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Great Sichuan - excellent sichuan food in murray hill (maybe better than Szechuan Gourmet?)

l
Lau Jul 26, 2010 10:25 AM

On a whim we decided to stop by Great Sichuan, which is on 3rd bet 26th and 27th on the eastside of the street. I'd noticed it had opened up recently and decided to stop in to see how the food is. Luckily, the manager / waiter who I've known for many years from the now defunct Hell's Kitchen branch of Grand Sichuan (by a long the best sichuan food in manhattan) and was most recently at the St Marks branch of GS is a co-owner of Great Sichuan. We talked for a bit before I ate and he told me that he left GS on St Marks with the two head chefs and they are all co-partners in this new restaurant together, which opened up 2 months ago. I was very excited about this as he always had great recommendations on food and would get me off the menu stuff.

It's a small place with pretty simple decor (white walls, wood tables with white linen clothes and two large flat screen TVs), it's got maybe 15 tables or so. The service was good as it was fast and everyone was pretty nice there. The head guy is a very nice guy and easy to talk to, so I think that makes a difference. His english is very good btw, so if you want dish recs etc ask him, he's got glasses and it's pretty obvious he's the manager when you go.

Since it was only my gf and I, we only got 4 things:
- wontons in hot oil (hong you chao shou): best version I've had since Grand Sichuan Hell's Kitchen shut down (taste very similar). Wontons were very good and not overcooked. The key is the sauce, everywhere seems to make it too salty or too plain (GS St Marks had a decent version although a bit too salty). Their sauce has spice and they use this sweeter soy sauce that I like alot, the combo of hot and sweet is great. Szechuan Gourmet's version is disappointing (always, never had a good version there) and this was nice.
- dan dan noodles (dan dan mian): this was good although not as good as the old Hell's Kitchen branch. The noodles were cooked well, they put alot more beef / vegetables on top than most places. As you may have figured out, dan dan noodles rarely taste the same. Some places use alot of peanut, some use none, some places its very sauce some not etc. Here they use sauce that has more peanut in it (which I like) which again is similar to the prep at the old HK branch. The only thing is that I would've liked them a bit more spicy, but overall another winner.
- dry sauteed string beans (gan shao si ji dou): excellent, I love this dish when done right, the string beans should be tender but have bit of that charred / wok flavor and this has got it right. Most places make it too salty, but this was perfect. GF and I loved these.
- spicy pork: I forgot what this is called in chinese, but its # 75 on the menu. It's slices of tender pork, sauteed with spicy diced green peppers, spring onions and spices. It's got sauce, but is a bit more of the dry side as opposed to very saucy side. The sauce is ma la (spicy and numbing), yet is slightly sweet. All of the vegetables and pork were cooked perfectly. Really good.

Everything was excellent, nothing was too salty or overcooked or gloppy. It was actually much better than my last few meals at Szechuan Gourmet, which generally has been my go to spot in manhattan (Little Pepper in Flushing is the best sichuan in NYC in my opinion). I highly look forward to going back to try more dishes. Highly recommend trying.

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

Great Sichuan
363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

  1. r
    roze Jul 26, 2010 10:39 AM

    Wow- Thanks Lau! I'm not too far from there and had been wondering if it was worth checking. Now for sure I will.

    1. e
      ESNY Jul 26, 2010 11:29 AM

      I've had it delivered to my apartment a few times and always was curious where it came from, although I had a general sense being that the menu is almost a carbon copy of Grand Sichuan.

      I have enjoyed the dan dan noodles and dry sauteed string beans. I can't decide if I enjoy the cold spicy noodles yet. The noodles seems a bit undercooked but something keeps drawing me back. I've also tried the braised beef in chili sauce and enjoyed it as well, as is the cucumbers in scallion sauce. The one thing I didn't like was the hot and sour soup. Granted, i've only tried it once but something was just off about it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ESNY
        l
        Lau Jul 26, 2010 02:26 PM

        well def recommend going in to try it, obviously food always tastes much better when it's brought out fresh!

        The menu is similar to Grand Sichuan although they've cut it down, which i think is a good idea...i hate that chinese restaurants offer these encyclopedias of dishes. Stick to a smaller menu where you make the dishes well

      2. egit Jul 26, 2010 11:59 AM

        Of course... I just moved out of that neighborhood two months ago! That was always a cursed store front, with one Asian (chinese, vietnamese, fusion, etc) restaurant after another failing miserably. Hopefully they'll do better here!

        2 Replies
        1. re: egit
          e
          ESNY Jul 26, 2010 12:28 PM

          For some reason, in my mind I always thought those places were owned by the same people and just kept trying new concepts and hoping it worked. Sort of like Babu and the Dream Cafe in Seinfeld.

          1. re: ESNY
            l
            Lau Jul 26, 2010 02:23 PM

            the guy i know there told me that, said that all the restaurants in this location had failed and the last one failed and so him and his partners came in and bought it and renovated it. Said they've got 10 yrs of experience of running chinese restaurants in NY and decided it was the right time for them to go out on their own.

        2. k
          kathryn Jul 26, 2010 01:00 PM

          Do you think the dan dan noodles are better than the St Marks branch of GS? IIRC, you used to post that those were the best in Manhattan, at least.

          3 Replies
          1. re: kathryn
            l
            Lau Jul 26, 2010 02:22 PM

            i'd say the dan dan noodles were slightly better b/c they weren't as salty and the wontons were definitely better even I thought SG St Marks did formerly have the best versions of both (most places in the city make them pretty poorly)

            Although I think this maybe the same chefs they originally had at GS Hell's Kitchen, which did everything better (that i order at least) than all of the current sichuan places in the city b/c everything is cooked in a similar manner to GS HK.

