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Truly authentic Sichuan food in Manhattan/the boros/N.J.

jnk Oct 29, 2013 01:35 PM

Our son and his college roommate from Chengdu will be home for a week around Thanksgiving. His roommate will have been living in Ohio for the past three months and I'm sure he would enjoy some authentic home style Sichuan food. Any suggestions you all can make will be appreciated.

Home style Sichuan food.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. t
    thegforceny RE: jnk Oct 29, 2013 02:37 PM

    Here is a relatively recent, comprehensive thread on this topic.

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

    We are currently going through an abundance of Szechuan options here in Manhattan.

    Cafe China
    Lan Sheng
    Legend
    Szechuan Gournet
    Grand Szechuan
    Wu Liang Ye

    For outerboroughs, you need to post on that board
    Same for Jersey. This is Manhattan only.

    2 Replies
    1. re: thegforceny
      zeeEats RE: thegforceny Oct 29, 2013 02:48 PM

      Szechuan Gourmet is, in my opinion, the most authentic Sichuan restaurant in the city. I've found that they'll also make some more regional homestyle dishes that's not on the menu at personal requests.

      Cafe China is a bit nicer in terms of ambiance and quite good, though I find that half of the menu tends to have some Shanghainese influences. Han Dynasty opened down in the EV not long ago, probably not the most authentic Sichuan food ever but worth checking out for the dan dan noodles. Lines can be terribly long depending on when you go though...

      1. re: zeeEats
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        AubWah RE: zeeEats Oct 30, 2013 07:22 AM

        Would you mind sharing some of the off menu regional dishes?

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      Pookipichu RE: jnk Oct 29, 2013 03:21 PM

      That's so considerate of you, please do report back and let's us know what you choose. The others have made great suggestions. Wu Liang Ye and Legend are my least favorite of the ones mentioned. Legend has some truly awful cooking. The menu is full of land mines. Have not tried Han Dynasty.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Pookipichu
        howdini RE: Pookipichu Nov 4, 2013 06:03 AM

        l just ate at Legend again last night: had a really good meal of Spicy and Crispy Prawns, along with Sichuan Cucumbers and an order of pea shoots. l've found them to be pretty consistently good, but l haven't explored the menu in depth.

        What are the land mines of which you warn?

        1. re: howdini
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          Pookipichu RE: howdini Nov 4, 2013 06:46 AM

          I've eaten at Legends three times and nothing has stood out and I've been disappointed each time, especially since I've brought friends.

          The hot oil dumplings, not as good as other places. The pea shoots I've ordered three times and they've been stringy and/or salty oily. The general tso's chicken is probably the worst rendition I've had in NYC (I say that without exaggeration). Double cooked pork, water cooked lamb, dry spicy chicken, chongqing chicken, all dishes I've had better renditions of at other restaurants. (Szechuan Gourmet, Hunan House, Hunan Kitchen, Spicy Tasty) Nothing stood out, after 3 meals, I just won't go back. It's OK, for the neighborhood, but I wouldn't tell anyone to go out of their way for it.

          Just as a side note, their bathroom really needs to be redone or sanitized, it's inexcusable for a place that's definitely not priced like a hole in the wall.

          1. re: Pookipichu
            k
            kathryn RE: Pookipichu Nov 4, 2013 07:02 AM

            I've enjoyed their Dan Dan noodles, tears in eyes noodles, as well as their hot pot. The other dishes can be so-so, as you mention. It's not a great neighborhood for Chinese, though, so I appreciate it being there. Also they have an actual bar and liquor license, and a downstairs private room, which is nice.

