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NY Magazine's "Sichuan Belt" in midtown Manhattan

erica May 17, 2013 04:36 AM

http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2013/05...

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  1. Bob Martinez May 17, 2013 06:32 AM

    They're really late to the game but I'm glad they noticed. Of course the midtown theme of the article ignores all the very good Sichuan restaurants below midtown. The Grand Sichuan mini chain (Chelsea and the West Village), Hot Kitchen, and Great Sichuan in Curry Hill.

    In midtown they left out Land of Plenty. Based on one visit it's way better than the critical darling China Cafe.

    I've said it before. There's never been a better time to eat Sichuan food in New York than right now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bob Martinez
      scoopG May 17, 2013 09:26 AM

      I was not impressed with Cafe China based on my one visit. I think Simon soured on them after a couple of trips. The Grubstreet piece is wrong about Hunan cuisine not using Sichuan peppercorns.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8062...

    2. ipsedixit May 17, 2013 11:23 AM

      I have no idea about the merits of this list, as I'm not familiar enough with the Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan, but I was at Lan Sheng a couple of weeks ago, and after reading the NY Mag article just realized it has ONE fucking Michelin star?

      Were the guys from the tire company punch drunk when they were at Lan Sheng? I mean the place is fine for what it is -- a sort of nondescript Sichuan joint with a variety of non-Sichuan disches -- but a Michelin star?

      64 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit
        k
        kathryn May 17, 2013 12:28 PM

        Welcome to the vagaries of the NYC Michelin list. :)

        1. re: ipsedixit
          Bob Martinez May 17, 2013 12:37 PM

          "a sort of nondescript Sichuan joint with a variety of non-Sichuan dishes."

          Really? I think you're selling the place short. You're making it sound like a fusion joint in a suburban shopping mall.

          I do understand that critical unanimity is rare. When Babe Ruth was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame he received 215 out of 226 votes. Eleven voters didn't think the Babe deserved to get in.

          You can't please everybody.

          1. re: Bob Martinez
            ipsedixit May 17, 2013 12:49 PM

            Never said fusion.

            Just referencing dishes like "General Tso ____" and scallion pancake and dumplings and what not along with more traditional Sichuan offings like dan dan mien and water-boiled fish.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              Bob Martinez May 17, 2013 01:22 PM

              I've never seen a Sichuan restaurant in New York that didn't throw in the occasional American Chinese dish as a sop to unadventurous diners. You can't read too much into that. As you work your way through NY Hunan and Sichuan places you'll see the same thing over and over.

              Szechuan Gourmet, just down the street, is well regarded on this board. They serve Generao Tso's chicken and sweet and sour chicken too. And chicken with broccoli. And chow fun.

              It just means they're trying to keep the take out / office delivery crowd happy.

              1. re: Bob Martinez
                ipsedixit May 17, 2013 04:36 PM

                I didn't say they were not good because they had non-Sichuan items. Just pointing it out.

                That said, their Sichuan items - at least the dan dan mien and water boiled fish - were pedestrian, at best, and certainly not worthy of a fucking Michelin star.

                If Lan Sheng gets one star, what does that make a place like Jungsik? An entire constellation?

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  Bob Martinez May 18, 2013 09:49 PM

                  Could you tell us about some NY Chinese restaurants that you think are good?

                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                    ipsedixit May 19, 2013 11:26 AM

                    No, I can't.

                    I don't usually, if at all, bother with Chinese when I'm in NY.

                    Partly because my travel limits me to Manhattan, but mostly because I get all I can handle and more in Southern CA.

                    If I had time to visit Flushing or Brooklyn, then that might change.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      guanubian May 19, 2013 07:42 PM

                      I agree with both you and Bob. I think Lan Sheng is a great restaurant, but I don't understand why it, and not many others, would earn a Michelin star, not least of which Szechuan Gourmet up the street.

                      With that said, you talk about Chinese food in Manhattan as if it's a category difference of inferiority in relation to SoCal. That might be true -- I've only been to SoCal a couple of times, and have focused there on Cambodian/Vietnamese/Korean -- but even so, 39th Street has very strong Szechuan offerings that seem worthy of note. At least in the opinion of a good many, for what it's worth.

                      1. re: guanubian
                        ipsedixit May 19, 2013 07:49 PM

                        Chinese food in Manhattan is "category difference of inferiority in relation" to Flushing.

                        Chinese food in Manhattan doesn't even deserve to be in the same category in relation to San Gabriel Valley in SoCal.

                        That said, there's so many other dining choices I'd like to explore when I'm in NYC that Chinese doesn't register a blip on the radar, unless a dining companion is insisting on it or it's a quick convenient sojourn.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          guanubian May 19, 2013 08:09 PM

                          That's true about Flushing; maybe Brooklyn too, though less. Most people here know that. Not sure how you do, since you "don't usually, if at all, bother with Chinese food... in NY".

                          It's worth pointing out that one food "scene" can be inferior to another, but still have several restaurants that would make, say, the top quintile of restaurants in that other, superior "scene". For example, the Korean scene in LA is most certainly superior to that in Queens; however, a restaurant like Sol Bawoo still would be a "very good" restaurant there.

                          I'm sure you're right about Chinese in the SGV, but I'd wager that Szechuan Gourmet and Lan Sheng would be "very good" restaurants there.

                          1. re: guanubian
                            ipsedixit May 20, 2013 07:42 AM

                            Not sure how you do, since you "don't usually, if at all, bother with Chinese food... in NY".
                            _____________________

                            I'm an investor, either directly or indirectly, in several restaurants in Flushing, and a couple in Manhattan.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              Bob Martinez May 20, 2013 09:46 AM

                              I'm not sure why being an investor in a couple of restaurants would preclude you from finding some good Chinese food in New York.

                              Michelin gave up on Los Angeles back in 2009. No wonder you're cranky.

                              http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/daily...

                              ------------------------------------
                              ETA - Even when Michelin was reviewing LA restaurants they didn't find all that much to like. 20 restaurants got stars and 31 made the Bib Gourmand list. None of them were Chinese.

                              Compare that with New York where 65 restaurants got stars and 125 made the BG list.

                              If I lived in LA I'd hate Michelin too.

                              1. re: Bob Martinez
                                ipsedixit May 20, 2013 10:16 AM

                                It's not about hating Michelin. It's just I don't understand how Lan Sheng could garner a Michelin star based on their stated criteria.

                                And as far as being an investor, that was an answer to a question by guanubian about how one could be familiar with NYC dining scene without partaking in it.

                                Look, I totally agree with you that you like Lan Sheng. I'm just saying that Lan Sheng is not very good, certainly not good enough for a 1/4 of a Michelin star, much less a full one.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  Bob Martinez May 20, 2013 10:33 AM

                                  I asked you to name some NY Chinese restaurants that you liked. You couldn't name any. Not one.

                                  Now reasonable people can disagree about a particular restaurant (although Lan Sheng is widely considered to be very good) but to be unable to name a single good Chinese restaurant in New York City is extraordinary.

                                  I think you're trying to have some fun with us.

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                                    ipsedixit May 20, 2013 11:13 AM

                                    I asked you to name some NY Chinese restaurants that you liked. You couldn't name any. Not one.
                                    _______________

                                    That's right. And I've already explained why.

                                    For a city so metropolitan, and so rich and diverse in the culinary scene, it is rather odd that the New Yorkers are so parochial, and insecure, when it comes to their Chinese.

                                    [shrug]

                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      Bob Martinez May 20, 2013 12:26 PM

                                      The Chinese food here is awful and none of us knows it? The professional critics missed it? The bloggers? The posters on CH and other food boards? Asian diners? Michelin? Nobody spotted this but you?

                                      This is pure trolling. You can have the last word - I'm done with this.

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                                        k
                                        knucklesandwich May 21, 2013 03:17 PM

                                        I'm with Bob.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez
                                          Chandavkl May 21, 2013 07:03 PM

                                          Well I'll have to side 99 percent with ipsedixit. I do like Szechuan Gourmet on 39th St., and better than any Sichuan style I've eaten in the Los Angeles area. I've been to over 300 Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, a larger number in the San Gabriel Valley, and there is, as a group, no comparison. Don't get me wrong. I love searching for Chinese food in Manhattan and some of it is quite good. But pound for pound between the two areas as a whole it's no contest. You can also ask other Angelenos, like my wife. She refused to come with me to New York this winter because she feels that the Chinese food is so unremarkable, even in Flushing. Of course, South China Garden was closed at the time, so since they've re-opened as Hong Kong Cafe, I think she'll consent to come to New York next time.

                                          1. re: Chandavkl
                                            ipsedixit May 21, 2013 07:10 PM

                                            We keep this up, and we'll soon be on the Manhattan board's most wanted list, if we're not already there as inaugural members.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                              Chandavkl May 21, 2013 07:25 PM

                                              Actually I went through it last year on this board so I'm over that. Actually, it's probably not fair to compare Manhattan and the San Gabriel Valley. If you compared Manhattan to central Los Angeles, it's a runaway for Manhattan. SGV over Flushing by a lesser margin. But Metro LA including the SGV over Metro NY beyond a reasonable doubt. (ipse's and I are lawyers).

                                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                                ipsedixit May 21, 2013 07:27 PM

                                                But Metro LA including the SGV over Metro NY beyond a reasonable doubt. (ipse's and I are lawyers).
                                                _________________

                                                That's when you ask (even beg) for a plea bargain and then promise to turn government informant.

                                            2. re: Chandavkl
                                              d
                                              diprey11 May 21, 2013 07:10 PM

                                              David--
                                              SG, as much as I love it, is not in top 5 of the best NY Sichuan restaurants. Apples to apples?