            1. re: Lau
              ChiefHDB Jul 26, 2010 03:39 PM

              Thanks for the report Lau. So much Sichuan in NYC... so little time. It's pretty close to my apt, so I will check it out soon, especially If they do dry sauteed string beans well.

              1. re: ChiefHDB
                l
                Lau Jul 26, 2010 03:49 PM

                yah they're good and def talk to the manager if you have questions about what's good, he showed me alot of good dishes overtime at both GS branches

          2. scoopG Jul 26, 2010 05:21 PM

            Dan Dan Noodles with peanuts and/or peanut sauce? That's the Taiwanese version, not the Chengdu version. Sometimes Taiwanese will also use sesame seed paste. How was their use of Sichuan peppercorns and the overall ma-la effect?

            18 Replies
            1. re: scoopG
              l
              Lau Jul 26, 2010 06:51 PM

              no the sauce has peanuts in it, but its not a peanut sauce per se which i have had

              the owners are not from taiwan, you'll notice it as soon as you here them speak chinese

              1. re: Lau
                scoopG Jul 26, 2010 07:45 PM

                Dan Dan Noodles with peanuts is a Taiwanese dish, not Sichuanese.

                1. re: scoopG
                  l
                  Lau Jul 26, 2010 08:00 PM

                  you sure about that? i'm pretty sure i remember them having ground peanuts in chengdu

                  1. re: Lau
                    Bob Martinez Jul 27, 2010 06:33 AM

                    I only care if it tastes good, not whether it's authentic.

                    1. re: Bob Martinez
                      l
                      Lau Jul 27, 2010 06:50 AM

                      haha same here and i like ground peanuts in the sauce although i'm less of a fan of the actual peanut sauce

                      Bob Martinez - you should check this place out, its good although i think you're in brooklyn, so might be kinda far for u

                      1. re: Lau
                        Bob Martinez Jul 27, 2010 11:21 AM

                        I've put this place on my list.

                        It's funny - 10 years ago I would have killed for a decent Szechuan restaurant in Manhattan. Now we're got a bunch of them. Something to keep in mind the next time somebody whines that everything is getting worse.

                    2. re: Lau
                      scoopG Jul 27, 2010 06:51 AM

                      I'm sure - no peanuts or peanut sauce or sesame paste used in Sichuan. Not even found in Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuan cookbook Land of Plenty. I make the dish myself and have yet to find a definitively good version in NYC.

                      1. re: scoopG
                        l
                        Lau Jul 27, 2010 07:02 AM

                        cool well i believe you

                        to be fair, the sichuan food in NY pales in comparison to what I had in chengdu or even at some places in HK for that matter in quality and breadth (there are alot more really good dishes than what is offered here), but that is obviously to be expected and the food here is good enough that I like eating it, which is not the case with all chinese food in NY by any means

                        1. re: Lau
                          scoopG Jul 27, 2010 07:12 AM

                          I don't think the versions I've had at SG or LS had peanuts in them - this calls for a NYC wide taste test then!

                          1. re: scoopG
                            l
                            Lau Jul 27, 2010 07:24 AM

                            haha ok

                            btw I think the version at SG and LS aren't very good...LS's was pretty bad actually, SG's just okay

                            1. re: Lau
                              ChiefHDB Jul 27, 2010 08:33 AM

                              I think the dan dan at Grand Sichuan East on 55th in 2nd are the best I've had in Manhattan. Spicy and Tasty's are good too and every other one disappoints.

                              I pretty much just use Fuschia Dunlop's recipe to satisfy any dan dan craving these days.

                              1. re: ChiefHDB
                                scoopG Jul 27, 2010 09:04 AM

                                Will have to check it out.

                              2. re: Lau
                                scoopG Jul 27, 2010 09:03 AM

                                I found the SG version was too oily and lacked the true ma-la punch. And at LS it was the only dish that had ma-la!

                                1. re: scoopG
                                  ChiefHDB Jul 27, 2010 09:38 AM

                                  Scoop, as with most every place in the city...the noodles are kind of overcooked, but their sauce does pack some ma la, and is probably closest to the Dunlop recipe I've tried.

                                  It's crazy how there's so little consistency in ma la, not just between restaurants, but by dishes in the same place that are both supposed to have ma la. That too often varies by visit. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised.

                                  Maybe I should just bring fresh ground Sichuan peppercorns with me next time...

                                  1. re: ChiefHDB
                                    scoopG Jul 27, 2010 11:05 AM

                                    I agree Chief!

                          2. re: scoopG
                            buttertart Jul 27, 2010 10:34 AM

                            Post your recipe, scoopG, please!

                            1. re: buttertart
                              scoopG Jul 27, 2010 11:20 AM

                              Even the Japanese in Taipei are getting in on the act - or were:
                              http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=zh-TW&u=http://blog.sina.com.tw/hasmau/article.php%3Fpbgid%3D42167%26entryid%3D582090&ei=1CFPTNXRJ4P58Abejem8AQ&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCgQ7gEwAzgK&prev=/search%3Fq%3D%25E9%25A3%259F%25E8%25AD%259C%25E5%258F%25B0%25E7%2581%25A3%25E6%2593%2594%25E6%2593%2594%25E9%259D%25A2%26start%3D10%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3DTfU%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official

                              I use Dunlop's recipe too:
                              http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

                              1. re: scoopG
                                buttertart Jul 27, 2010 11:31 AM

                                Have never made it at home, am cracking the Dunlops more these days. Great books!!!

