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Szechuan Gourmet - Downhill alert?

I went to Szechuan Gourmet recently for a second consecutive disappointing meal. When my food came, i just thought to myself, "really?". I did not order any flagship spicy stuff - this time I got jingjiang rousi (pork in plum sauce?) and kungpao shrimp. The pork was unevenly cut up instead of the match stick style it should be. the sauce was watery and flavorless. The shrimp were ratty takeout chinese shrimp - not deveined. The time before this I went there I don't remember what I ordered but have noticed dishes that I've been ordering for years (like the two mentioned above) have been coming out noticeably more mediocre. Has anyone else noticed this as well?

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

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  1. We went last night. It was packed. We ordered the Whole steamed bass with pork and scallions. It was very good and very spicy. We had the Dan Dan noodles, as we always do, and they were delicious. We also had the chicken and asparagus. This was the weakest dish, but we knew better than to order from the regular menu, as opposed to the special dishes. It was ok but the sauce was a thickened chicken stock that had very little flavor. Lesson re-learned- stick with specialties menu. We had dessert, which we never did.They were these little white round balls filled with sweet sesame paste, serves in sugar water. Very good, except for the sugar water. They were very gelatinous and sticky, served hot. Tasty. Service was good, even for a packed restaurant.

    1. We had a killer lunch there this Saturday - if anything I think it's better than it ever was.

      The potstickers are my favorites in the city, the 5-spice doufu with celery and hot oil was great, and the three dishes were amazing (oxtail with smoked bamboo shoots and three-chili chicken from the whiteboard specials menu, and the fish fillet with pickled chilis from the menu itself). Of the three the fish was the best. Lots of ma la, very savory. Dishes in order as mentioned:

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

       
       
       
      5 Replies
      1. re: buttertart

        We will be going again this week as I have a vacation so I am granted permission to leave the UES-lol. I have been several times, but still would appreciate suggestions of dishes to try. We have had Dan Dan Noodles (loved), Ma Po tofu (loved), leeks with chicken chili (absolutely delish), cumin meat dish, which was dry and tough. We also tried a dessert of sweet red bean rice balls. We noted the above suggestions.What else should we try? I always appreciate CHs suggestions.

        1. re: hungryinmanhattan

          2. OX Tongue & Tripe** with roasted chili-peanut vinaigrette
          4. Sliced Pork Belly* with chilli-garlic soy
          19. Spicy Cucumber Salad*
          21. Dan Dan Noodles * with chili minced pork
          23. Szechuan Pork Dumpling* with roasted chili soy
          50. Crispy Lamb Filets * with chili cumin
          60. Chef's Ma Paul Tofu *** with chili minced pork

          See also:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760484

          1. re: kathryn

            Thank you for the reply and the link.

            1. re: hungryinmanhattan

              The thousand year old egg appetizer is delicious.

              1. re: peter j

                I agree - only place in Manhattan to get this dish! 11 of us recently crowded around one table for a delightful meal.

                 
      2. We've been here twice since my last report here and everything has been stellar. The whole fish with "chili miso" and fresh garlic is divine.

        1. I was there yesterday and thought everything was good as ever.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            That's the annoying thing about "downhill alert" threads. Casual readers (if such there are on CH) might just think "ho hum, scratch that one off the list".

            1. re: buttertart

              True. At least the OP put a question mark in the end. But some readers can be lazy -- or just so easily misled by the latest post. I've seen so many instances where somebody wants to cancel his/her reservations due to reading a lone dissenting review.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                When it comes to Chinese food in particular...and especially in NYC or NYC's Chinatown, I rarely pay any attention to reviews in determining my choice of restaurants. People have different tastes and expectations, and in my time here on CH, I've learned whose tastes I am aligned with and those of who I am not. What's funny to me is that often members say a place is no longer good and restaurant x is much better....but then they have a bad meal or service, then go back to another place they've dismissed in the past ....and now they proclaim it's better than ever and their new go to place.....Cantoon Garden/South China Garden comes to mind immediately.....and the recent praise of Oriental Garden.....the latter, which I have always favored.

                1. re: fourunder

                  "What's funny to me is that often members say a place is no longer good and restaurant x is much better....but then they have a bad meal or service, then go back to another place they've dismissed in the past ....and they now proclaim it's better than ever and their new go to place"

                  ____________________________

                  CHers can definitely be a fickle bunch! Sometimes people tend to side with the flavor of the month. I agree that it's best to find those who have tastes similar to yours.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    In the case of Chinese food, I've found it's less about fickleness and more about consistency of these establishments. Maybe there's a lot of changeover in cooks, but I've certainly had stellar meals, made posts online, and then realized it was a complete fluke. Other places I thought were just okay can suddenly win me over with a standout meal.

          2. Hi Renguin (and others), YES! I had the same experience as Renguin. I've been going to Szechuan Gourmet for the past 3 years and it's been consistently excellent. I order many different things. The past 2 times I went there, I thought that they either LOST THEIR CHEF, or had a mandate to buy much cheaper ingredients (or a combination of the two). I was disheartened. I couldn't even eat my food...which has never happened there. I'm thinking of going back this week for one more try. I know what it has been, and know what it appeared to turn into. I can only hope, that the regular chef was away for awhile and is back, and that things will be back to normal. I'm with Renguin on this one.

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

            1. My experience is based on takeout. I've ordered 100 + times from them in the last 5 years. The one thing I've come to expect is inconsistency. The food ranges from good to spectacular. You hope that it will taste great but most of the time it's just good. I can also count on them to leave something out once every three orders or so. Missing entrees, missing rice, missing soda. It's just awesome when you have to waste 20 minutes to go back and pick up a couple of boxes of white rice. Extra spicy sometimes turns into extra sweet. Today my order came as a meager half portion. Actually it barely fills up a third of the already small container. It's good but nowhere near as tasty as I know they can make it. I will order again though, despite the frustration and disappointment because once in a while you get something that is amazing.

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