                                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                                Polecat May 21, 2013 10:55 PM

                                                SCG re-opened as the Hong Kong Cafe? When did this happen? And where are they?
                                                P

                                                1. re: Polecat
                                                  squid kun May 21, 2013 11:57 PM

                                                  Just recently, at 51 Bayard (most recently a Vietnamese place), with HK-style Western dishes alongside a shortened menu of the Cantonese stuff from Cantoon/SCG. Lau and others are on it ... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7502...

                                                  1. re: squid kun
                                                    l
                                                    Lau Jun 3, 2013 06:42 PM

                                                    re: SCG / Cafe HK - just ate there, report coming out soon...food is the same

                                                    1. re: Lau
                                                      squid kun Jun 4, 2013 10:59 AM

                                                      I went last week and had the bitter melon and ribs dish that others have tried. Really good.

                                                      Just one or two empty two-tops at dinnertime on a weekend. It's interesting they repositioned themselves as part HK-style cafe (a new partner's idea, maybe?). When I was there most tables seemed to be going with the Cantoon/South China Garden standards.

                                                      1. re: squid kun
                                                        l
                                                        Lau Jun 4, 2013 12:10 PM

                                                        i saw some of the younger customers ordering the HK cafe food while the families and old people were there for the cantonese. I'd also imagine that the HK cafe food does well at lunch

                                                2. re: Chandavkl
                                                  p
                                                  Pan May 22, 2013 12:12 AM

                                                  The main thing I see is that you say that you've been to over 300 Chinese restaurants in Manhattan and that some Chinese food in Manhattan is quite good, whereas ipsedixit said he doesn't bother with it. I fully understand not bothering with Chinese food in Manhattan if you live in Southern California (heck, I rarely bother with Mexican food here because when I visit SF, any ordinary taqueria will be as good as the best Mexican food I've had in Manhattan), but then it kind of disqualifies ipsedixit's opinion, whereas you've walked the walk and are much less likely to offend people by talking the talk. I, for one, am not offended in the slightest, and why should I be? The relative quality of Chinese food is not under my control.

                                                  I don't understand your wife, though. Does she refuse to eat any food that's not Chinese? I wouldn't understand that, either.

                                                  1. re: Pan
                                                    guanubian May 22, 2013 06:18 AM

                                                    The issue, or at least my issue, is it's stupid to discount specific restaurants here because the restaurants in general there are superior. I haven't seen anyone dispute the SGV assertion. I'm sure it's true, as Asian food on the west coast is usually superior en bloc to that on the east coast.

                                                    Same goes for Mexican, which is clearly superior in the southwestern states and California. Even so, there are some places in Brooklyn and Queens that could "hang" in those regions.

                                                    1. re: Pan
                                                      Chandavkl May 22, 2013 08:04 AM

                                                      The difference between me and ipse is that my focus is on Chinese restaurants--I'll try any Chinese restaurant once even if you tell me in advance it's not any good because I want to see for myself. Ipse on the other hand is a connoisseur of food and restaurants of all stripes. I would predict that he would have liked Chinatown Brasserie and South China Garden, and that he would like Szechwan Gourmet, Legend, Hunan Manor, Hot Kitchen and a few others. But for him to sift through hundreds of Chinese restaurants instead of a similar quantity of excellent non-Chinese restaurants in New York wouldn't be worth his trouble.

                                                      As for Mrs. Chandavkl, she's a discriminating person who enjoys non-Chinese food, but who also needs a majority of her meals to be Chinese. (This is a common phenomenon among Chinese, even Chinese Americans, which is sometimes referred to as the "Chinese stomach".) As such enduring what she considers subpar Chinese food (even though it's good enough for my tastes) doesn't offset what good non-Chinese food she might get.

                                                      1. re: Pan
                                                        ipsedixit May 22, 2013 08:52 AM

                                                        whereas ipsedixit said he doesn't bother with it. I fully understand not bothering with Chinese food in Manhattan if you live in Southern California (heck, I rarely bother with Mexican food here because when I visit SF, any ordinary taqueria will be as good as the best Mexican food I've had in Manhattan), but then it kind of disqualifies ipsedixit's opinion,
                                                        ________________________-

                                                        Here's the thing.

                                                        I was *not* comparing any Sichuan restaurant in NYC to any restaurant anywhere in the world, in Sichuan, in SGV, or in Pluto.

                                                        I tried Lan Sheng -- once -- and felt it was mediocre. Mediocre on an absolute basis -- not in comparison to other restaurants of similar ilk in Manhattan, or on Pluto. Based on my one mediocre experience I thought giving it a Michelin star was utterly stupid.

                                                        Now, how does one take that statement and say that I've diminished the NYC Chinese food scene? Maybe you can bash me for basing my experience on only one dinner -- which would be valid -- but then this is supposed to be a Michelin rated restaurant, no?

                                                        Let me reiterate: I found Lan Sheng to be mediocre. And I also feel giving it a star was stupid. That's all. Bash me for that, not for saying NYC is like the ugly step-child of SGV when it comes Chinese food.

                                                        Good grief.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                          guanubian May 22, 2013 11:30 AM

                                                          "Now, how does one take that statement and say that I've diminished the NYC Chinese food scene?"

                                                          I ain't mad atcha, but I think it was this:

                                                          "Chinese food in Manhattan is "category difference of inferiority in relation" to Flushing.

                                                          Chinese food in Manhattan doesn't even deserve to be in the same category in relation to San Gabriel Valley in SoCal."

                                                          That, coupled with the non-standard down-rating of Lan Sheng (in absolute terms) and your paradoxical admission that you don't frequent NYC Chinese restaurants, made you come across as overreaching and unknowing.

                                                          But like I said, you're probably right about SGV and I myself welcome, if not entirely accept, your viewpoint.

                                                          1. re: guanubian
                                                            ipsedixit May 22, 2013 02:51 PM

                                                            That was in response to a query by Bob Martinez.

                                                            My original point in posting was just to say Lan Sheng is mediocre and not deserving of a star.

                                                            As an aside, I wonder how many people who have tried Chinese food in both SGV and NYC still hold the opinion that NYC is not inferior to SGV.

                                                            Everyone that I know that's tried both locales come to conclusion that NYC just doesn't compare to SGV, or even San Francisco.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              Chandavkl May 22, 2013 03:06 PM

                                                              Actually there is at least one demographic that would prefer New York. I don't know if you can find a Chinese egg roll or "New York style Chinese food" in the San Gabriel Valley. And people who enjoy that particular branch of Chinese cuisine should be respected. Kind of like the article I wrote about why suburban Chinese food in places like Monterey Park, Flushing, Richmond B.C. and Richmond Hill/Markham Ont. is better than the respective urban core Chinatown, and one Chinese lady heatedly responded how much better core Chinatown Chinese food was.

                                                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                guanubian May 22, 2013 03:36 PM

                                                                That's a good point. I've worked for a very long time with a guy from Beijing. His wife has "Chinese stomach"; he, on the other hand, much prefers Chinese-American food -- General Tso-type stuff (not sure that's the best example, but I think you get what I mean).

                                                                1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                  ipsedixit May 22, 2013 05:03 PM

                                                                  I don't know if you can find a Chinese egg roll or "New York style Chinese food" in the San Gabriel Valley.

                                                                  _______________

                                                                  One would certainly hope that NYC would do "New York style Chinese food" better than not just SGV but anywhere else in the world.

                                                                  But you're right. There certainly are various regional iterations of ethnic dishes (Cashew Chicken, anyone?) that are particular and indigenous to a specific area but we can't use that to extrapolate or judge the region's quality of food when it comes to an entire genre of ethnic cuisine.

                                                                  That'd be sort of akin to saying CA does puffy bagels better than NYC ergo CA has better bagels than New York.

                                                            2. re: ipsedixit
                                                              p
                                                              Pan May 22, 2013 08:33 PM

                                                              I've never been to Lan Sheng and have no axe to grind about it, so that had nothing to do with my reaction to you.

                                                        2. re: Bob Martinez
                                                          c
                                                          chiba May 22, 2013 05:38 AM

                                                          It's not trolling and that's part of the point. So many things in Manhattan have become fossilized and if anyone dares point that out then it's ts for them.

                                                          "For a city so metropolitan, and so rich and diverse in the culinary scene, it is rather odd that the New Yorkers are so parochial, and insecure, when it comes to their Chinese."

                                                          That's been my experience too. For such a world-class city, the Chinese food is not that great. And worse, most New Yorkers have no idea. That's not a good place to be in for such a world-class city.

                                                          1. re: chiba
                                                            c
                                                            churros May 22, 2013 08:00 AM

                                                            I live in New York and am pretty happy with the Chinese food here (and in particular the Sichuan places in Manhattan - the original point of this thread). Maybe I just don't know better. I don't really care. It only matters to me whether I can get good food, not whether they're the best.

                                                            On the other hand, having spent some time browsing the LA board recently for a trip, it seems to me that people there do care (and not just about Chinese food). Many comments on how their city compares to others. This is just one of the threads I came across:
                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/894739

                                                            I also found, after posting a trip report, that Angelenos are quite defensive about In-n-Out burgers. =)

                                                            1. re: churros
                                                              Chandavkl May 22, 2013 08:06 AM

                                                              I love In-n-Out, but I also like Shake Shack. My favorite is the one that I'm eating at the time.

                                                              1. re: churros
                                                                The Chowhound Team May 22, 2013 02:09 PM

                                                                Folks, just a quick request that you focus back on discussing food, rather than on discussing other posters and their opinions of food. Thanks!

