PM

                  I would agree that Little Pepper is better than Spicy and Tasty. Lan Sheng comes up a bit short for me for inconsistent use of Sichuan peppercorns; some dishes lack true ma-la authenticity. Also their menu has far less items than SG.

                2. re: missmasala
                  buttertart Jul 2, 2010 05:24 PM

                  It's small but they have 3 big tables - was there with a group of 16 last weekend at lunchtime and there was no problem in accommodating us at 2 of the tables.

              2. missmasala Jul 1, 2010 06:27 PM

                oh, and i forgot we ordered the tea-smoked duck, which was not very good. a big disappointment.

                2 Replies
                1. re: missmasala
                  scoopG Jul 1, 2010 06:31 PM

                  And the tea smoked duck was a disappointment because...?

                  1. re: scoopG
                    missmasala Jul 2, 2010 05:43 AM

                    greasy and flabby

                2. Phil Ogelos Jul 2, 2010 05:53 PM

                  QED

                  1. saturngrrl Jul 21, 2010 12:51 PM

                    I finally got my SO over to this place to try before a concert last week. We were VERY impressed and look forward to going back (and we are BIG fans of Grand Sichuan on 24th & 9th!) very soon. We loved the "kung pao" chicken-style dish. SO is a major kung pao chicken snob and he said this was probably one of the best, if not THE best he's ever had. We loved the dumplings and the dan dan noodles, too. I was so looking forward to the double cooked pork belly dish based on all the raves here and I was, sadly, VERY disappointed in that. I don't know if we got a bad batch, or what, but the meat was greasy/fatty (not in a good, yummy way), sorta mushy and "old" tasting for lack of a better way to describe it. What a let down. Should I try again, or steer clear? Or ask for "crispy" or something when ordering? It was not at all what I was expecting and I was bummed. I was even more bummed that we had to leave so much food behind, since we were going to a concert after and couldn't take home leftovers! :-( Next time, we want to go with a larger group so we can try more dishes!

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: saturngrrl
                      k
                      kathryn Jul 21, 2010 12:55 PM

                      That pork belly sounds ... not great. Sorry you had a bad experience with that dish, but it sounds like the others made up for it.

                      Note: if you come back with a large group, try to make a reservation on the morning of or the day before, as they can get crowded. Also, I believe they stop seating people around 9pm, so don't try to have a late dinner there!

                      1. re: kathryn
                        saturngrrl Jul 21, 2010 12:59 PM

                        Thanks for the tips! So, would you say we got a bad batch? Because I was totally expecting it to taste heavenly, but it really was pretty disgrossting. Huge disappointment. Not to keep harping on it or anything! LOL! I just can't decide if I want to try again or skip it and move on to the cumin beef/lamb. (I am not a lover of lamb, but the descriptions of that dish have made me want to try it because it *sounds* like it doesn't really taste super lamb-y! But maybe I'm better off with the beef version?)

                        1. re: saturngrrl
                          Miss Needle Jul 21, 2010 01:40 PM

                          Pork belly is supposed to be fatty. So you're fatty description sounds like that's the way it's supposed to be. Mushy? No, I'd probably describe it more as chewy. If it's mushy, perhaps it was a bit off. Personally, it's not one of my faves but many posters here seem to like it.

                      2. re: saturngrrl
                        Bob Martinez Jul 21, 2010 01:09 PM

                        "I was so looking forward to the double cooked pork belly dish based on all the raves here and I was, sadly, VERY disappointed in that."

                        Have you had pork belly before as opposed to regular sliced or shredded pork?

                        1. re: Bob Martinez
                          saturngrrl Jul 21, 2010 01:19 PM

                          I have, on tasting menus, etc., at non-Szechuan (non-Asian, really) places. Usually completely different prep/presentation though. More "bacon-y," I guess, would be how I'd describe it. This dish tasted like it was either old or not fully/properly cured or something. Wish I could find a better way to put it into words. Ah well. I'm sure I'll find other stuff to love...

                          1. re: saturngrrl
                            MVNYC Jul 21, 2010 01:25 PM

                            If you have not had pork belly or streaked pork at Szechuan or other Chinese places I would guess that you did not get a bad batch. The prep here is not like it is in other cuisines, the fat is toothsome as opposed to melting in other braised or braised and seared preps. I like it but I have always liked barely cooked bacon which is slightly similar in texture.

                            1. re: saturngrrl
                              Bob Martinez Jul 21, 2010 01:51 PM

                              As others have said, pork belly is a bit different than other cuts of pork. It's softer and fattier than you might expect. That said, it *is* possible for it to be cooked incorrectly. It happened to me at a different restaurant once.

