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Szechuan Gourmet

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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.

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

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  1. 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

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

      1. re: scoopG

        Agree strongly.

      2. re: gutsofsteel

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

        5 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

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

          1. re: missmasala

            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

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

            2. re: missmasala

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

              1. re: kathryn

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

          2. 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

              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

                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

                  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

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

                2 Replies
                1. re: missmasala

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

                  1. re: scoopG

                    greasy and flabby

                2. QED

                  1. 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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                        "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

                          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

                            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

                              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

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

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  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

                                    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

                            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

                              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

                                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

                                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. 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

                                  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

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