                                                              2. re: chiba
                                                                p
                                                                Pan May 22, 2013 08:36 PM

                                                                Well, I used to live in Malaysia and have also had fantastic Chinese food in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, and Singapore, not to mention London and California. I have no outsized "local pride" in New York's Chinese food. But I do think that - especially if we include Flushing - it's more diverse and more of it is good than ever.

                                                                1. re: Pan
                                                                  Peter Cuce May 22, 2013 09:09 PM

                                                                  Hear hear.

                                                                  1. re: Pan
                                                                    Chandavkl May 22, 2013 10:03 PM

                                                                    No argument from me. Chinese food continues to evolve and improve. My general rule of thumb is don't trust any Chinese restaurant more than 20 years old because the ship has passed them by. Now since New York had the best Chinese food in the US in the 1980s, it hasn't evolved and improved as much as the other centers. But people who say New York (or any other) Chinese food was better at some time in the past are silly.

                                                                    1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                      p
                                                                      Pan May 22, 2013 10:39 PM

                                                                      I think New York Chinese food has changed a great deal since the 80s. On topic for this thread, there is much more Sichuan food, and more of it is good. There are also the beginnings of a Hunanese food scene. And the diversity in Flushing blossoms apace - for example, there are several Dongbei restaurants, and I'm not sure there were any in the Five Boroughs in the 80s. Also, in Manhattan, I believe there's much more Fuzhounese food than there was in the 80s.

                                                                      1. re: Pan
                                                                        guanubian May 23, 2013 07:27 AM

                                                                        Re Fuzhou -- absolutely. The armpit of Manhattan's Chinatown -- the East Broadway F Train area -- is packed to the gills with Fuzhou businesses.

                                                                        1. re: Pan
                                                                          ipsedixit May 23, 2013 07:56 AM

                                                                          My family owned several Chinese restaurants in Queens during the 70s/80s, and while the scene has changed, I'm not sure the food is better or more diverse considering the increased number of Chinese/Taiwanese/Hong Kong immigrants in NYC and the Boroughs.

                                                                          Back then, of course there were fewer Chinese restaurants, and less diversity overall, but then there were fewer Chinese immigrants. Now, the Chinese population has increased, but the number and scope of Chinese restaurants has not increased at a similar pace.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                            Chandavkl May 23, 2013 08:01 AM

                                                                            I didn't make it to Flushing until the mid 90s so I don't know what it looked like in the 70s and 80s. But from what I read the influx of "Mainlanders" since then has changed the face of Flushing, such that I'm not sure it's the same place, much like how the Fujianese have changed Manhattan Chinatown.

                                                                            1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                              ipsedixit May 23, 2013 08:03 AM

                                                                              Oh yeah, it is *very* different.

                                                                              Just like Monterey Park back in the 80s is nothing like it is today. Nothing.

                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                              Peter Cuce May 23, 2013 04:26 PM

                                                                              Huh? Are you only talking about Manhattan? I know nothing about the Southern California Chinese scene, so can't compare to that, but this assertion is just not true. Chinese people I've met who grew up in Flushing tell me that it's unrecognizable from back then. My Flushing history only extends back to the early 2000s, but it has changed a lot in that amount of time.

                                                                              And Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown is exploding, extending down every side street from 40th St to 75th St and up and down avenues on both sides of 8th. My prediction is that this will end up being the biggest Chinatown in NYC in say five years time. The influx appears to be predominantly Fujianese, and I haven't had tons of good eats there, but there is one quite good hotpot restaurant and I'm sure other undiscovered things.

                                                                              There are at least 10, probably more like 15-20 Dongbei (or just Northern) restaurants in Flushing, most of which opened in the last few years, at least 10 Yanbian restaurants, all of which opened in a similar time frame, the New World Mall, which admittedly doesn't have much good food but has a stellar Sichuan stall and some other random goodies, a couple of pretty good Shanghai spot on southern Main St that opened in the last 6 months, a small handful of Hunan restaurants in the last few years, a Henan restaurant, the Golden Mall, and innumerable other things.

                                                                              1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                p
                                                                                Pan May 23, 2013 05:02 PM

                                                                                There's also delicious Chinese food in Bay Ridge. I'm not an expert on Brooklyn Chinatowns, but I get the feeling there may be 3 or 4 by now, as Bensonhurst is also increasingly Chinese.

                                                                                1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                  ipsedixit May 23, 2013 06:54 PM

                                                                                  Did you even understand what I said?

                                                                                  I didn't say there weren't Chinese restaurants in Manhattan or the Boroughs.

                                                                                  Rather, my point is that the the number of restaurants have not kept pace with the number of immigrants.

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                    Peter Cuce May 23, 2013 10:31 PM

                                                                                    Did you even understand what I said? I wasn't agreeing with you.

                                                                                    1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                      ipsedixit May 24, 2013 07:44 AM

                                                                                      Yes. And neither was I with you.

                                                                          2. re: Pan
                                                                            s
                                                                            sugartoof May 23, 2013 02:13 AM

                                                                            Not to defend the idea that there's no good Chinese food in New York.... but as long as Mission Chinese Food is considered one of the top dogs, I'd say there's some cracks in the foundation. I agree it is more diverse than ever, at least.

                                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                                              Chandavkl May 23, 2013 07:43 AM

                                                                              Especially with recent additions.

                                                                              http://www.menuism.com/blog/manhattan...

                                                                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                                s
                                                                                sugartoof May 23, 2013 12:02 PM

                                                                                Exactly, but strangely enough it feels like more of a challenge to find something as simple as a really good lo mein dish right now.

                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                        b
                                                                        burton May 21, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                        As you may have noticed, some folks have a tough time accepting views that differ from their own. While I'm frankly inclined to agree with the OP when it comes to the depth and quality of the best Chinese food available in and around NYC, I find your take pretty interesting. So take heart. We've got your back. You said it best...[shrug].

                                                                        1. re: burton
                                                                          ipsedixit May 21, 2013 03:15 PM

                                                                          Thanks burton.

                                                                          What's odd is that I wasn't even trying to diss NYC. In fact, I get a culinary hard-on every time I visit the city.

                                                                          All I tried to say, perhaps not effectively, is this:

                                                                          1. Michelin must've been on crack when it awarded Lan Sheng a star -- at least based on my one experience there.

                                                                          2. I don't bother with Chinese food in NYC (at least Manhattan) because where I come from, SoCal, the Chinese food scene teems with so much vibrancy and diversity that if I tried a moonlight excursion or too with another city I'd feel like I was masturbating on my own time when I'm married to Jessica Alba while at the same time cheating on her with Mila Kunis.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                            b
                                                                            burton May 21, 2013 03:20 PM

                                                                            One thing on which we definitely can agree is that SoCal sets a very high bar when it comes to Chinese (and Korean as well). I never cease to come away seriously impressed.

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                              squid kun May 21, 2013 04:09 PM

                                                                              >I'd feel like I was masturbating on my own time when I'm married to Jessica Alba while at the same time cheating on her with Mila Kunis.

                                                                              Ah - that hot, buzzy ma la sensation ...

                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                d
                                                                                diprey11 May 21, 2013 06:14 PM

                                                                                Michelin is not into Asian food, yet I am sure it would competently judge your dou-gan au poivrer. OTOH, Chinese food is much like European food: which kind do you like the most?

                                                                                It is true (AFAIK) that certain kinds of Chinese food in NYC are just not good enough compared to CA, let alone their original location.

                                                                                Yeah, I know it's controversial, meaning that an average ego can't handle it. BUT... No matter how you slice it, the Cantonese food or a Shanghai-area food is just not good enough here; Dong Bei is great. Sichuan is OK. Happy with what you got? Good for you! Have an ego, want to argue? But of course, please do!

                                                                                If it's stir-fried and it's red and peppery, it's gotta be Sichuan, right? Welcome to Lan Sheng! Meh...

                                                      2. re: Bob Martinez
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                                                        plf515 May 24, 2013 03:42 AM

                                                        In a recent visit to the 56th street branch of Szechuan Gourmet I saw two Chinese people eating sweet and sour - well, something, it was hard to tell from my table.

                                                    2. re: Bob Martinez
                                                      Peter Cuce May 17, 2013 04:58 PM

                                                      I think what Ipsedizit is saying Bob, is that if Lan Sheng gets a Michelin star, what about all the better Asian restaurants elsewhere, in Flushing say?

                                                      Personally I'm not a Jungsik fan but I get what you mean.

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                                                    christy319 May 23, 2013 01:54 PM

                                                    So back to the article...

                                                    Do people generally still think it's better to go out to Spicy and Tasty, or are some of the places listed on Grub Street as good?

                                                    I'm having a hard time finding any kind of consensus. There are posters here that say S&T is no good anymore, but I also can't find a consensus that one of these midtown places is amazing. I'm at the Affinia Dumont all next week and planned to go to S&T, but La Vie and Cafe China are so close to my hotel...(I've been to Szechuan Gourmet).

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: christy319
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                                                      churros May 23, 2013 02:30 PM

                                                      I can't offer a recent opinion on Spicy & Tasty since I haven't gone in at least 2-3 years (pretty much ever since all these places in Midtown opened up). At that time, I felt that these Manhattan places were good enough to not bother going out to Flushing anymore, at least for Szechuan food.

                                                      This is my mini-rundown of some of the places in the article.
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8740...

                                                      Since then, I have visited La Vie once or twice and thought the food didn't measure up to Lan Sheng and Szechuan Gourmet. I also had one not-good experience at Cafe China a couple of months ago (consistent with some downhill reports here) where the food was overly sweet. I haven't gone back since so I'm not sure if it's truly gone downhill.