                  2. princeofpork Jul 27, 2010 05:34 PM

                    Just went here based on these recommendations. Ordered the Dan Dan noodles, the #75 sliced pork and the number 89 dry spicy chicken. Everything was SO salty. The Dan Dan was OK, but nothing more than any other Chinese spot. The pork had so many szechuan peppercorns the flavor overpowered the entire dish. The dry chicken was good but again nothing more than average. Not sure what all the hype is about but this was no better than Noodles on 28, Jimmy House or any other Murray Hill place. Definitely not going back here again.
                    The guy in glasses was especially nice.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: princeofpork
                      l
                      Lau Jul 27, 2010 08:18 PM

                      sorry you didn't like you're meal here. Although salty? this was one of the least salty sichuan restaurants compared to every other real sichuan restaurant in the city at least based upon my visit. I find most sichuan restaurants in the city to be overly salty although as Bob Martinez said it is a relatively salty cuisine.

                      As far as the pork is concerned unless the cooking massively changed since I went there on sunday this dish is actually not very spicy and is very low on the scale of peppercorns (i.e. there aren't that many in it compared to alot of sichuan dishes not even alot on an absolute basis).

                      Haven't tried the dried chicken, so I can't tell you what I think about it.

                      How much chinese / sichuan food have you tried? I mean if you didn't like it then you didn't like it and taste is totally subjective, so that's totally fine. However, the places you compare it to like noodles on 28 and Jimmy House are pretty bad americanized chinese food (and a bad viet-chinese fusion place in the case of noodles on 28)

                      1. re: Lau
                        LeahBaila Jul 28, 2010 05:08 AM

                        Hey Lau,
                        Because of this post, I ordered food from GS last night. The scallion pancakes were very spongy and did not come with any sauce for dipping. The Dan Dan noodles, on the other hand, were excellent...cooked perfectly and seasoned to a "t." The greens and chopped peanuts added great texture.
                        Thanks for the post and I will def keep GS in my order rotation. :)

                        www.thelunchbelle.com

                        1. re: LeahBaila
                          l
                          Lau Jul 28, 2010 06:23 AM

                          Glad you enjoyed the dan dan noodles

                          Just an fyi, scallion pancakes are not a sichuan dish and I generally wouldn't order them from a sichuan restaurant (china is a huge place and saying chinese food is the equivalent of saying european food; so i generally always try to stick with the food from the region at the given restaurant). Also scallion pancakes are one of those dishes that you want made right before you eat it since it's fried and gets all mushy if you don't eat right then.

                    2. scoopG Aug 3, 2010 12:31 PM

                      Gee, based upon one visit, I would not say Great Sichuan is even close to Szechuan Gourmet. For one, there is this matter of the two large screen TV’s that can easily dominate the 48-cover room – one broadcasting in Mandarin and the other muted, on another channel. Am not sure what the thought process was that went into this decision!

                      The menu is not as expansive as SG either and features no Thousand Year Old Eggs with Chili Sauce – one of my favorite SG appetizers. Great Sichuan also features about 25 “Chinese Food American Style” dishes and for some reason 10+ “Authentic Mao’s Food” entrees.

                      While I did enjoy their version of Dan Dan Noodles – it is the wet version - with the noodles (nice and al dente) sitting in a bath of hot broth/chili sauce. I prefer the dry version with not a lot of liquid. No use of Sichuan peppercorns that I could detect so the ma numbness factor was notably missing.

                      My Cumin Lamb was absent any detectable cumin flavor. The Double Cooked Pork and Sautéed Water Spinach were more to my liking. Service was prompt and attentive as you noted.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: scoopG
                        l
                        Lau Aug 3, 2010 12:47 PM

                        haha umm i think decor has very little to do w/ quality of the food!

                        also i dont think not having an encyclopedia of a menu is a bad thing at all...i'm sure you know my view on this that chinese restaurants in the US all decided they must have these massive menus and half of the dishes on the menu are awful (SG has definitely fallen into this trap, while u know i like SG ive also has some inedible dishes there). Also, having chinese food american style is an economics thing, there is a real market for that and we're in the US not in asia in murray hill no less (you need to stay in business; when i was there half the tables had ordered exclusively from that menu). I don't fault any chinese restaurant in manhattan for having that (they all do), i just don't order from it. As far as the Mao thing goes, all of the original great sichuan's had this and these guys were from one of the originals so not surprised it's on there, some of the dishes are fairly decent on that list btw.

                        I didn't know they had thousand year old eggs at SG? i love that dish and i haven't seen it in the US...will have to try

                        anyhow, we're both basing this on one visit. On my visit, all the dishes were good (the only cross over dishes from your visit was the dan dan noodles), try the dishes i tried, they're all much better than SG's same version of the dishes.

                        While SG has generally been my go to b/c they make certain things well, it can be streaky, the only dish that has been consistent the last few times i went was the cumin lamb. My gf actually doesn't like SG at all b/c its so streaky. I just haven't really reported about it.

                        I'm planning on going back to great sichuan very soon and trying other dishes to see how they stack out

                        1. re: Lau
                          scoopG Aug 3, 2010 01:21 PM

                          Well, having two TV's on lessens the overall dining experience for me. SG has a very limited number of American-Chinese dishes: Spring Rolls, General Tso's Chicken and Sesame Chicken are the only 3 that come to mind. Perhaps the Hunan dishes are the way to go, but then why ignore Mao's favorite: Braised Pork Belly? SG features frog, rabbit, eel and fish heads. GS doesn't. SG is the only place in NYC that I know of serving the 1000 Year Old Eggs. A Great app! ( Odd that it is not in any of the NYC Cantonese restaurants - ate them first at Yong Kee in Hongkong years ago.)

