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Sichuan at Imperial Wok in N White Plains: thumbs up

Jim Leff raved about a secret Sichuan menu at Imperial Wok on North Broadway (Route 22) in North White Plains a few months back (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/783577). Last night, I went to see if that menu was still there, and if it measured up.

Score another one for the Alpha Hound.

First of all, it's not a menu you have to ask for, it's got it's own page on the general menu. Obviously, it's not as extensive as Sichuan-only places, but the classic dishes are well-represented (wontons in hot oil, dan dan noodles, double-cooked pork, etc.).

I decided to go with a good litmus test for Sicuhan places: dan dan noodles and double-cooked pork. The dan dan noodles were a solid rendition, the chili oil left my mouth pleasantly buzzing and ground pork was crisp. One quibble: I didn't detect much Sichuan peppercorn.

The double-cooked pork was right-on: nicely cooked strips of fat-streaked pork belly with leeks, peppers and fermented black beans. I asked them to make it a little spicier, and they didn't disappoint. The best thing was, they didn't just dump a bunch of red chili flakes to overpower the dish, they added the chili in a way that made me do a slow burn.

Is Imperial Wok as good as the top Sichuan-only places in NYC? Probably not, but it's a 5-minute drive from White Plains, and if anyone can get this level of Sichuan cooking elsewhere in Westchester, I'd love to know about it. Imperial Wok will definitely be in my regular rotation from now on and is a nice complement to the Cantonese offerings at Aberdeen.

P.S. Right under the Sichuan menu, there was a short menu of Taiwanese specials, including sauteed pea shoots and dishes with Chinese sausage. Anyone tried anything off this menu? How does it measure up?

P.P.S. Neither the Sichuan or Taiwanese menu is on the takeout/delivery menu, so I'm not sure if those dishes are eat-in only.

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Imperial Wok
736 N Broadway, White Plains, NY 10603

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  1. thanks so much for your review, can't wait to give it a try. Did you notice any lamb/cumin dishes on the menu?

    1 Reply
    1. re: vinouspleasure

      No cumin lamb, unfortunately - they might have had a cumin dish with beef, but I didn't look that closely.

      But they did have dishes liked braised, sliced fish and Mao's style pork with chestnuts.

    2. How was the service? Last time I was there to get takeout I ordered in English. Assuming that I dont speak any Chinese (not to pad myself on the back but my accent is kind of faint), the hostess told the waiter "this guy is kind of weird!" in Chinese. Not the most pleasant experience because of that. And I havent been there since then!

      2 Replies
      1. re: bearmi

        Service was fine when I went.

        1. re: kdgchow

          I guess you are not "weird" like me. Haha!

      2. I always order from their Taiwanese menu. It's filled with subtly spiced treasures and loads of basil.

        3 Replies
        1. re: SethDavis

          seth, how about some suggestions!

          1. re: vinouspleasure

            My favorite is the squid casserole. And I love those dishes mentioned above with Chinese sausage. Anything that sounds good on that menu probably will be.

            1. re: SethDavis

              sounds dilicious!

        2. and they deliver to purchase!! people are always saying that there are no more good chinese restos in the area. Within 10-15 minutes I can be on Central Avenue (place next to best buy), White Plains (aberdeen, imperial wok & kam sen), Scarsdsale (place near scarsdale pastry center), Purchase (china white). and thats not including panda pavillion in Greenwich (nicest delivery staff ever).

          granted we are not flushing or bay ridge but convenience counts for something!!

          4 Replies
          1. re: cubanat

            did you just categorize panda pavilion in greenwich as a good chinese resto?

            Granted I am a huge fan of central seafood and aberden, but what have you had at panda pavilion that makes it worthwhile? I would much rather get delivery from hunan cafe or drop by penang grill for some quality chinese food.

            1. re: discounteggroll

              Ok I will preface that statement with for delivery only!! :) Their house special peking shrimp is great. huge shrimp in a not overly sweet-ish sauce that just covers the lightly fried shrimp also twice cooked pork with eggpalnt dish. their ribs bone in of course are also decent and brown rice which you still can't get at a bunch of places. also their string beans with pork bits & chow fun )(pork as well--kids got chciken the other night and it was to healthy tasting) are good too.

            2. re: cubanat

              Yeah, Westchester is never going to have to have the breadth of quality Chinese places, both by cuisine and price point, as NYC. But there's at least one place to get reasonably authentic Cantonese/Hong Kong/dim sum (Aberdeen), Sichuan (Imperial Wok) and Cantonese BBQ (Kam Sen) that's executed reasonably well - though I wish Kam Sen's BBQ was a little more consistent!