                                                      I'd stick with Lan Sheng and Szechuan Gourmet which are also a reasonable walk from your hotel. Or if you want to try Hunan food, I think Hunan Manor is really good.

                                                      1. re: christy319
                                                        guanubian May 23, 2013 02:51 PM

                                                        I've been to S&T recently. I have not sensed that it has gotten worse over time, though others who have gone more frequently might disagree. Even if so, it's great. (The troop of first-timers I brought, which included someone who is normally underwhelmed by Chinese food, agreed.) Is it so great that you should schlep to Flushing when you have recourse to the 39th Street stroll? Reasonable people will differ.

                                                        1. re: guanubian
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                                                          christy319 May 23, 2013 03:20 PM

                                                          Thanks--good to hear. Every trip we say we will, then we never do; I think this time we really have to.

                                                          1. re: christy319
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                                                            christy319 Jun 2, 2013 03:57 PM

                                                            We made it to S&T and it was worth it. Actually it was no trouble at all to get there--the ride went pretty fast and the restaurant is so close to the train. And since it's mostly above ground, it's kind of a fun ride for us tourists. I'd read reviews and have seen they have a dish that's often called something often called "water boiled fish" or "fish in water", which is my very favorite Szechuan dish, but after asking 3 people, no one knew what we were talking about. But they pointed us to the fish with peppers, which came on a bed of cabbage and the spicy red sauce, and that was close enough and delicious. It's too bad it was only my husband and I--we ordered 4 things but it would have been better to get more. But 2 of the things at least were memorable, while on my last visit to Szechuan Gourmet, we went with a group, ordered a lot, and while it was good it wasn't memorable or better than what we have here in the Seattle area. So I'm very glad we trekked to S&T and I'd encourage other visitors to also.

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                                                        Pookipichu May 24, 2013 11:19 AM

                                                        Szechuan Gourmet turns out some very good food. While the state of Chinese cuisine in New York is far from perfect or near the level of Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, etc.. The quality of cooking in NY is nothing to be ashamed of and this is not a "parochial" defense of Chinese food in NY. I've eaten Chinese food extensively in CA, up and down the coast, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Asia, Paris, etc. Biang, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao are exemplary for the price. Hunan Kitchen, Hunan Manor, Spicy Tasty, Szechuan Gourmet, Amazing 66, Red Farm, Mission Chinese, Imperial Palace turn out excellent mid-level cuisine, Hakkasan has amazingly talented chefs as does Pearl East (Banquet/Chef's tasting ONLY, not a la carte). The produce is generally REALLY good in CA so there is a natural advantage but New York has some really wonderful Chinese restaurants. The food at Hakkasan is really top notch and considering that it's no longer mostly empty (Thanks for the death watch Ruth Reichl *eye roll*), Chinese people are eating there despite the poor reviews from American food critics.

                                                        70 Replies
                                                        1. re: Pookipichu
                                                          Chandavkl May 24, 2013 11:49 AM

                                                          Hakkasan has also already opened up in Las Vegas and San Francisco and I'm eagerly looking forward to their Los Angeles opening this summer. Only question is whether I'll have to take out a second mortgage in anticipation of my visit.

                                                          1. re: Chandavkl
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                                                            Pookipichu May 24, 2013 12:05 PM

                                                            It's really not that expensive (compared to other high-end restaurants) it's just expensive compared to your average Chinese restaurant in New York. There's the rub. Gotham Bar and Grill runs me about the same tab and there's no belly aching about it or any number of other European/American restaurants Or Japanese, I spent much more at 15 East and Tori Shin ($5 skewers seem inexpensive but they add up) :)

                                                            Wing Lei in LV is more expensive for example and I would give the edge to Hakkasan.

                                                            My family, not wealthy, celebrated Mother's day at Hakkasan this month and the bill for 5 people came to $300 (including tax and tip) Expensive but less than 1 person dining at Per Se. Granted none of us drink alcohol, but we were stuffed. The foie gras shrimp toast is decadent and the jasmine smoked ribs are sticky and meaty. Their 3 cup chicken is a stellar rendition, sha cha toban seafood was perfectly cooked and the platter was sizzling beautifully. What I like most about Hakkasan is that you can pick very distinctly flavored dishes as opposed to some restaurants where the flavor profiles and sauces are very similar.

                                                            1. re: Pookipichu
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                                                              Dave Feldman Jun 5, 2013 08:47 PM

                                                              I haven't been to Hakkasan myself, but a famous chef I spoke to once said that he loves to go there for the fried rice, the best he's ever had in North America.

                                                              1. re: Dave Feldman
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                                                                Pookipichu Jun 6, 2013 12:26 PM

                                                                The fried rice with crispy fish is really really delicious

                                                          2. re: Pookipichu
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                                                            sugartoof May 24, 2013 11:55 AM

                                                            That's a solid list, but a lot of them are turning out food that's barely above the quality of a generic neighborhood place, and do not warrant the accolades. If you came to New York expecting something exceptional, you're not going to find it at somewhere like Lan Sheng by ordering off the menu blindly. The knife skills, ingredients, saucing, are pretty pedestrian.

                                                            I think the difference is, in California, most places do all their dishes at about the same level (meaning, a mediocre meal isn't the fault of your own expertise ordering) and it's notable when that's not the case. Produce is no longer a major factor, and it shouldn't be. At places like Amazing 66 or Szechuan Gourmet, I take issue with the quality of meat cuts as much as I do the freshness of their vegetables. I think the turnover in chefs and sporadic corner cutting for profit margins just effects NY places far more than on the West Coast.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof
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                                                              Pookipichu May 24, 2013 12:14 PM

                                                              I agree, you can't order blindly. There are a lot of landmines on the Chinese menus in New York, also, between rent and labor expenses, cost-cutting/corner cutting is more of a problem in New York. Far from perfect, but there's some really good-great Chinese food in New York.

                                                              1. re: Pookipichu
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                                                                sugartoof May 24, 2013 01:41 PM

                                                                I've had what I consider better than good-great in NY. I've also been served near garbage disguised as Chinese food on the West Coast, where it's not uncommon to see places catering almost exclusively to Chinese with lines out the door, just because it's cheap. Luckily those are dwindling.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                                  Chandavkl May 24, 2013 04:50 PM

                                                                  Found out the hard way during my first trip to NY Chinatown back in the 80s when NY Chinese food ruled over California. Went to this place on Bayard called Kam Bo Rice Shoppe that was packed to the gills. We thought " this must be great". Wrong, we found it was packed because they served portions of cheap food.

                                                                  1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                    ipsedixit May 24, 2013 06:51 PM

                                                                    Cheap will always sell. No matter the cuisine.

                                                                    If you want to talk Chinese + Cheap, then look no further than Phoenix, which in my estimation must be the epicenter of AYCE Chinese Buffets on a per capita basis.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
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                                                                      sugartoof May 24, 2013 07:09 PM

                                                                      In any case, it seems like there's an increase in quality on the lower end. Vanessa's and Xian are a good example of lower end places that are good quality (to name two safe options amongst an endless list). Based on that low end the $12-18 entree places should be a lot more skilled. Obviously it doesn't always work that way, Chinese food, or otherwise.

                                                              2. re: sugartoof
                                                                Bob Martinez May 24, 2013 12:38 PM

                                                                Tell me more about "knife skills" at Chinese restaurants.

                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                                  MVNYC Jun 3, 2013 09:11 PM

                                                                  Yes, I am curious as well

                                                                  1. re: MVNYC
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                                                                    sugartoof Jun 3, 2013 11:17 PM

                                                                    Anyone else care to answer them and explain what the phrase "knife skills" refers to?

                                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                                      Bob Martinez Jun 4, 2013 06:32 AM

                                                                      "Anyone else care to answer them and explain what the phrase "knife skills" refers to?"

                                                                      Since you raised the issue of knife skills I figured you'd be the logical person to answer it.

                                                                      Knife skills tend to be associated with sushi restaurants, not Chinese places. The chefs at Benihana have knife skills too.

                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                                        ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 07:15 AM

                                                                        Knife skills are often an important, but overlooked, aspect of Chinese cooking.

                                                                        On a macro-level, you cannot stir-fry properly if your vegetables and/or meat are not cut into similar shaped sizes and shapes. They will not cook properly if surface areas vary too significantly. Some will contend that there is also a taste issue when one bite has a large slice of (for example) celery and another has a smaller one.

                                                                        Also, on a micro-level, since so much of proper Chinese food is about plating, incorrectly or inartfully cut food just looks bad. And, I'm not talking about making flowers from kiwis like you find on cruise ship centerpieces, either.

                                                                        Then there's things for spices and "mince chopping" things like chives or cabbage for dumplings, baos, etc. You *have* to do this by hand. Doing it by, ahem, food processor gives you mushy filling. Not a good thing.

                                                                        There also things you simply cannot use a food processor for -- e.g. cubing tofu (for example 醡醬麵) or deveining and butterflying shrimp, etc.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                          Bob Martinez Jun 4, 2013 08:02 AM

                                                                          All that makes perfect sense but I haven't noticed it being an issue at NY Chinese restaurants. It doesn't seem to come up on either the Manhattan or Outer Boroughs board.

                                                                        2. re: Bob Martinez
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                                                                          sugartoof Jun 4, 2013 11:31 AM

                                                                          Bob, having knife skills is pretty important for most any cuisine. If you thought the term only had relevance with sushi, you're mistaken.