            1. re: Pookipichu
              Steve R RE: Pookipichu Nov 4, 2013 02:52 PM

              Apparently, there are 2 threads on this & I'm on the other one recommending (in Manhattan) Lan Sheng and Legend. As you say (& I fully agree), Legend's menu is a land mine. It evolved from a pan-Asian concept (the owner had several other ehh places when they took this place over) but they managed to snare a very good Sichuan chef who made that part of the menu stand out. They've taken it from there but never took off the awful sushi, cantonese dumplings and other things that have folks shaking their heads when they don't know better and stray to other than Sichuan items. I personally think that my meals there have been up there with Spicy and Tasty, Lan Sheng and several others, with only Little Pepper really at a higher level. I order "Tears in Eyes", Double Cooked Pork, Dry Spicy Diced Chicken w/Ginger and Peanuts (addictive as crack), Chendu Braised Duck (its a "wet" dish in a soupy broth… almost a casserole), the Braised Eggplant & Diced Fish with Black Bean Casserole (this is much better than it sounds and should be tried), Green Bean Salad or their Green Bean hot dish and even the MaPo Tofu (which I admit is weaker than a lot of other places). And a side of Sichuan Cucumber w/garlic (cold dish). Just one person's opinion.

              1. re: Steve R
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                Pookipichu RE: Steve R Nov 4, 2013 03:09 PM

                Well it's definitely less of a schlep than Spicy Tasty if you're in Manhattan :) but I would recommend Szechuan Gourmet over Legends. My issue with Legends is not only the cooking but the quality of their ingredients. Stringy dao miao, gristly/chewy meat, funky lamb. My bill has never been light there and it factors into my expectations. Chinese food in Chelsea is just lacking.

                1. re: Pookipichu
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                  Simon RE: Pookipichu Nov 4, 2013 03:35 PM

                  i'll chime in re: Legend...the restaurant has had a serious problem w/ consistency...it's not just the overly long menu that incorporates the Vietnamese and fusion dishes; it's a problem w/ substitute chefs (i've asked staff about this and they've told me)...

                  When the head chef is there AND when my requests for authentic dishes have been communicated, i've had some of the best Manhattan Sichuan i've ever had, trumping anything at SG and GS...

                  But on other nights, ordering the exact same dishes, it's been awful Chinese-American dreck...

                  It got esp spotty 8 or 9 months ago and i quit the place for 6 months...

                  But the last couple months (they deliver to my home so it's easy to give them chances), the kung pao chicken and Chengdu fish soup and a few other of my favs have been delicious again, and it's back in the rotation...

                  Hope they've figured it out :)

        2. j
          JC2 RE: jnk Oct 30, 2013 06:54 AM

          La Vie en Szechuan

          1. kokoro RE: jnk Nov 4, 2013 07:15 AM

            If you're looking for authentic, I would advise to avoid Han Dynasty. As much as I love the restaurant, it's definitely more fusion/modern than other Sichuan restaurants.

            Personally, I've enjoyed:
            Legend
            Hot Kitchen
            Land of Plenty

            I wasn't blown away by the food at Szechuan Gourmet and Grand Szechuan. La Vie en Szechuan and Lan Sheng were also some of my more disappointing experiences.

            If you're willing to trek into Flushing, Queens, I enjoyed the food at Spicy and Tasty. There's plenty of other Chinese eateries in the area as well.

            4 Replies
            1. re: kokoro
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              foodwhisperer RE: kokoro Nov 4, 2013 08:37 PM

              I enjoyed every dish I had at Han Dynasty. Only one dish had the numbing spice,and Spicy and Tasty uses it to a greater extent. I am not sure how authentic, but it had a more limited menu compared to szechuan gourmet. I enjoyed the cold noodles in chili oil, the dry pepper spice chicken was excellent, the shrimp in scallion sauce was excellent, and the numbing dish, which had the most "sauce" was very well prepared. The wait was about 30 minutes when i went. I look forward to Lau's report on Han Dynasty.

              1. re: foodwhisperer
                zeeEats RE: foodwhisperer Nov 5, 2013 08:55 AM

                Right, I would agree that Han Dynasty is not authentic. Though I thought it may be worth checking out just because the crowd is a little younger and the space more modern (since OP is bringing her son and college friend).

                In terms of how numbing/"ma la" the dishes are at Han Dynasty, I would say that they really don't employ much Sichuan peppercorns in any of the dishes at all. I personally found the twice cooked pork belly to not be browned enough, though it was a little less oily than you'd typically find. The dan dan noodles and string beans are very good, though not exactly authentic either.

                IMHO, I do find the format of Han Dynasty's menu to be a bit strange; being able to choose your proteins with the cooking style. I just don't get why you'd leave it up to diners to pair twice cooked shrimp or fried cumin chicken...