                          1. re: scoopG
                            buttertart Aug 3, 2010 02:03 PM

                            They seem to be big in Taiwan, don't they - remember the egg w doufu appetizer fondly. Have seen ref on the China board to buying Taiwanese "no lead" 1000 yr old eggs in markets there.

                            1. re: scoopG
                              l
                              Lau Aug 3, 2010 03:11 PM

                              scoopG - well all of the congee places serve them, they're just chopped up into the congee. i had two amazing pidan dishes when i was in HK recently, one cantonese / one sichuan...best pidan ive ever had. im going to start writing it up tonight.

                              i dont know about the TV thing, honestly i could basically care less about the decor at 99% of chinese restaurants....i basically only judge them on food, i dont even care about service as long as its reasonably prompt

                              buttertart - yes i've seen references and heard about it when i was there, but i think its pretty readily available with no lead. they are pretty popular in china / hk generally i think

                              1. re: Lau
                                scoopG Aug 3, 2010 05:14 PM

                                Can't remember the last time I had congee. The 1000 year old eggs with pickled ginger should be on every Cantonese restaurant's appetizer menu! I don't mind decor either - I do mind though two large screen TV's in a rather small room. GS is a long way from SG and even further from Little Pepper.

                                1. re: scoopG
                                  l
                                  Lau Aug 3, 2010 06:16 PM

                                  that pidan and pickled ginger dish is the best pidan i've ever had...i actually ordered a second order b/c i was kind of blown away by it, first time i'd had it with pickled ginger

                            2. re: Lau
                              scoopG Aug 3, 2010 05:22 PM

                              I don't buy the argument that expansive menus in Chinese restaurants are a bad thing. As the Chinese expression goes: "100 dishes, 100 Flavors." Or conversely, "100 dishes all with the same taste" to denote a poor restaurant. 90% of Chinese cooking is in the prep work. You take 9-10 proteins + 50 different vegetables + 8-9 different cutting styles x 20 different cooking methods and you get one large menu indeed.

                              1. re: scoopG
                                l
                                Lau Aug 3, 2010 06:20 PM

                                i dont know, i guess we'll agree to disagree on this one

                                almost everyone of my favorite restaurants in asia is generally known for making a few things really really good and their menus while not totally specialists generally aren't that big and definitely nowhere near the massive tombs that are most chinese restaurants in NY. Even some of the great upscale cantonese restaurants that i'm absolutely in love with have "bigger" menus, but aren't anywhere close to trying to offer every dish under the sun

                          2. m
                            MacGuffin Aug 10, 2010 05:15 AM

                            Given that 30th & Third Ave. was too far south to be considered Murray Hill when I lived there in the '80s (it was Kips Bay), I'm going to hazard a guess that the same applies now. However, it's still walking distance for me and I love Sichuan and will have to check this out--thanks for the recommendation!

                            1. r
                              round2 Aug 10, 2010 05:47 AM

                              I had a fantastic meal at Great Sichuan last week - thanks Lau for bringing it to our attention. I also enjoyed talking with the head manager, Sonny, and it is clear he and his partners' hearts are in serving more authentic food, but are regularly confronting the ecconomic realities of a large client base expecting a Chinese restaurant to serve Americanized food. While I was there I heard patron after patron ordering the more generic dishes, seemingly unaware of the unusual capabilities in the kitchen.

                              I've been craving a return trip since I was there for the dan dan noodles, which numbed my mouth the night I was there. Delicious.

                              -----
                              Great Sichuan
                              363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: round2
                                l
                                Lau Aug 10, 2010 06:10 AM

                                i honestly think you'd be giving up at least half your business if you only offered authentic chinese food in murray hill / kips bay

                                1. re: round2
                                  princeofpork Aug 10, 2010 06:25 AM

                                  Is the numbing I felt from the Dan Dan the Sichuan Peppercorns?

                                  1. re: princeofpork
                                    l
                                    Lau Aug 10, 2010 08:43 AM

                                    if you felt that numbing sensation it is from the peppercorns. When people say "ma la" in chinese the ma refers to the numbing and the la means spicy. the numbing and term "ma la" is very much associated with sichuan food

                                2. a
                                  AubWah Aug 10, 2010 10:15 AM

                                  inedible dishes at szechuan gourmet?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: AubWah
                                    l
                                    Lau Aug 10, 2010 10:50 AM

                                    last time i was there i got sichuan pickled vegetables which were ridiculously sweet and had some white powder all over there that i believe was MSG that they hadn't mixed in properly (my gf thought it was one of the worst dishes she's ever had...we later had the same dish at LP and she was like this is very good an literally not even the same dish) and i also got the mouth watering chicken (shui kou ji), which was ridiculously dry and the sauce was this awful salty mess...both were literally inedible

                                    also got hong shau rou there which isn't really a sichuan dish, so i give them some reprieve there. However, it was listed only in chinese on a blackboard w/ 5 specials on it, so i figured maybe they would make it well since it was a special and clearly not meant for someone who couldn't read chinese (its really good when you make it right). When it came half the meat was frozen in the middle and the sauce tasted like a really bad american gravy (seriously didn't even remotely taste like a decent hong shao rou).

                                    that said, I generally like SG in particular for the cumin lamb, which i really like alot and i have had plenty of good dishes there...so definitely not saying i don't like SG, just saying that i've had some very spotty dishes there a couple of times

                                    1. re: Lau
                                      buttertart Aug 11, 2010 06:15 AM

                                      Their (SG) Sichuan pao cai is a problem as far as I'm concerned, it invariably comes doused in la you and I want it plain, thank you very much. I asked for it mian la you and they said no can do, it comes this way. ??? Really???