                                                                  2. re: sugartoof
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                                                                    chiba May 24, 2013 02:22 PM

                                                                    "I take issue with the quality of meat cuts as much as I do the freshness of their vegetables. I think the turnover in chefs and sporadic corner cutting for profit margins just effects NY places far more than on the West Coast."

                                                                    Precisely, couldn't have said it better. Thanks sugartoof!

                                                                    Quality... that's my issue. This has nothing to do with authenticity or style, but if a restaurant is serving a humble eggroll, it should be a worthy one. But too often in Manhattan, it isn't. The average Chinese restaurant in NY just doesn't strive for levels of quality that you find in Boston or Montreal, for example. The standards in NY have just dropped so low.

                                                                    1. re: chiba
                                                                      Bob Martinez May 24, 2013 02:53 PM

                                                                      Where do you live?

                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
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                                                                        chiba May 24, 2013 02:57 PM

                                                                        Manhattan.

                                                                      2. re: chiba
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                                                                        Pan May 24, 2013 07:03 PM

                                                                        The standards in New York have dropped? Compared to when?

                                                                        I do agree with the problems itemized in the comment you quote from. I couldn't disagree more with the idea that standards for Chinese food have dropped in New York.

                                                                        Also, I haven't been to Boston or Montreal lately, but their average Chinese restaurant is of better quality than the ones in New York? That surprises me.

                                                                        1. re: Pan
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                                                                          Pookipichu May 24, 2013 07:35 PM

                                                                          Not in my opinion regarding Montreal. I can't speak for Boston as I haven't been in years but I went to some of Montreal's best Chinese restaurants and while it was nice to spend time with relatives, the food was unimpressive.

                                                                          1. re: Pan
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                                                                            chiba May 24, 2013 07:42 PM

                                                                            That's the point. New York is a great city, but it cannot be assumed that just because NYC is great that its Chinese restaurants are great. The average Chinese restaurant in Boston or Montreal is far superior to the average Chinese restaurant in NYC. NY Chinese restaurants on the average are not that great and New Yorkers don't seem to mind.

                                                                            1. re: chiba
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                                                                              sugartoof May 24, 2013 07:48 PM

                                                                              I generally agree. I've been having better Chinese food outside of NY lately.

                                                                              I think there's more regional diversity represented though, and if I think back to the best Chinese meals I've ever had, it's been in NY.

                                                                              1. re: sugartoof
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                                                                                chiba May 25, 2013 01:08 PM

                                                                                I do agree that's more regional diversity represented lately and that's encouraging.

                                                                              2. re: chiba
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                                                                                Pan May 24, 2013 08:00 PM

                                                                                I'm not assuming anything. I've had good Chinese food in Boston (nothing impressive in Montreal's then-small Chinatown, when I was there in 1996), but I find the idea that the average level of Chinese food is superior in those two cities surprising; that's all.

                                                                                Meanwhile, since when do you think the standard of Chinese food in New York has dropped? Name the year, please, because I remember back to the late 60s (though I was very young then), and I would strongly state that the standard is higher now than ever.

                                                                                1. re: Pan
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                                                                                  chiba May 25, 2013 01:14 PM

                                                                                  NY Noodletown is an excellent case in point... Despite the hype and Bourdain blessing, it sucked when I went recently. Maybe it was great many years ago...

                                                                                  1. re: chiba
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                                                                                    Pan May 25, 2013 03:03 PM

                                                                                    My brother and sister-in-law went recently and gave a scathing report. It may have suddenly gone downhill, but not years ago. It was fine the last time I went several months ago.

                                                                                    1. re: chiba
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                                                                                      Lau Jun 3, 2013 06:55 PM

                                                                                      just to chime in on NY Noodletown. its very inconsistent when its on its pretty good but when its off it can be really crap except their congee which is almost always on

                                                                                      1. re: Lau
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                                                                                        Pan Jun 3, 2013 09:09 PM

                                                                                        My brother and sister-in-law said they got noodle soup with chicken stock made from rotten chicken, an unforgivable mistake of commission, in their opinion.

                                                                                    2. re: Pan
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                                                                                      sugartoof May 25, 2013 01:12 AM

                                                                                      I was under the impression there's some competent Malaysian food here. Vietnamese could use some work though. The lack of Burmese is still a mystery. Still, Chinese food is supported by multiple Chinatowns, and longer ties to NY.

                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof
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                                                                                        Pan May 25, 2013 03:52 AM

                                                                                        I have yet to go to any truly good Malaysian restaurant in New York, whereas when I was in London in 2010, I went to a place in their Chinatown which local hounds judged to be only second best, and the food tasted like what I could have had at stalls in Malaysia. I'll try the new place called Mamak in Flushing some time next week, though, probably, but if it's only 1/3 as good as that place in London, I'll be relatively satisfied, for New York. Malaysian food is very weak here.

                                                                                        1. re: Pan
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                                                                                          sugartoof May 25, 2013 11:36 AM

                                                                                          I'm going mainly by what Malaysian friends have said, I'm not an expert by any means. They were satisfied with the offerings. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have more options.

                                                                                          I agree there are a lot of glaring holes cuisine wise. It's probably another topic entirely.

                                                                                          1. re: sugartoof
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                                                                                            Pan May 25, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                                            Where were your Malaysian friends satisfied?

                                                                                            1. re: Pan
                                                                                              s
                                                                                              sugartoof May 25, 2013 07:40 PM

                                                                                              I think we're talked about this before. Nyonya was authentic and good, in their book (at least the Malay dishes).

                                                                                        2. re: sugartoof
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                                                                                          chiba May 25, 2013 01:05 PM

                                                                                          Agreed. Vietnamese is virtually non-existent in Manhattan, how can that be in a world-class city? Vietnamese is one of the trending cuisines of the 21st century and Manhattan is way behind the times. Boston, on the other hand, has several excellent Vietnamese places.

                                                                                          Burmese is another case in point. I can't think of a single place in Manhattan. Boston has Yo Ma, authentic and amazing!

                                                                                          And then there's Korean... Outside of Koreatown, where's it's very hit or miss, it's really hard to find...

                                                                                          1. re: chiba
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                                                                                            sugartoof May 25, 2013 01:46 PM

                                                                                            We have Vietnamese, it's just absurdly inferior.

                                                                                            1. re: chiba
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                                                                                              Pan May 25, 2013 03:05 PM

                                                                                              Boy are you ever wrong about Korean food! There's loads of it in Queens! I mean, OK, if you want to limit yourself to Manhattan, but if you're willing to go to Boston, do you hesitate to take the 7 train?

                                                                                        3. re: chiba
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                                                                                          churros May 24, 2013 08:30 PM

                                                                                          You may very well be right that Chinese restaurants in New York City are not as good as those in Boston or Montreal. I don't know myself as I haven't eaten extensively in those cities.

                                                                                          But it would be helpful to understand your point of reference. Could you give examples of Chinese places in NYC that you've been to? Are you going to places like Ollie's or places like Szechuan Gourmet?

                                                                                          And when you say NYC, are you including 1) the Chinatowns, and 2) the outer boroughs? I ask, because you mention the humble egg roll which I generally associate with Americanized Chinese food and not the more authentic Chinese food that I think most people on this thread are discussing.

                                                                                          1. re: churros
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                                                                                            chiba May 25, 2013 12:56 PM

                                                                                            When I say NY, I mean Manhattan for this discussion. Places I've been to on the UES have been forgettable to bad, for example. Very disappointing and at first, surprising, in such a great city.

                                                                                            If it's Chinese-American food or Chinese regional cuisine, it is what it is and it's all good for me, but it has to be good for what it aims to be and on the average it isn't.

                                                                                            1. re: chiba
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                                                                                              Pan May 25, 2013 03:06 PM

                                                                                              My girlfriend and I had a delicious meal at Wa Jeal last December, so even the Upper East Side is not devoid of good Chinese food.

                                                                                              1. re: chiba
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                                                                                                churros May 26, 2013 06:21 AM

                                                                                                Okay, I can see why you have a negative view of Chinese food in New York if you've been mainly eating at places in the UES. But I have to say, it's not really fair to make generalizations about New York Chinese food if you haven't eaten extensively in the Chinatowns.

                                                                                                I used to spend a lot of time in the UES and the only Chinese place I would order from was Wu Liang Ye on 86th Street (which closed a few years ago). It was an okay Sichuan restaurant. It certainly wasn't that great in comparison to the other Sichuan joints in Manhattan at the time (and the Sichuan landscape has gotten a lot better since then), let alone the Chinese places in Manhattan Chinatown, let alone the places in the outer boroughs.

                                                                                                For whatever reason, you keep on using the words "world-class city" and the quality of Chinese food seems to be very important to you in judging whether a city is worthy (I’m not sure why as every city has strengths and weaknesses). But I think you really have to try out the better Chinese places here. Do a search on this board. There are a lot of good tips.

                                                                                                1. re: churros
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                                                                                                  sugartoof May 26, 2013 10:56 AM

                                                                                                  Not to discount your larger point, but had they came here and done just that, asking for suggestions of better Chinese places, we can guess what would have been named:
                                                                                                  Mission Chinese Food, and then some of the places mentioned in this "Sichuan Belt" article.

                                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof
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                                                                                                    churros May 26, 2013 07:05 PM

                                                                                                    I haven't been to Mission Chinese but certainly I would recommend the Sichuan places. I guess you don't like them? Those aren't the only places recommended on this board anyway. Plenty of discussion of spots in Manhattan Chinatown as well as those in the outer boroughs.