              Now, if Xian Foods opened a branch in White Plains, that would be cause for celebration!

              1. re: kdgchow

                we asked the best of the bad chinese restaurants near us (dong's happy garden) if they could make szechuan food as it's found in flushing. Interestingly, they said they could, but they don't have the ingredients on hand and they don't think there's enough demand in the area to justify buying those ingredients. I told them I disagreed but in the end, of course it's their business.

                I relayed this story to a friend of mine from hk and he suggested I ask them to make the hk dish singapore chow fun since they have both singapore mei fun and chow fun on the menu. It was a good idea and while not great, they did a credible job with dish as chow fun is one of their better dishes.

            3. Just went here and this is a real find. To put it in perspective from my old East Village stomping grounds, I would say not quite as good as Grand Sichuan on St Marks but better than Hot Kitchen. We were there on a Wednesday lunch, despite some warning that the A-grade chef might not work that day, and things were fine. Overall, spicey and authentic, if lacking the sichuan peppercorn side of ma-la. We had:

              Sichuan wontons in hot oil - good, not great. The sauce was on, and the dumplings tasty, but the filling was a bit firm and the wrappers fell apart.

              Beef tendon in spicy sauce. Very good, with decent texture and a hot and sour sauce. Not as hot as Grand Sichuan, not quite the great texture of Momofuku, but good and something you can't get everywhere.

              Chicken with peanuts (from the sichuan menu) - this was OK but perhaps a little disappointing, as it was more the Americanized version - or perhaps Taiwanese? The chicken was breaded and fried, and the stirfry had the little seseme cracker nuggets that I vaguely think of as Taiwanese. Not bad if you think of it versus the usual Chinese-American, but not Sichuan tasting to me and wouldn't be on the list next time.

              Ants Climbing a Tree (listed as cellophane noodles with Pork) - this was excellent, better than Grand Sichuan St Marks. Spicy, with lots of crispy pork and green onions. A big portion.

              Total was $50 all-in and 3 people couldn't quite finish it all.

              6 Replies
              1. re: tazerowe

                Doesn't the lack of Sichuan peppercorn ma-la numbing effect automatically disqualifies it from being authentic? Was there any Sichuan peppercorns used?

                1. re: pabboy

                  Technically, you are right, I guess that eliminates true authenticity and, no, I detected no sichuan pepper. However, the dishes (chicken accepted) were otherwise cooked in a traditional sichun fashion (both technique and recipe), so more authentic than the more common Chinese-American dishes labeled sichuan. Given the other options in the area, and remembering the a few years back where there were few sichuan options anywhere and sichuan pepper was illegal, I still think this is worth supporting.

                  1. re: pabboy

                    I would think so. I was in Chengdu a few weeks ago - not only was the ma la taste pervasive, but I noticed heavy use of fresh Sichuan peppercorns which you can't even get in the U.S. :-(
                    We had hotpot that was crammed full of them.

                    1. re: rgny

                      Sichuan peppercorn was illegal but I was always able to find them in Asian groceries under some other labels. The legalized ones you find now must be heat treated to eliminate citrus canker.

                      My parents have a prickly ash tree so I can get my hands on fresh Sichuan peppercorns.

                    2. re: pabboy

                      Well, I would say one thing - I don't believe that twice-cooked pork generally has Sichuan peppercorn in it, so I believe the dish I had was a relatively authentic version.

                    3. re: tazerowe

                      Sounds good, but what restaurant are you talking about?

                    4. Had another good Sichuan meal here last night. This time, I made sure to ask that my dishes be ma la, and they didn't disappoint - Sichuan peppercorn galore.

                      Got the pork wontons in hot oil - wrappers were delicate - maybe a little too delicate - and the chili oil and peppercorns left my mouth buzzing nicely.

                      Turns out they do have a cumin lamb dish - it's titled lamb with Szechuan sauce. However, it's the wet, not dry, preparation. Personally, I prefer the dry version, because the cumin flavor is a bit more in-your-face, but this one was still solid, with leeks and whole chiles. Again, plenty of ma la.

                      Looking at the menu a little more closely, they have a bean curd Szechuan style, which I'm guessing is ma po tofu. I'm eager to try that.

                      As much as I love going to Chinatown and Flushing, really happy that this place is so close to home.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: kdgchow

                        We went to Imperial Wok tonight, our first time trying things from the Sichuan menu (after going there many times over the years). We had the pork dumplings in hot chili oil, the lamb (which had a dry cumin rub, very spicy, but not wet) and the bean curd Szechuan style. Everything was amazingly delicious, lots of chiles and little peppercorns with the lamb. We just ordered off the menu, didn't ask for anything special, so maybe the chef is catching on that people want the dishes fully authentic.