                                      1. re: Lau
                                        e
                                        ESNY Aug 11, 2010 10:05 AM

                                        I've had the same thing happen twice with the sichuan vegetables at SG. They came doused in a white powder and were inedible. I even mixed the dish as much as i could, but it was futile.

                                    2. m
                                      MacGuffin Aug 14, 2010 03:28 PM

                                      I took out an order of the Sichuan Cold Noodle[s] today and found them deeply mediocre. You ask for a spicy dish "spicy" and it comes back...sweet (a first in 30 years of living in NYC), you're disinclined to go back for seconds; I don't think it's a very complicated dish.

                                      1. l
                                        Lau Aug 14, 2010 06:13 PM

                                        had a decidedly worse meal here tonight. The regular manager I mentioned in the original post wasn't here tonight and 95% of their customers tonight were ordering americanized chinese food (general tso's), so ScoopG you can see why they do that (pure economics of making a restaurant money, why would you give up customers?).

                                        The problem was that the waitress who took our order defaulted to how they order things for the rest of their customers who want americanized food b/c on my check it said less oil / less heat on both of my main dishes. I was sort of upset by that b/c i never specified that and i ordered in chinese, I don't think i spoke a word of english to anyone there. So to anyone who goes here, I highly recommend specifying you want things spicy and authentic.

                                        Here's what we got:
                                        - wontons in hot oil (hong you shao shou): these were the same as last time and were excellent; btw i forgot to put in the original post that they have very finely minced garlic on them that is really good
                                        - water cooked beef (shui zhu niu): this was weird b/c it didn't have much oil in it, which is why i was like whats going on here? it wasn't very spicy and b/c it didn't have alot of oil or spice, it was sort of plain. The beef itself was cooked exactly how it should be i.e. it was very tender and the vegetables were good, but shui zhu preparation w/o alot of oil or spice is basically not shui zhu
                                        - mapo tofu (ma po dou fu): same thing here, it was alot plainer tasting than it should be b/c there wasn't much ma or la to it

                                        We were disappointed, but we realized as soon as we saw the check what had happened. I'll be coming back , but I realize that unless I'm ordering from the manager who knows how I like things, I'm going to have to specify that I want things spicy and authentic

                                        28 Replies
                                        1. re: Lau
                                          m
                                          MacGuffin Aug 14, 2010 07:08 PM

                                          Well, mentioning "spicy" three times--confirming the menu description, then saying "spicy" when I ordered, then confirming "spicy" when I paid (receiving an affirmative response to each query)--should have done the trick. Given the fact that there's an entire section of the menu devoted to "authentic," and that you ordered in Chinese, I can't even imagine what their excuse was with regard to you.
                                          If it makes you feel any better, I asked a friend to join me for lunch several years ago at a Chinese restaurant in Chelsea that I'd patronized for years with nary a mishap. The meal was a disaster, from the surly waitress to my friend's ignored request for non-spicy. I felt like a fool but these things happen.

                                          1. re: Lau
                                            scoopG Aug 14, 2010 07:23 PM

                                            Thanks Lau for the update. That's why I will continue to go to Szechuan Gourmet in midtown and Little Pepper in Flushing for my Sichuan food fix - no need for them to even have to think of pandering to Americanized-Chinese, dumbed-down tastes. Another important factor is that at both SG and LP, you don't have to rely on some front-house manager that recognizes you to get the good stuff. (I've yet to try Wa Jeal or Szechuan Chalet.)

                                            1. re: scoopG
                                              l
                                              Lau Aug 14, 2010 11:44 PM

                                              the frustrating thing about it is that the chefs here are very competent, so i know they know how to cook the food, but i feel like b/c of their location they've been somewhat forced to tone things down b/c the original GS in hells kitchen was way better than SG and was on par with LP. So be it though if its just a matter of me specify things I can do that

                                              1. re: scoopG
                                                s
                                                sugartoof Aug 15, 2010 02:58 AM

                                                Why should it matter if they serve Americanized, or what you called generic dishes?
                                                The truth is most of these places do not rise above the quality of a 3rd rate crappy Chinese food stand, unless they're hiding behind heavy spicing, tendon heavy cuts of meat, or a revival in heavy MSG usage. I feel like the Sichuan is becoming generic in it's own right, and if you just want a good Beef and Broccoli in Black Bean sauce, using quality meat ?...good luck. Meanwhile, their Szechuan specialties should taste incredible, even when mildly spiced.

                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                  m
                                                  MacGuffin Aug 15, 2010 05:27 AM

                                                  Y'know, I was thinking exactly the same thing--I've had many a meal over the years that was undoubtedly "inauthentic," but enjoyable nonetheless. "Authentic" and "delicious" (or even "acceptable") aren't necessarily synonymous. My noodles could very possibly have been the worst of their kind that I've ever been served because the bottom line is they just didn't taste good. At all.

                                                  1. re: MacGuffin
                                                    l
                                                    Lau Aug 15, 2010 06:28 AM

                                                    well actually i am a proponent of delicious tops authentic, however in this case i was using them interchangeably to describe why i thought the chefs who are perfectly capable of making delicious food made something that was not delicious in an effort to cater to american tastes.

                                                    As i've said before taste is 100% intangible and there is nothing wrong with liking americanized chinese food clearly there are alot of customers who like that and if they do then that is perfectly fine. I guarantee there is a very large swath of people in NY that would prefer a good americanized chinese meal to the best sichuan restaurant in chengdu and that's perfectly fine. However, I came here for sichuan food cooked how it is normally cooked not toned down, which is my personal taste and the way i like my food.