                                                                                                    1. re: churros
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                                                                                                      sugartoof May 27, 2013 12:26 AM

                                                                                                      I don't dislike them, I think by and large they're just okay and a lot of hype. I've had exceptional meals at a couple of them...and then I couldn't duplicate anything close to as good on return visits. I've tried ordering different ways, and even given up entirely on Lan Sheng as having gone downhill, when there was a point where I was recommending it.

                                                                                                      1. re: sugartoof
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                                                                                                        churros May 27, 2013 04:56 AM

                                                                                                        I can relate to the consistency issue. I've had bad meals at every one of these places and it was frustrating because I knew the kitchens were capable of putting out great food.

                                                                                                        But ever since I learned that Monday is a common day off for Chinese chefs (this may very well be common knowledge but I just found this out a year or so ago), I've stopped ordering on Mondays and those issues have all but gone away for me. I also try to avoid Tuesdays just in case.

                                                                                                        Lan Sheng is a prime example. Early on, I had really fantastic meals that surpassed Szechuan Gourmet's but then I would have a couple of pretty bad ones. Since there continued to be good reviews, I never completely gave up on Lan Sheng and then the whole consistency issue went away when I stopped ordering on Mon/Tues. Lan Sheng is my current favorite of the bunch.

                                                                                                        Besides Lan Sheng, the above pertains to Hunan Manor, Szechuan Gourmet, and Cafe China. (Though possible downhill alert for Cafe China - my recent bad experience matches those reported by others.) And I only order the more traditional/authentic dishes and not the Americanized Chinese ones in case that matters.

                                                                                            2. re: chiba
                                                                                              Peter Cuce May 24, 2013 09:00 PM

                                                                                              The average Chinese restaurant in Boston or Montreal is far superior to the average Chinese restaurant in NYC.
                                                                                              ============================
                                                                                              Disagree. Can you provide some examples?

                                                                                              1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                Chandavkl May 24, 2013 09:38 PM

                                                                                                I'm with you. I've often heard about Bostonians coming to New York with a principal purpose of sampling Chinese food. You don't ever hear about New Yorkers going to Boston to do that. Haven't been to Montreal in 5 years, but it would have had to rapidly improve in that period to catch New York. Now if someone said Houston, that would be more believable as there is some really good Chinese food there.

                                                                                                1. re: Chandavkl
                                                                                                  ipsedixit May 24, 2013 09:41 PM

                                                                                                  Boston Chinese food is on par with San Diego Chinese food.

                                                                                                  But certainly better than DC.

                                                                                          2. re: chiba
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                                                                                            rattango May 25, 2013 03:35 PM

                                                                                            Can you suggest a really good Chinese restaurant in Boston as a point of contrast? I am from there and go back to visit a lot. Honestly, I cannot say I have found any place there that compares with places in Queens. Or many in Manhattan, for that matter..

                                                                                            I would disagree with your final premise. After spending the last three years in Hong Kong, I think all Chinese food in NYC is much improved since I left, except, sadly, Cantonese cuisine.

                                                                                            A lot of this is personal taste. I know.

                                                                                            But I would seriously appreciate any recommendation for a great Chinese place in Boston.

                                                                                            1. re: rattango
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                                                                                              chiba May 25, 2013 07:40 PM

                                                                                              For a worthy Cantonese meal that doesn't aim to be fancy try the Best Little Restaurant on Hudson St. Despite it's name, it's a good unprepossessing "average" Boston Cantonese restaurant. But after just a few bites you will be able to tell how much more effort they put into things than the "average" Manhattan Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                              If New Yorkers (and remember, I'm focussing on Manhattan here - and yes I understand that there is worthy Chinese food in the outer boroughs) went to Boston (or plenty of other cities) to sample some average Chinese food like that served at BLR then maybe they would begin to understand what they're missing and perhaps hold NYC restaurants to a higher standard.

                                                                                              1. re: chiba
                                                                                                Peter Cuce May 25, 2013 08:27 PM

                                                                                                Your entire argument is muddled and confusing. What does "average" even mean in this circumstance? Why would you possibly conflate Chinese-American restaurants with Chinese restaurants in the discussion we're having here? You pick one Boston restaurant as the standard bearer for the supposed average of Chinese food in that city and then say that some random "average" Chinese restaurant in Manhattan is not as good as that one and therefore, Chinese food in NYC is worse than Boston.

                                                                                                1. re: chiba
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                                                                                                  churros May 26, 2013 06:39 AM

                                                                                                  You're comparing a Cantonese restaurant in Boston Chinatown (that is well-regarded on the Chowhound board - I did a quick search) with a likely below-average Chinese American place in the UES (I'm guessing based on your posts upthread)?

                                                                                                  Your argument is pretty flawed.

                                                                                                  Also, New Yorkers who do care about having better Chinese food put a little effort and travel to other parts of the city and the outer boroughs.

                                                                                                  1. re: churros
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                                                                                                    Pookipichu May 26, 2013 07:38 AM

                                                                                                    I don't get invested in debates like that because sometimes people are insistent that "x" cuisine in NY is awful compared to "b" city. Enough of us who are from other places than NY or travel have our own reference points. And if you don't travel, it makes no difference because you are stuck with what you have. In any event, I was eating the ginger scallion fish at Hunan kitchen yesterday and there is not a single restaurant in SGV that has produced a more delicious plate of food for $4.75 that I've been to. Half my US relatives live in California, I'd be the first to bemoan the state of Chinese food in NYC if there was no good Chinese food here. That's just not true. Especially when it comes to things like Peking duck in LA...

                                                                                                  2. re: chiba
                                                                                                    E Eto May 26, 2013 07:22 AM

                                                                                                    I'll echo that your argument is very suspect based on spurious evidence. One point of weakness in your argument is assuming that NYC=Manhattan. Well, guess what, NYC is comprised of 5 boroughs that, combined, make it a world-class city. Try getting out to Flushing or Sunset Park and make some discoveries out there before generalizing. Or, OK, let's make the playing field a little more even. Let's consider Boston, but let's exclude Revere, or Brookline, or anything outside of route 128, because that's really not part of the city of Boston, and let's also exclude Dorchester, because people don't really go there, and let's compare the cities' cuisines.

                                                                                                    Also, by "average" Chinese in Boston, do you count those places that give you a dinner roll with your meal?

                                                                                                    1. re: E Eto
                                                                                                      b
                                                                                                      Bkeats Jun 3, 2013 01:11 PM

                                                                                                      This. In my first experience at a chinese restaurant in Boston, I got dinner rolls instead of rice. All I could think was WTF? Food was absolute crap. Guess the dinner roll was an indicator.

                                                                                                2. re: chiba
                                                                                                  KWagle Jun 6, 2013 02:59 AM

                                                                                                  I live in Boston and travel to DC regularly for Chinese food. I can't say anything about the "average Chinese restaurant" because I don't eat that kind of stuff.

                                                                                                  We have several Sichuan restaurants in Boston, in particular Red Pepper, Sichuan Gourmet, and Chilli Garden. We also have several excellent Taiwanese places, including Taiwan Cafe, Jo Jo Taipei, and MuLan. I'm not enough of a Taiwanese food expert to recommend you travel for those, though the food I've had there is excellent. Best Little Restaurant certainly gets a lot of love on CH, but I've never been there. But the three Sichuan restaurants I can wholeheartedly recommend you travel four hours to dine at, especially Red Pepper.

                                                                                                  In DC there are two excellent Sichuan restaurants, Sichuan Jin River and the poorly-named (in English) "Hong Kong Palace," as well as Hunan Taste in Catonsville and most notably Grace Garden in Odenton. Both HT and GG are also easily worth a trip from NYC.

                                                                                                  The only place in NYC (that remains open--Northeast Taste and Sichuan Dynasty closed long ago) I've enjoyed enough to warrant a return trip is Xi'an/Biang! --but we have an excellent, though tiny, Shaanxi place north of Boston now. I'd certainly like to try Spicy and Tasty again, but not so much that I've actually made the effort.

                                                                                                  I've sampled many of the (NYC) Sichuan restaurants as well as one Hunan restaurant mentioned on CH, and none of them have come close to making me want to drive the four hours to NYC, when we have all those choices, and when there's Hunan Taste and especially Grace Garden only four hours further away.

                                                                                                  1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                    ipsedixit Jun 6, 2013 03:53 AM

                                                                                                    You lost me when you actually said you "travel to DC regularly for Chinese food".

                                                                                                    Thats sort of like a person saying they travel to the Gobi regularly for ice cubes.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                      KWagle Jun 6, 2013 07:32 AM

                                                                                                      You've never been to Grace Garden, have you?

                                                                                                      GG is qualitatively different, and better than any other Chinese I've had, and I'd call it a great restaurant period if you can get past the idea that a great restaurant has to serve food in the European tradition. Hunan Taste is equally good, though quite different in character. You might want to read some of the threads on the DC board if you don't believe me.

                                                                                                      1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                        ipsedixit Jun 6, 2013 07:40 AM

                                                                                                        Cantonsville and Odenton aren't really DC. Well, actually, they just are not DC, period. Nothing really or not really about it.

                                                                                                        Yes, I know they are part of the DC board here on geographic-illiterate Chowhound, but those 2 cities are in Maryland. Call me captious, but geography is what it is.

                                                                                                        I think it would've been more apt if you had subbed "DC" with "the 'burbs of Baltimore" in your post.

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                          KWagle Jun 6, 2013 11:57 PM

                                                                                                          I think "captious" is exactly the right word.

                                                                                                          Would you have been less rude in dismissing Hunan Taste and Grace Garden if I had said "Odenton" and "Catonsville"?