                        At this point I'm going to have trouble driving by the place without stopping off for a plate of the dumplings. Definitely looking forward to going again soon.

                        1. re: Elisa515

                          When you say the lamb had a dry cumin rub, were the lamb pieces crispy? That's what I equate with the dry preparation of the cumin lamb dish.

                          So was the bean curd Szechuan style basically ma po tofu? Did it have the ground pork on top of the cubes of soft bean curd?

                          1. re: kdgchow

                            Yes to crispy.

                            A qualified yes to the ground pork on the tofu. I think there was some, but not much.

                            1. re: SethDavis

                              Is Ma Po Tofu the same as Bean Curd Szechuan Style? Because my local chinese restaurant lists both on the menu. What is the difference between them? It also lists Bean Curd Homestyle. What is that? Thanks.

                        2. re: kdgchow

                          People are going to start thinking I'm a shill for this place, but had yet another good meal here. Got something off the Taiwanese menu for the first time: chinese sausage with garlic sprouts. It was delicious - the sausage was porky and sweet and the sprouts were cooked perfectly, so they retained their crunch.

                          It's just nice to be able to get this type of Chinese food without having to schlep into NYC.

                          BTW, their delivery is lightning-fast - they were at my door in White Plains in 20 minutes.

                          1. re: kdgchow

                            You aren't a shill--you are right, the place is that good (and worth a trip for those of us who are 20 minutes-ish away from it). I love that chinese sausage and garlic sprouts dish. Next time, try the pork belly with garlic sprouts off the same menu. Be forewarned that it's a bit salty--not oversalted, but a salty dish.

                            I'm about to be working in downtown White Plains in the evenings twice a week for the next couple months. I think I'll call before leaving home and get take out when I can--thanks for the reminder!

                            Elisa

                            1. re: Elisa515

                              I was wondering how the regular Chinese menu selections are. Do they serve Cantonese dishes, like spareribs, lomein, eggrolls, etc.? Good cantonese is very hard to find in Westchester.

                              1. re: EIF1lady

                                What you're describing is more Chinese-American than Cantonese. Nevertheless, the stuff I've tried there - lo mein, fried rice, various dishes in brown sauce, etc. - has been fine. It's actually a good place to go if you've got a mix of cautious/adventurous eaters.

                                Though I have to say, I think the best Chinese-American place in the area is Bao's, at the White Plains Mall. I'm generally not the biggest fan of Chinese-American food, but they do it very well there.

                        3. Let me chime in with a big, giant thank you to everyone recommending this place and the specific dishes, too! We visited the restaurant for a Saturday lunch a couple of months ago and enjoyed the dishes we tried from the Sichuan menu -- dan dan noodles, double-cooked pork and chicken with peanuts -- although we were a bit put off by the fried coating on the chicken. That was weird. My SO is a huge Kung Pao Chicken fan, and he didn't exactly love this version of it (he likes NYC's Chef Yu, Szechuan Gourmet and Grand Sichuan's versions, probably in that order!).

                          Then, last night, I discovered that they now have online ordering - including the Sichuan and Taiwanese menus, and it's essentially on my way home from work, so I ordered dinner to go. This time, I ordered the chicken with hot pepper and peanuts from the regular Chinese section of the menu (not quite as spicy, so next time, I'll ask for a bumped-up spice level (you can choose from three levels in the online ordering process!), but the flavor was great, he said. More like what he'd been expecting from the initial try on the Sichuan menu. I also got ants climbing up a tree (good, nice heat, but I should have expected that those delicate noodles might not travel well -- they did not. Got kind of gummy on the way home!), the Chinese Sausage and Garlic Sprouts (these seemed suspiciously similar to the leeks in the double-cooked pork dish... are they the same thing, or maybe they subbed? Either way, TASTY!!), and I also ordered some Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce -- mostly because I felt the need for something green and not-so-spicy to balance out the meal. Oh, also the Sichuan dumplings in hot oil. Those rocked. I can see this being a regular weeknight dinner for us, since it's super easy for me to hop off the highway, pick up food and then get back on my way home. Of course, last night's detour ended up putting me right in the path of an extremely severe thunderstorm (up I-684), which was rather harrowing, but it was still worth it to eventually get home to a mighty delicious dinner! :-)

                          1. I will explore more of the Sichuan menu, but the bean curd Szechuan style / ma po tofu was boring, and the meat in it all dried out. Mostly just an orange oil slick with hardly any heat. Had no Sichuan peppercorn. The orange beef was gloppy and flavorless, no spice at all. Only ok hot and sour soup. And again flavorless hacked chicken with zero spiciness, and I ordered everything extra spicy. So far I am not impressed.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: JMF

                              I ordered their mapo tofu online for pickup the other day. I chose "Very Spicy" (other options were "Hot&Spicy" and "Super Spicy") and it had Sichuan pepercorn.