                                                    with respect to the state of chinese food in NY, i think you're being a little heavy handed with your wording, but generally chinese food in NY is not that good and even the best places are good, but not great.

                                                    As far as your comment on szechuan specialities tasting incredible even when mildly spiced I think you're missing the point, I understand what you're arguing is basically that chinese restaurants use bad ingredients and hide behind MSG / spicing. However, while I agree that doing that is unacceptable, much of sichuan cuisine is very much based upon fairly heavy seasoning and should be spicy (if you've ever been to sichuan their food is very good); in other words it is a cuisine that is based upon heavy use of seasoning, which is quite a bit different than most american food. For example the shui zhu niu, you should 1) poach the beef (so it stays tender) which they did (and the beef was very tender) and 2) pour a bath of vegetable oil that has been cooked with chilis, garlic and a bunch of other spices over the meat, however they almost skipped the second step such that a dish that should very flavorful turned out very bland. They skipped the second step b/c the waitress said "less oil / less spice" so they barely used any vegetable oil and cut down severly on the peppers etc.

                                                    As far as sichuan food becoming generic, i'm not sure what you mean, but it has certainly grown in popularity in manhattan.

                                                    1. re: Lau
                                                      s
                                                      sugartoof Aug 15, 2010 12:54 PM

                                                      "As far as your comment on szechuan specialities tasting incredible even when mildly spiced I think you're missing the point"

                                                      Well, I was actually addressing Scoop's posts re: Americanized dishes.

                                                      I fully understand that these places should keep some integrity and present the regional dishes as they should be presented. However, most often than not when I try these places, they can't pass the basic litmus test of selling cold noodles, or a chicken and cashew dish that doesn't taste like rubber.

                                                      What does this indicate? The ingredients are so low quality they aren't holding up without the Szechuan spice/oils. We're not hearing "the food was incredible but lacked spice", we're typically hearing "maybe if it had been spicier it would have been better". We're talking about places you all are billing as Best in the City. so it's not unreasonable to expect these skilled chefs who default to mild cookie, be able to turn out a good version of even the most dumbed down dish, on their menu.

                                                      I'm not debating the flavor profiles of the cuisine at all. I just think it's starting to sound like they could serve shoelaces if they got the spicing flavor right. I doubt that is the case with authentic Szechuan/Sichuan.

                                                  2. re: sugartoof
                                                    scoopG Aug 15, 2010 09:04 AM

                                                    I prefer as close to the real deal as far as my Chinese food goes - and that's what you'll find at SG and LP as well as Chengdu Heaven (it's slipped though) and Spicy and Tasty.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                      Bob Martinez Aug 15, 2010 09:22 AM

                                                      Could you please recommend some Szechuan restaurants you like?

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                        s
                                                        sugartoof Aug 15, 2010 12:34 PM

                                                        "Could you please recommend some Szechuan restaurants you like?"

                                                        What for? My recommendation would be for Lan Sheng (assuming it hasn't gone down hill), but not because I think it's good Szechuan, I wouldn't claim to know or care what makes good Szechuan. I care about good Chinese, from their menu. The meats at Lan Sheng tasted real, and I didn't have to order the specialty of the house, or beg the manager/waiter to make me something authentic to get a good dish. I was able to walk in, order the same silly Americanized dish I love, and it was great tasting, and fresh. Unfortunately, it was also drenched in MSG, and I had to drink a gallon of water after, but I'd still do that again.

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

                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                          s
                                                          sugartoof Aug 16, 2010 04:55 PM

                                                          As a follow up, I duplicated my order at Lan Sheng today, and would say while I prefered Lan Sheng by a long shot, Great Sichuan was a good alternative, and I'm sure they excel at some dishes. That said, I've had better vegetable rolls at Panda Express, so I'd suggest picking the free drink with a lunch special.

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

                                                          Great Sichuan
                                                          363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                          1. re: sugartoof
                                                            l
                                                            Lau Aug 16, 2010 06:22 PM

                                                            well see the thing about LS is that when I went there, they screwed up some very elementary dishes. They made a dry sauteed string bean that was so salty it was unedible (Great Sichuan's was leaps and bounds better), they made a beef with spicy green peppers that was pretty gloppy, the beef wasn't tender at all and was sort of bland. In the post i realized i probably should've ordered shui zhu yu or shui zhu niu b/c it was at every table.

                                                            Just to be clear I'm not saying that LS is a bad restaurant (i'm actually planning on re-trying it), but if you're saying they are definitively a better restaurant I'm not sure if that is the case or not. Any which way, I think you're basically getting back to the fact that all of the sichuan restaurants have their faults. I'd like to try more stuff at both LS and Great Sichuan and see how they end up stacking up. B/c my first meal at GS was great and the second mediocre

                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6737...

                                                            -----
                                                            Great Sichuan
                                                            363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                            1. re: Lau
                                                              s
                                                              sugartoof Aug 16, 2010 06:50 PM

                                                              I think that's fair...and I'm thankful that you drew our attention to this places pedigree, which might have gone overlooked.

                                                              It's a a shame these places are getting tripped up on egg rolls and sauteed string beans when New Yorkers trip over themselves with excitement from the mere rumor of a dependable top Chinese place.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof
                                                                m
                                                                MacGuffin Aug 16, 2010 07:24 PM

                                                                Especially those of us New Yorkers who don't eat meat.

                                                                1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                  s
                                                                  sugartoof Aug 16, 2010 07:37 PM

                                                                  Speaking of which, I've never got the impression truly authentic Asian food uses vegetables as window dressing filler.