                                                                                                          1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                            ipsedixit Jun 7, 2013 12:04 AM

                                                                                                            Nope.

                                                                                                    2. re: KWagle
                                                                                                      scoopG Jun 6, 2013 03:58 AM

                                                                                                      Thanks KWagle. Are the Sichuan and Taiwanese restaurants you cited in Boston proper or within the greater Metro area?

                                                                                                      The thing is with all these places you have to keep re-visiting them. Chefs come and go; new places open up and old ones re-invent themselves.

                                                                                                      1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                        KWagle Jun 6, 2013 07:33 AM

                                                                                                        Most of them are not inside the city limits of Boston, but aside from the Shaanxi place (Gene's Flatbread Cafe) they're all inside or not far outside of 128. And the Sichuan ones have been consistently good since I started eating Sichuan food up here in 2005 or so.

                                                                                                        (I get to CG only rarely, but it's always been excellent, and I go to the Taiwanese places a lot less often, so I can't say much about their consistency.)

                                                                                                      2. re: KWagle
                                                                                                        c
                                                                                                        chiba Jun 6, 2013 04:34 AM

                                                                                                        What is the name of the Shaanxi place north of Boston? Sounds interesting... Thanks!

                                                                                                        1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                          l
                                                                                                          Lau Jun 6, 2013 07:22 AM

                                                                                                          this is somewhat strange, but Taiwan Cafe is actually pretty good from the one meal i had. now mind you I only had pai gu fan (a fairly easy dish to make), but i have to say that it was very good and honestly not all that far off from what you get in taiwan

                                                                                                          1. re: Lau
                                                                                                            KWagle Jun 6, 2013 07:36 AM

                                                                                                            I've always found TC to be excellent. I'm just not enough of a devotee of Taiwanese food that I've tried the NYC places, so for all I know you might have equally excellent ones there.

                                                                                                            1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                              l
                                                                                                              Lau Jun 6, 2013 07:42 AM

                                                                                                              well i only had one dish and TC's version was probably better than any of the versions in NY

                                                                                                              i have tried most taiwanese places in NY and i know a fairly decent amt about taiwanese food (i usually make it to taiwan every 2-3 years and have spent a good amt of time there especially when i lived in asia)

                                                                                                              1. re: Lau
                                                                                                                KWagle Jun 7, 2013 12:01 AM

                                                                                                                I'm not surprised at all. We have excellent Chinese restaurants in Boston, and TC is certainly among the best. I just have no basis for comparison, since I haven't tried any Taiwanese restaurants in NYC.

                                                                                                                1. re: KWagle
                                                                                                                  l
                                                                                                                  Lau Jun 7, 2013 05:48 AM

                                                                                                                  ive had ok chinese food in boston and philly which are much smaller chinese populations that the big metros

                                                                                                                  NY has a decent sized taiwanese population, LA has by far the biggest taiwanese concentration and i think thats the best taiwanese food outside of taiwan (luckily i get to eat there whenever i go home to CA)

                                                                                                  2. b
                                                                                                    barberinibee Jun 2, 2013 08:19 PM

                                                                                                    I cannot be alone in finding a great deal of the food at Lan Sheng inedible due to substandard ingredients and a whole bucketful of grease. In recent meals there (3 last month), it was only the odd soup dish or seasonal vegetable dish that was even remotely pleasant to eat. I'm through with the place.

                                                                                                    36 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: barberinibee
                                                                                                      Bob Martinez Jun 2, 2013 08:58 PM

                                                                                                      You're not alone - Ipsedixit is right there with you.

                                                                                                      What Sichuan restaurants do you recommend in NYC?

                                                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                                                                        b
                                                                                                        barberinibee Jun 2, 2013 11:00 PM

                                                                                                        I don't live in NYC. I live in Italy.

                                                                                                        I've eaten better at Wu Liang Ye, but that was some years ago, and have no recent experience. But the fundamental ingredients were better. I found some of Lan Sheng's dishes rank. I certainly did not want to finish them.

                                                                                                        I once followed a Chowhound recommendation for Szechuan Gourmet down the street and was underwhelmed.

                                                                                                      2. re: barberinibee
                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                        sugartoof Jun 2, 2013 09:42 PM

                                                                                                        You're not alone.

                                                                                                        Inedible is taking the criticism a bit far, but most of it was subpar on my last visits. Lan Sheng was always on the greasy side, even when it was turning out great food.

                                                                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                          p
                                                                                                          Pan Jun 2, 2013 10:57 PM

                                                                                                          Not to defend Lan Sheng in general (hey, I've never gone there, anyway), but isn't greasiness quite authentic for Sichuan style? Lots of red oil, right? That's what my friend told me he ate in Chengdu.

                                                                                                          1. re: Pan
                                                                                                            s
                                                                                                            sugartoof Jun 3, 2013 01:08 AM

                                                                                                            Could be. I wouldn't know if it's authentic, or not, but isn't it all relative? It didn't detract from a great meal with nice meats and fresh vegetables but once the quality dropped it starts to feel like greasy slop, and not just oil heavy, well made food.

                                                                                                            Mind you, I order medium-mild spice, so the question then becomes whether they use inferior proteins for those orders, or if the heavy spice of more authentic orders is masking the quality?

                                                                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                              p
                                                                                                              Pan Jun 3, 2013 05:01 AM

                                                                                                              If you're ordering medium/mild, I think you're missing a lot of the point of Sichuan-style food. This friend of mine has a good spice tolerance and found the food in Chengdu all extremely spicy.

                                                                                                              1. re: Pan
                                                                                                                s
                                                                                                                sugartoof Jun 3, 2013 09:49 AM

                                                                                                                Don't disagree with you there, but it goes back to my belief that the other ingredients should be quality too, not just the spice.

                                                                                                                I've also put in more "authentic" orders for a Sichuan style meal, but I ultimately don't care if a Scallion Pancake is a smart dish to order there, it's on the menu, the restaurant is winning accolades, and it's a favorite appetizer of mine. I just want it to taste of scallion rather than stale grease, and I want it to be crispy, with the perfect balance of tender textured interior. The best version I had was at Grand Sichuan, where the scallion was refined almost pesto like. It was unlike anything I could get at a generic greasy Chinese fast food stand. If I return a month later, and get a limp, gummy, under cooked pancake, with crudely chopped scallion chunks that are visibly yellowing, it's hard not to see a decline. We're talking about food that's lower in quality than a Noodle 28.

                                                                                                                When people ask for the best Chinese food in Manhattan, they typically get sent to a Sichuan place, but they're not asking "where's the best spicey Chinese food".

                                                                                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                                  p
                                                                                                                  Pan Jun 3, 2013 09:14 PM

                                                                                                                  I agree that the ingredients should be of decent quality, regardless, and I've been shocked to get some off chicken in cold chicken with sesame-based sauces at some Sichuan places I'd otherwise consider quality restaurants (Grand Sichuan St Marks has fallen off some, I think, but I've had this same problem at the 56th St. Szechuan Gourmet location).

                                                                                                                  I don't agree with ordering something just because it's on the menu and you like it, though. If an Italian restaurant thought it could please some of their more ignorant clients by making wiener schnitzel, I still wouldn't order it, knowing that if I want to get a good one, I should go to a place like Cafe Katja.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Pan
                                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                                    sugartoof Jun 3, 2013 11:19 PM

                                                                                                                    None of these Sichuan places are serving such off the wall menu items though, and the issue isn't that it's not a great version of a dish, it's that they're cooking with ingredients that should go in the garbage.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                                      p
                                                                                                                      Pan Jun 4, 2013 02:11 AM

                                                                                                                      You think they're not off the wall, but the style is as different as German food is from Italian food and the region of origin is as far or further from Sichuan than Germany is from Italy.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Pan
                                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                                        sugartoof Jun 4, 2013 11:39 AM

                                                                                                                        By distance? There is a lineage in food between regions that doesn't exist in your comparison. Sichuan food is found all over China.

                                                                                                                        When I've had good meals at a Sichuan place, everything was good that I ordered, not just the Sichuan dishes.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                                          Peter Cuce Jun 4, 2013 12:56 PM

                                                                                                                          Seriously dude? Let me get this straight: Every good meal you've had at a Sichuan restaurant, EVERYTHING in the restaurant was good?

                                                                                                                          Szechuan Gourmet is a pretty solid restaurant - I ate lunch there at least 25 times when I worked in the neighborhood, because the lunch special is fairly authentic and was better than almost anything around, at the time.

                                                                                                                          One time, my fellow Chowhound Frank and I ordered American Chinese food there, saying to each other, this is going to be the best General Tso's Chicken around, just because it's made in a quality kitchen. Man, were we disappointed - it was some of the worst, hard, inedible chunks of chicken ever.

                                                                                                                          Anyway, it doesn't follow that everything in ANY restaurant is going to be good, just because it's overall a quality kitchen. One of the original points of Chowhound was finding what's good in any place, even if it's overall bad.

                                                                                                                          In a perfect world, it would be great if everything was good in every restaurant, but that's not the case in real life. I'm interested to know what these paragons of Sichuan perfection are that you refer to.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                                            Bob Martinez Jun 4, 2013 01:07 PM

                                                                                                                            I've had similar experiences at many other restaurants, not just Sichuan places. The ones I really like do manage to make a broad array of things well but even they have their misses. Some of them are spectacularly bad.