                              Since you seemed to like the restaurant you may want to go back some time with a few other people who are familiar with the dish. They can confirm that the pork belly you get is done right. It might be that it's just not for you. Since SG has a long menu you'll still be able to order plenty of things that you'll enjoy.

                              FWIW, here's a picture of SG's pork belly with chili leeks so you can see how it ought to look.

                               
                              1. re: Bob Martinez
                                scoopG Jul 21, 2010 02:10 PM

                                I was there on Sunday and the dish was as it should be- just like the photo and delicious.

                                1. re: scoopG
                                  saturngrrl Jul 22, 2010 07:21 AM

                                  Thanks to all for the replies/feedback. Yeah, our pork belly didn't quite look that good (like in that photo). The meat was... uh, grayer. I don't know how else to explain it! It definitely did not taste delicious! I'll ask next time which one is the chewier one. That's, I think, what we'd prefer.

                                  1. re: saturngrrl
                                    s
                                    SomeRandomIdiot Jul 22, 2010 08:36 AM

                                    i get the double cooked pork belly a lot. most of the time you get it the way it looks in that picture but once in a while it definitely comes out looking " old and gray." the grayness is noticable even though I get mine extra spicy every time. you see the grayness even through the extra quarter inch of chili oil they throw on top. doesn't affect the taste much though.

                          2. re: saturngrrl
                            scoopG Jul 21, 2010 02:12 PM

                            Pork Belly slices with leeks is not a dish you can really can ask for "crispy" - just not the way it is prepared.

                            1. re: saturngrrl
                              d
                              diprey11 Jul 21, 2010 05:54 PM

                              they have two different cuts/styles for the return-cooked pork belly. I often get confused which is which on their English menu, too: one is supposed to be greasy and fatty while the other one is chewier and has more meat. please ask your waiter. different people on this forum have different preferences, but I believe both dishes are fine.

                              1. re: diprey11
                                scoopG Jul 21, 2010 06:13 PM

                                As far as I know SG has only one menu and it is bi-lingual. I think Twice Cooked Pork (回锅肉 Hui Guo Rou) can use pork belly and/or pork butt.

                              2. re: saturngrrl
                                g
                                gh268 Aug 8, 2010 01:59 PM

                                Speaking as the Kung Pao snob to whom she refers in the post, I have to say, this was some of the best Chinese food I've ever had. The Kung Pao was authentic - which is next to impossible to find on the east coast: no added celery, carrots, green peppers, water chestnuts or other things that just don't belong in this dish. Everything we had was great - I actually enjoyed the pork belly, though would've liked it a little less "mushier" as well. Overall, the best Chinese food I've had, since moving here from CA in 2007.

                                -----
                                Szechuan Gourmet
                                21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                              3. k
                                kathryn Oct 5, 2010 12:57 PM

                                Had dinner here last night with the amusing waiter who asks "So, are you hungry yet?" when it's time to order, and "Do you surrender?" when it's clear we won't finish our food.

                                Housed the spicy cucumber salad in minutes -- spiciness with the sweet, crispy Japanese cucumers. So good, so addictive.
                                Dan dan noodles were OK, I still think Grand Sichaun 7th Ave or Cheng Du Tian Fu have better ones (more peppercorn). Ordered them because my husband LOVES all dan dan mien.
                                Pork dumplings with chili soy were awesome. Love how the sweet plays off the spicy in these and the filling was nice and tender. Did break apart a little, with the meat falling out. Mapo tofu was very good, and sweat-inducing as usual. Should gotta two orders.
                                The special of smoky chicken with chili, chili, chili was solid. I wish there was more meat in this. Also the many slices of purple jelly (looked a lot like konnyaku) was a little odd.
                                Cumin lamb was excellent, really great dish, served very hot and fresh. I want to basically eat this all the time now. Grand St Marks does a very good cumin beef, BTW.

                                With the winter coming up soon, I imagine I'll be craving this place a lot.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: kathryn
                                  scoopG Oct 5, 2010 06:07 PM

                                  Thanks for your update and glad to know they are still on top. Surprised you did not order their Sichuan version of the 1000 Year Old Egg appetizer - since your BIL must have enjoyed the Cantonese version with pickled ginger in HKG!

                                  1. re: scoopG
                                    k
                                    kathryn Oct 5, 2010 09:08 PM

                                    D'oh! Well we had leftovers anyway, ordered too much to begin with!

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