                              1. re: djca

                                Was the Sichuan peppercorn mixed in? I'm asking because it's not really meant to be eaten.

                                1. re: pabboy

                                  Here's a photo I took so you can correct me if I'm not identifying them correctly. I'm guessing these are just the husks, and the seeds aren't included.

                                   
                                  1. re: djca

                                    Oh wow! Green Sichuan peppercorn? That means they are fresh not dried & roasted and fully edible. I was not expecting that! Now I have more questions than answers. Are they legal? What's their source? And most important: Where can I get some?

                                2. re: djca

                                  I've found, in my experience, the best way to guarantee you get the correct spicing level at Imperial Wok is ask for dishes "ma la." You may get a funny look from the waitresses, but at they'll know you're serious.

                                  1. re: kdgchow

                                    That's not an option on the online ordering system, but I imagine one could "write it in" in the special instructions box! :-)

                                    Can anyone recommend any of their shrimp/prawn dishes?

                              2. Just an FYI - when I placed a delivery order there on Wednesday, they told me that the Sichuan chef's normal day off is Tuesday.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: kdgchow

                                  Thanks for the update! I think he might have been off last Friday, too, because I ordered several dishes, specifying extra spicy (or whatever the radio button says on the online ordering system) and writing "ma la" in the comments box. It worked last time I did that, but not this time. Not even CLOSE. The only thing that was remotely spicy/ma la enough were the wontons. Everything else was bland, tasteless and awful. :-( Such a bummer.

                                  1. re: saturngrrl

                                    That's funny, one time recently I tried placing a delivery order and they told me the Sichuan chef had called in sick, so I couldn't order off the Sichuan menu.

                                    1. re: kdgchow

                                      Oh, interesting. I wonder if that was the deal then? But I ordered online and got no such warning. Only ONE guy can cook the Sichuan stuff? He can't train others or share recipes? LOL! I'm sure I'll try them again, but that meal was SO BAD... it's going to take me a while to recover. BTW, does anyone know anything about the prawn dishes on the Sichuan menu? There are two that sound almost like they could be the same, but with no description, it's hard to tell. They have Prawns Chengdu Style and Braised Prawns Szechuan Sauce. Anybody try either and have any insights?

                                2. I had another good meal here for lunch. Dan dan noodles, beef tendon, double cooked pork and chicken with sichuan peppers. Plenty of sichuan peppercorn today.

                                  One question: when I got back, I was looking at an online menu with a co-worked and saw braised beef sichuan. Does anyone know if that is "water cooked beef," essentially thin sliced beef swimming a massively spiced broth? I can't find the Chinese characters online to confirm, but I love that dish and I am hoping so.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: tazerowe

                                    Yeah, that's essentially it, though it's not as incendiary a version as I've had at Sichuan places in Flushing such as Spicy & Tasty and LIttle Pepper.

                                    Curious, what was the preparation of the chicken with sichuan peppers?

                                    Just tried the double cooked shin beef, while it was good, I prefer the double cooked pork; it has more of a fermented black bean flavor.

                                    1. re: kdgchow

                                      We had a big table, and the Chicken with Pepper started at the other side, so I only got a taste, but it reminded me of the Chongqing Chicken I used to get at Grand Sichuan on 2nd Avenue in NYC - small bits of chicken, slightly crispy (dry fried? I don't have Dunlop's Land of Plenty handy) with piles of blackened dried chiles. Very little sauce. Slightly fewer chiles that the insane load at GS.

                                  2. Any current word on this place, is it still as good? I may be going there for lunch next week. I don't see the Sichuan items on the lunch menu.. can I just request it? Someone else is paying (and it's a large group) so I feel like I should order off the cheaper lunch menu.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MisterBill2

                                      I went a few weeks ago for lunch and it was still good. You don't have to ask for a special Sichuan menu since everything is listed on one menu but none of the Sichuan dishes are on the special lunch menu.

                                      Be careful if you order from the Sichuan section as the lower price items are just appetizers. Last time, I ordered the double cooked pork. It was not on par with the better places in Flushing but it was still good. I definitely felt the citrus notes of the Sichuan peppercorns in the dish.