                                                                                                                            The NY Times reviews 3 and 4 star restaurants and reports that even they have their duds. If a restaurant that charges $600 for dinner for two can occasionally mess up then I'm going to cut a Sichuan place where the check is $80 a bit of slack.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                                                                                              q
                                                                                                                              queensj Jun 4, 2013 02:21 PM

                                                                                                                              Another Sichuan place on the "Belt" that I don't see talked about is Heavenly Bamboo on 10 E 39th St. betwen 5th and Mad. Now this place has kind of a bizarre jungle theme decor and a sushi bar in the front which I avoid like the plague, but it actually has a really solid Sichuan menu. I've been there a few times for lunch and dinner, and everything has been pretty on the spot. I've worked in the area for years and never noticed the place (because of the sushi bar in front). The owner said the menu used to be more Shanghai styled but it's now Sichuan with a new chef. I've had a water boiled fish-esqu dish (it had a diff. name which I don't remember but similar style), stir fried pork kidneys with vegetables, smoked porkbelly with leek, and picked mustard & fish soup. The owner is a pretty nice guy too.

                                                                                                                              1. re: queensj
                                                                                                                                Peter Cuce Jun 4, 2013 10:04 PM

                                                                                                                                Good to know. It's roughly across from Hunan Manor, or somewhere in the neighborhood, is it not?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                                                  d
                                                                                                                                  diprey11 Jun 5, 2013 04:21 PM

                                                                                                                                  It's between 5th and Madison Ave. After half a dozen visits, I cannot say I liked their Sichuan cooking at all. Maybe it's just me.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: diprey11
                                                                                                                                    Peter Cuce Jun 5, 2013 08:22 PM

                                                                                                                                    Ohhh that place! Can't believe you made it there half a dozen visits!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                                                      d
                                                                                                                                      diprey11 Jun 6, 2013 04:20 PM

                                                                                                                                      I used to work right across the street. What was I supposed to do when it rained heavily? :-) But I am so spoiled by residing in Queens, I might have unreasonable demands.

                                                                                                                                      This restaurant is one of very *few* places in NYC that have identical Chinese and English names. So there could have been no mistake...

                                                                                                                                2. re: queensj
                                                                                                                                  KWagle Jun 7, 2013 12:03 AM

                                                                                                                                  It could be feiteng fish 'boiling fish' which is quite similar to water-cooked fish, but generally has clear noodles in it.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                                                s
                                                                                                                                sugartoof Jun 4, 2013 01:44 PM

                                                                                                                                I'll quote you..."really dude?". If your point is you can get a random bad dish, then it stands to reason you run the risk of getting a random bad dish whether it's Americanized or classic Sichuan, especially when you order one of the dishes where the house is attempting to get away with inferior product.

                                                                                                                                There's no argument that a specialty is usually the better dish to order, but this fantasy that Szechuan Gourmet or Lan Sheng is serving 3 star Sichuan in the same meal as food that's comparable to greasy, inedible fast food takeout is an outright laughable concept.

                                                                                                                                "You ordered wrong" does not excuse criticism of poor quality ingredients. It's time these restaurants are judged honestly.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                                                  Bob Martinez Jun 4, 2013 02:11 PM

                                                                                                                                  And here we go. Just what I was saying above.

                                                                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9023...

                                                                                                                                  Pete Wells just filed on Carbone. Three stars. And yet he lists some duds -
                                                                                                                                  ----------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                                  There are also, in this movie, some lapses in taste and judgment. Fried broccoli rabe is locked inside some of the heaviest, greasiest batter I’ve ever tasted. Carbone’s tiramisù, a wedge of layer cake with mascarpone between Marsala-soaked spongecake, is too wet and too boozy, a case where the middlebrow original is better than the highbrow makeover.

                                                                                                                                  Strangest of all is something called Chinese chicken, which tastes as if Mr. Torrisi and Mr. Carbone were trying to recreate something from Chinatown Night at their college cafeterias. But old Italian-American restaurants generally have at least one dish on the menu that nobody orders.
                                                                                                                                  ----------------------------------------------

                                                                                                                                  It has nothing to do with "the house trying to get away with using an inferior product" and everything to do with normal restaurant fallibility. Your requirement that "everything be good" can't be achieved by 3 star restaurants that charge $300 per person.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                                                    sugartoof Jun 4, 2013 02:38 PM

                                                                                                                                    What's your theory?

                                                                                                                                    They use two different walk-in fridges?

                                                                                                                                    You're nitpicking. I was talking about general quality when I said "everything". Wilting yellowing broccoli and low grade proteins served across the spectrum of the entire menu are not minor imperfections in execution, so likening that to the standard 3 star review where dishes are considered of criticism by varying success is very OT.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                                                    Peter Cuce Jun 4, 2013 10:03 PM

                                                                                                                                    When I've had good meals at a Sichuan place, everything was good that I ordered, not just the Sichuan dishes.
                                                                                                                                    =======================================
                                                                                                                                    So what are these paragons of perfection you mentioned? I'm waiting to hear which places I can head to where every dish on the menu is great.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                                                      sugartoof Jun 5, 2013 05:49 AM

                                                                                                                                      My original reply was deleted. "Everything was good" was referring to the quality of ingredients across the board, from all styles on the menu, because we were in fact talking about the criticism of poor ingredients. I never mentioned "paragons of perfection". I've consistently complained that I can't find consistent Chinese food in NY.

                                                                                                                                  3. re: Peter Cuce
                                                                                                                                    q
                                                                                                                                    queensj Jun 4, 2013 01:54 PM

                                                                                                                                    This is true, 99% of Chinese restaurants, even the best ones have an "American Chinese" menu section. It's unfortunate, but you really can't judge the quality of a restaurant by those dishes. Cafe China is an exception though that they make a valiant effort to curate their menu. Whether they succeed or not is subjective, but of the many time I've been there, I've mostly had successful dishes and I'm really glad they're here. And I wish more restaurants would be brave and follow their lead. Most restaurants are afraid to lose business if they take those dishes off their menu but Cafe China seems to be doing quite well.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: queensj
                                                                                                                                      ipsedixit Jun 4, 2013 02:31 PM

                                                                                                                                      This is true, 99% of Chinese restaurants, even the best ones have an "American Chinese" menu section.
                                                                                                                                      ______________________

                                                                                                                                      Just to clarify. You are referring to just NYC (or perhaps Manhattan)?

                                                                                                                                      Even if it is so geographically limited, I still think that that number is off, and too high.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                                        q
                                                                                                                                        queensj Jun 5, 2013 11:00 AM

                                                                                                                                        OK it was just a superlative way of saying that a great majority of them do, especially large restaurants. It would be interesting to see actual statistics though. DOH lists 2487 Chinese restaurants in NYC.

                                                                                                                                  4. re: sugartoof
                                                                                                                                    p
                                                                                                                                    Pan Jun 5, 2013 05:44 AM

                                                                                                                                    You've got this reversed. You're ordering Shanghainese food in a Sichuan restaurant.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pan
                                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                                                      sugartoof Jun 5, 2013 06:22 AM

                                                                                                                                      I am? Are you calling scallion pancakes "Shanghainese"; since I used that example earlier? Because I don't believe those are specific to Shanghai first off, and there are regional versions of them, and a lot of crossover today.

                                                                                                                                      What's you're theory though? When you order non Sichuan food, do they reach into the dumpster? You can only increase the chances of a good meal at these places by sticking to the Sichuan dishes, but if it's a bad restaurant, serving poor ingredients, it's probably still going to be lousy. Because go figure, I've also had terrible Sichuan dishes, even at a Sichuan place.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Pan
                                                                                                                        ipsedixit Jun 3, 2013 07:56 AM

                                                                                                                        "Lots of red oil" and greasy are different in my opinion.

                                                                                                                        Red oil and 麻辣 (or málà) are de riguer for Sichuan cuisine (think water boiled fish) but I would not call such preparations as greasy, which to me is less about the oil, or amount thereof, and more to do with an unctuous, uncomfortable mouthfeel.

                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                          p
                                                                                                                          Pan Jun 3, 2013 08:06 AM

                                                                                                                          Thanks for the explanation, but you would have to demonstrate the difference by taking me to two different places for me to really understand.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Pan
                                                                                                                            ipsedixit Jun 3, 2013 08:15 AM

                                                                                                                            I hear ya.

                                                                                                                            I'm just saying that just because a dish has a lot of oil does not, ipso facto, make it greasy.

                                                                                                                            Take fried chicken for example, or even egg rolls. You might pick one up and it doesn't look like it's got much oil going on in it, but bite into it and your mouth and lips feel like someone gave you a mouthwash of lard.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                              c
                                                                                                                              christy319 Jun 3, 2013 09:58 AM

                                                                                                                              I totally agree. The red oil doesn't make Szechuan food "greasy" any more than finishing Italian dishes with olive oil makes those greasy. Greasy is a perjorative term--I think most of us would use it when there's too much fat that is out of place in the dish. Deep fried foods aren't greasy when done right, but are when cooked poorly, for example.

                                                                                                                              1. re: christy319
                                                                                                                                p
                                                                                                                                Pan Jun 3, 2013 09:15 PM

                                                                                                                                There's a difference. There are some Sichuan dishes that come in bowls full of red oil. Have you ever gotten Italian dishes that come in bowls full of olive oil?

                                                                                                                              2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                                                                p
                                                                                                                                Pan Jun 3, 2013 09:14 PM

                                                                                                                                OK, yes, I get this.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Pan
                                                                                                                            The Chowhound Team Jun 5, 2013 01:45 PM

                                                                                                                            Folks, some of the sub-discussions in this thread are starting to get pretty testy, and to devolve into off-topic nitpicking of people's arguments. We'd ask that everyone try to bring this back around into a friendly discussion of food rather than a more aggressive debate. Thanks!

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