                                                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                                                    l
                                                                    Lau Aug 16, 2010 08:02 PM

                                                                    well i dont think thats the case at all either. however in alot of chinese food the definition of vegetarian gets stretched b/c alot of vegetable or just non-meat dishes include some type of meat, fish, shellfish in the preparation (sauce, seasoning etc); so depends how strict you are on the definition

                                                                    1. re: Lau
                                                                      buttertart Aug 17, 2010 05:52 AM

                                                                      Re the green beans: they are in my opinion one of the benchmarks of a serious Sichuan restaurant - so typical of the cuisine - and so easy not to get right. The ones at SG and the Bamboo Pavilion (now renamed?) in Bay Ridge are the closest to ideal I've had in the city.

                                                    2. re: scoopG
                                                      buttertart Aug 15, 2010 08:05 AM

                                                      scoopG: We really didn't like Wa Jeal that much, the dishes were rather toned-down. (To Sichuan food as Evergreen Shanghai on the UES is/was to Shanghai.) From what I've observed of your tastes on CH you don't need to think you're missing anything.

                                                      1. re: buttertart
                                                        scoopG Aug 15, 2010 09:05 AM

                                                        Ah, another toned-down Sichuan place - just what I don't need!

                                                        1. re: scoopG
                                                          ChiefHDB Aug 15, 2010 12:12 PM

                                                          Ah, Buttertart, I had an opposite experience at Wa Jeal a few months ago. Not toned down at all. I was speaking to the manager, however, which probably helped. But, like I said upthread, quality and spicing tends to vary wildly from visit to vist and dish to dish at most Szechuan places in town.

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

                                                          1. re: ChiefHDB
                                                            buttertart Aug 15, 2010 03:22 PM

                                                            After posting this I saw the rave on the Wa Jeal thread. Certainly doesn't sound like what I experienced. Went to SG for lunch today (potstickers, smoked tofu with Chinese celery in hot oil and Sichuan pepper, exemplary dry-fried green beans, lamb with pickled bamboo shoots and chili - the standout of the meal, with sliced black mushrooms and wood ears in addition to the bamboo shoots, a very nice play of chewy and bitey textures, and a whole fish in chili bean paste sauce). It was great.

                                                            1. re: buttertart
                                                              l
                                                              Lau Aug 17, 2010 07:39 AM

                                                              i didnt even see this post, glad you enjoyed....the lamb sounds interesting

                                                              how was the fish btw? i love that preparation but i find in the US alot of times they use some sort of fresh water fish that has that certain fresh water fish taste that i'm not a big fan of

                                                              1. re: Lau
                                                                buttertart Aug 17, 2010 07:44 AM

                                                                The lamb was v good. It was a tilapia and I know what you mean, like when they make it with cao yu in TW. Was just a bit too sweet but otherwise the sauce was excellent. (Note this is Szechwan Gourmet on 39th, not the place you reviewed, which I hope maintains because it'll be convenient when we're in the area - also known as since my husband is aware of it I'll never get to an Indian place on such occasions again...)

                                                                1. re: buttertart
                                                                  l
                                                                  Lau Aug 17, 2010 07:49 AM

                                                                  ohhh my bad, i read the post to fast, there are too many abbreviations of all the sichuan restaurants in manhattan now!

                                                            2. re: ChiefHDB
                                                              buttertart Aug 15, 2010 03:23 PM

                                                              I don't find the spicing varies that much (we usually order in Chinese, that may have something to do with it), but some places do do some dishes better than others.

                                                      2. re: Lau
                                                        e
                                                        ESNY Aug 21, 2010 11:22 AM

                                                        I finally ate there after having it delivered half a dozen times...Sadly, my one experience dining in was just like this. Despite ordering sichuan dishes (dan dan noodles, dried/sauteed string beans, gui zhou chicken), everything was bland and the gui zhou chicken had zero peppercorns and the dan dan were very bland and not spicy at all. They saw a table of white people and assumed. I've had all these dishes delivered a few times and they were much better than eating in and they couldn't see the color of my face. Even taking into account some deterioration from delivery and I still preferred everything compared to eating in.

                                                        I understand their need to have the "american chinese" portion of the menu to cater to the people who want that, but it bothers me that they would dumb down the sichuan dishes. It shouldn't take a secret code or reiterating it 10 times to get it prepared properly. If I order a dish meant to be spicy, give it to me spicy, despite how non-chinese I am.

                                                        I didn't pay so I couldn't see what the bill said but needless to say, i'll stick to delivery, if I decide to order from them again...

                                                        1. re: ESNY
                                                          hungryinmanhattan Aug 21, 2010 01:56 PM

                                                          We ate a Wa Jeal 2 times in the same week. When we went the first time, we ordered the 1000 chili chicken. Son loved it. Very hot. So when we went the second time, they recognized us and said, "The (other) waitress said that is the man that likes his food spicy" (something like that).
                                                          Our second meal was spicier than the first. On our first visit, we made it clear not to Americanize the meal, to make it real szechwan! ( We look forward to trying Szechwan Gourmet on 39th but so far away.)

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

                                                          1. re: ESNY
                                                            buttertart Aug 21, 2010 04:24 PM

                                                            ESNY - You might have to order in Chinese to get the good stuff delivered...

                                                        2. Bob Martinez Oct 27, 2010 02:59 PM

                                                          After reading this thread I put Great Sichuan on our list; last Saturday night we finally got a chance to try it. Our usual technique in benchmarking a new restaurant is to order classic dishes that we’ve had at other places so it’s easy to do a direct comparison. That’s the plan we followed on Saturday.

                                                          Dan dan noodles – a solid B. This version had nicely buzzy Szechuan pepper corns but was missing the complex depth of flavor of the noodles served at Lan Sheng, my current favorite.

