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

  • l

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.

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

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

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  1. 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. 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

        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. 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

          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

            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. 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

            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

              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

                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. 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

              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

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

                1. re: scoopG

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

                  1. re: Lau

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

                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                      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

                        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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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: Lau

                                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

                                  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...

                          2. re: scoopG

                            Post your recipe, scoopG, please!

                            1. re: buttertart

                              Even the Japanese in Taipei are getting in on the act - or were:
                              http://translate.google.com/translate...

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

                              1. re: scoopG

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