                1. re: zeeEats
                  jnk RE: zeeEats Nov 5, 2013 10:20 AM

                  Hi all-
                  I truly appreciate all of your guidance and the responses have been overwhelming. I am in fact looking for "authentic" as my son's roommate left Chengdu 4 months ago and as I've said has been living in Ohio for the past 4 months. Authentic has to rule here. I would love to be able to have him walk in with us, sit down and be able to speak to the wait staff/chef about what dishes he wants. I think after Pizza Hut, this should make him happy. By the way, we'll also be taking him for pizza while he's in N.Y.. Thanks again and remember "authentic".

                  jon

                2. re: foodwhisperer
                  l
                  Lau RE: foodwhisperer Nov 10, 2013 05:17 PM

                  ive been to the one in philly and it was not good at all really, i may report on it at some point, but based on what i heard so far doesn't sound like this one is any better, so its not that high on my list of places to try (feel free to correct me if someone thinks its good)

              2. Monica RE: jnk Nov 5, 2013 10:21 AM

                If you are in midtown east, check out Land of Plenty on 58th street between 2nd and 3rd ave. Pretty darn good and i always see Chinese people with elders dining out there.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Monica
                  coasts RE: Monica Nov 24, 2013 05:42 AM

                  agreed. everything i've had at Land of Plenty is far better than versions i've had at Old Sichuan, Legend, and Grand Sichuan. Have only been once to Szechuan Gourmet on 56th, but did enjoy it and will return. excellent mapo tofu and braised beef with napa and chili peppers, the two dishes i order most often at sichuan restaurants.

                  1. re: coasts
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                    plf515 RE: coasts Nov 24, 2013 10:11 AM

                    I am a regular at Szechuan Gourmet on 56th. The xxx with napa and chili peppers are some of my favorites. Serious heat!

                    I also like the hot and sour soup a lot.

                    1. re: plf515
                      Ziggy41 RE: plf515 Nov 24, 2013 11:21 AM

                      Loving the shredded beef w/green chili lately at SG56. Ever since one of servers told me its one of his favorite dishes. I did have one mediocre lunch there finally a few months ago where they went a little peppercorn happy with some dishes, but nothing but deliciousness ever since

                2. l
                  Lau RE: jnk Nov 10, 2013 05:15 PM

                  go to Little Pepper, its the best and definitely the most authentic of the places in NY. Most of the places in manhattan have huge menus and have alot of duds on them, you def need to know what you're ordering.

                  I like spicy & tasty as well

                  1. jnk RE: jnk Nov 24, 2013 03:28 AM

                    Well, we had our 1st Sichuan meal last night and went to Szechuan Gourmet on 39th street bet. 5&6 ave.. I've always wanted to try Dan Dan noodles and had the opportunity there. While our guest said they were good, I was somewhat disappointed. I don't know what I was expecting but this wasn't it. We had: Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly (agaion not what I had expected as it was extremely salty but the leeks and ginger were delicious), Braised Beef Filets w/roasted chilies (our guest said it was very good), General Tso's Chicken (my son loved it) and Chicken w/baby eggplant (the best we've tasted). Good times and it was great seeing our son's roommate enjoying himself since that was the objective. Friday it's off to College Point Queens. Thank you all for your suggestions.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jnk
                      Miss Needle RE: jnk Nov 24, 2013 10:59 AM

                      I've found the dan dan noodles at Szechuan Gourmet to be weak as it's too watery and bland. Lan Sheng across the street makes a great dan dan noodles. I also don't like the double cooked sliced pork belly (even though most people like it) there. But most everything else Szechuan I've had there has been great.

                      Hope you like your next Sichuan meal at Little Pepper.

                      1. re: Miss Needle
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                        Lau RE: Miss Needle Nov 24, 2013 11:08 AM

                        agree with miss needle, the best dish there is the cumin lamb for me

                    2. r
                      RogueFoodie RE: jnk Nov 24, 2013 01:39 PM

                      Cafe China is on the fusion side.

                      Land of Plenty is great - I've been there over the years and they consistently put out great Sichuan food.

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