                                                          Sichuan Wontons with red oil – A+. These were richly flavored with plenty of kick. Noticeably better than competing versions.

                                                          Lamb with cumin flavor – B+. My GF and I disagreed about this. I would have given it an A but she said she thought the cumin wasn’t properly blended with the lamb. It tasted fine to me but then again, she had a lot more of this than I did. We’d certainly order this again.

                                                          Double cooked pork – A. Yes, it’s our old friend pork belly, and this time around it’s cooked a shade more crispy than most other places. I really liked that. The spicing and salt level were perfect too. The only place serving a better version is Szechuan Gourmet (the excellent pork belly with chilli leeks) but that’s the best in the city.

                                                          Dry Sauteed String Beans – A. These were perfectly done and the beans had a great snap to them. If my mother had made vegetables like this when I was growing up my childhood would have been far happier.

                                                          The décor is pleasant enough in a brightly lighted neighborhood-Chinese kind of way. It’s a couple of notches down from the 7th Ave. GSI but a notch nicer than the GSI branch in Chelsea.

                                                          Service was quite good, friendly and attentive. They watched us snapping pictures and said they hoped we’d write good things. Afterwards we made a point of telling them that we liked the food very much. We didn’t want them to lose sleep worrying about looney bloggers who were going to rip their restaurant because they didn’t like the color of the tablecloth.

                                                          Ten or fifteen years ago this place would have been a destination restaurant. Nobody was cooking Szechuan food at anywhere near the level of Great Sichuan. Not even in Flushing, once Hwa Yuan on Main St. closed. Now, it’s a different world - there’s very good Szechuan restaurants sprinkled throughout Manhattan and Queens. Hell, we even have a great one in Bay Ridge.

                                                          So Great Sichuan will just have to take it’s place with all the other Szechuan places that are performing at a high level. They hold their own. If you happen to be in Murray Hill, make a point of checking them out.

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

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

                                                          Great Sichuan
                                                          363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                           
                                                           
                                                           
                                                           
                                                           
                                                           
                                                          1. l
                                                            lowtones Jan 29, 2011 06:45 PM

                                                            Lau, your earlier post was so helpful to me today when I went to Great Sichuan and thoroughly enjoyed it. The wontons in hot oil and dan dan noodles were a revelation. Thanks!

                                                            -----
                                                            Great Sichuan
                                                            363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: lowtones
                                                              l
                                                              Lau Jan 30, 2011 06:07 AM

                                                              glad u enjoyed!

                                                              1. re: Lau
                                                                LeahBaila May 17, 2012 03:31 PM

                                                                Has anyone been recently? Thanks.

                                                                1. re: LeahBaila
                                                                  buttertart May 17, 2012 04:34 PM

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8420...
                                                                  Yes indeedy, and looking forward to going back.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                                    LeahBaila May 18, 2012 05:43 AM

                                                                    Woot! Glad to hear. Thank you!

                                                                    1. re: LeahBaila
                                                                      l
                                                                      Lau May 18, 2012 06:52 AM

                                                                      i should go back soon, its been a long time

                                                                      1. re: LeahBaila
                                                                        buttertart May 19, 2012 04:29 PM

                                                                        Really enjoyed it.

                                                                        1. re: buttertart
                                                                          LeahBaila May 21, 2012 05:34 AM

                                                                          :) Thanks - and so good to know! Haven't been back in the longest, but will probs hit it some time this week/next.

                                                              2. s
                                                                shirleychow Dec 2, 2012 01:45 AM

                                                                Great thread. I love this place and have been about 8 times including a banquet meal catered for 18 people - they hit it out of the park. They even customized the menu so that it ended up being about $50/pp.

                                                                I also think they have some of the best soup dumplings in the city.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: shirleychow
                                                                  buttertart Dec 4, 2012 07:28 PM

                                                                  Good to know, I lean Sichuan and husband leans Jiangnan, so that makes this place even more appealing!

                                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                                    l
                                                                    Lau Dec 4, 2012 08:24 PM

                                                                    def talk to the manager / co-owner if you go; he's the ex-manager from the grand sichuan in hell's kitchen and one of the ex-head waiters at the one on st marks. he's got glasses, middle aged, really nice guy, speaks pretty good english too. he'll create custom dishes and get you lots of off the menu stuff if you talk to him.

                                                                    super nice guy and picks awesome dishes; at the hell's kitchen branch at basically every meal i used to have him just pick one random off the menu dish and it was always great

                                                                    1. re: Lau
                                                                      buttertart Dec 7, 2012 05:25 PM

                                                                      Must do.

                                                                      1. re: Lau
                                                                        h
                                                                        hungrycomposer Dec 23, 2012 09:55 PM

                                                                        Is that Sonny? He was a waiter at GS St. Marks for years and then left. He was funny, a little bit tough, nice and smart... I heard he went somewhere else but I didn't know where.

                                                                        1. re: hungrycomposer
                                                                          l
                                                                          Lau Dec 25, 2012 05:31 PM

                                                                          im totally blanking on his name right now, but that might've been it...glasses, very nice, middle aged

                                                                  2. hungryinmanhattan Dec 23, 2012 05:07 AM

                                                                    I am shopping at Kalustan's. Was going to do Indain, but we will go here instead. Thanks for your post. Much appreciated.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: hungryinmanhattan
                                                                      l
                                                                      Lau Dec 25, 2012 05:32 PM

                                                                      def worth checking out, but read my posts carefully about ordering and making sure you specify that you want it authentic (i think they have a ton of customers from the area who are just there for americanized chinese food)

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