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Szechuan Gourmet - W. 39th St.


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I agree with your assessment too - it's definitely a neighborhood place, not a destination. I'm really glad it's near where I work, though - it's a cut above most take-out Chinese in the midtown area. In fact, I had the pork with eggplant yesterday. Good, but not as much fun as the spicy dishes. How can you tell that the hot peppers are Sichuan?

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I agree with your assessment too - it's definitely a neighborhood place, not a destination.  I'm really glad it's near where I work, though - it's a cut above most take-out Chinese in the midtown area.  In fact, I had the pork with eggplant yesterday.  Good, but not as much fun as the spicy dishes.  How can you tell that the hot peppers are Sichuan?

Sichuan peppercorns are not the same thing as hot peppers. If you are lucky, you will see the peppercorns themselves. They look, well, much like "regular" peppercorns, like tellicherry. The real difference is when you have the food in your mouth. To elaborate on my earlier post (#9), your mouth and tongue literally feel like it is vibrating. Completely different from eating, say, a jalepeno. If you're in a Sichuan restaurant, try ordering the dan dan noodles or the beef tendon appetizer.

Edited by larrylee (log)
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I also find that Sichuan Peppers have a more very floral taste to it.. The heat as Larry suggested, is much different then any other peppper.. I really think its like the opium of the pepper world..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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... they both have a purpley floral dreamy taste ...

Daniel, that's very poetically put.

Just think, I've been addicted to them for years, and I didn't even know they were different from other chilis! (I just knew I had to eat them).

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  • 1 month later...

I thought there was another thread on this. Anyway, did takeout from here for lunch today, and the spicy pork dumplings are very good. I don't know what flight of idiocy made me think lo mein would be a good idea, but it wasn't. Stick with the spicy stuff.

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  • 10 months later...

Since the untimely demise of the 9th Ave./51st St. Grand Sichuan, there has been a void in my restaurant repertoire. The Grand Sichuan at 24th St. is okay, but given the ridiculous crowds, and service that ranges from haphazard to downright surly, it's not really viable as a regular haunt. The one on St. Marks was looking promising for a while, but a couple of totally lackluster meals recently put the idea of trekking down to such an inconvenient (from Columbia U. area at least) and irritating neighborhood (give me back the East Village of 20 years ago, please!) firmly into the "not worth the trouble" category.

A friend happened to walk by Szechuan Gourmet a couple of weeks ago and mentioned it to me, saying "it looked right". And after two dinners there in three days, I can state unequivocally that his instinct was correct. So far, every dish I have ordered there has been at least as good as, or, more often, better than, the versions at the 9th/51st GSI. I look forward to eating my way through the rest of Szechuan Gourmet's menu as soon as possible!

The very first dish I ordered here was one of my favorites at GSI (before they took it off the menu a year or so before they closed), the diced rabbit with peanuts in spicy sauce cold appetizer. SG's is simply sensational. Their sliced beef tendon/roasted chili vinaigrette is also excellent, as is the cold hand-sliced chicken in chil-sesame sauce (Wu Liang Ye on W. 48 St. still takes the prize for their version of this dish). SG.s Ma Po Tofu is the best I've had anywhere. So is, interestingly, their Young Chow Fried Rice. The bits of cured pork included in SG's version put it in a category all its own. The "shredded beef with spicy Asian green chili leeks" was interesting and delicious--I've never had a dish quite like it before. And one of our party this evening wanted something not particularly fiery and more in line with her idea of "comfort food", so ordered General Tso's chicken. Let me tell you, if you have to have something like this, this is the way it should be prepared. Just the right amount of light battering, perfectly fried, in a sauce that had actual subtlety. I went in for just a taste, and found myself sneaking another, then another... it was, in fact, the biggest surprise of the meal.

I have to say I'm a little surprised this place doesn't get talked about more. jogoode mentioned it in a thread about GSI a while back, but I wasn't able to find any other mention of it here on eGullet. Granted, its neighborhood is not exactly a "dining destination"--W. 39th, between 5th and 6th Aves.

And this evening, I was pleased to renew an old acquaintance: the manager used to be one of the managers at the W. 48th St. Wu Liang Ye, although I hadn't seen him there in at least a couple of years. He told us that in the intervening time he did something stupid: "Went to Florida to open a Chinese restaurant. But everyone down there only wanted to order sweet and sour pork!"

Szechuan Gourmet

21 W. 39th St. (bet. 5th & 6th Aves.)

212-921-0233

(There's a copy of their menu here: Menu Pages - Szechuan Gourmet)

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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At the risk of inviting ridicule for answering my own post, I feel compelled to report on another excellent meal here this evening.

Since I was solo this time (New York is much less fun these days since, in the space of a couple of years, almost all of my close friends have either moved away or become socially unavailable for various reasons), I was only able to try two new dishes. Fortunately, I had the good sense to let Michael, the manager mentioned in the above post, choose for me. He chose well.

The starter was sliced pork belly with chili-garlic sauce. Comparison with GSI@50th's version is inevitable, especially since I ordered it there so often that the waiter would usually ask me if I wanted it as I was sitting down (and tonight it was Michael's idea, not mine!). It's quite interesting to me that the two versions, although composed of the same ingredients, were totally different in their final effect. GSI used to slice the pork belly very thinly, carefully arrange it in one layer on the plate and dress it with an almost jam-like sauce of pureed garlic, chilis, and soy sauce. SG's approach is much more robust: thick slices of pork belly piled high, with a coarser sauce made with obviously hand-minced garlic between every layer. The whole character is infinitely more "rustic", and, I think, finally more successful.

My entree was a chicken dish that I truthfully would never have ordered if Michael hadn't suggested it--in part, because it is not listed on the menu in quite the same version as I was given. Alas, SG does not do the "freshly-killed" chicken dishes that GSI did, but that is the only quibble I could possibly have with this place so far. Notwithstanding, this was the most spectacular chicken dish I've had in ages. It's something of a cross between what is sometimes offered as "dry-sauteed" chicken and Chong Qing chicken, but with an extra dimension or two of flavor. Chunks of boneless chicken--which makes it quite a bit simpler to eat than Chong Qing chicken--sauteed with a lot of dried red chili peppers, chunks of garlic, ginger, scallion, chopped spicy green peppers, and a liberal dose of Szechuan peppercorn. This description feels inadequate somehow... all I can say is the dish is more than the just the sum of its parts. It was utterly delicious, and it somehow got better as I continued to eat it. If you want to try it though, you'll need to ask for the No. 48 Stir Fried Chicken with Roasted Chili, but cross-reference it with L27 on the lunch menu, Stir Fried Chicken with Roasted Chili and Green Chili. Those green chilis make a real difference.

I'll probably continue to add reports of newly-tried dishes until it no longer amuses me, but this place is every bit as, if not more, worthy of discussion in these parts as Grand Sichuan.

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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From 2003-2006, Grand Sichuan Eastern (on 2nd Ave and 56th) was my favorite restaurant in Manhattan. I took everyone I knew there, including every out of town guest I had during those years. It was a great, great restaurant. Alas, my last 3 meals there did not bear much of a resemblance to the food I was served earlier. Although it is still open, I suspect it has changed ownership or else the chefs during the 'glory years' packed up and left. Either way, not worth going to any longer. So, except for some rare trips to Flushing to eat at Little Pepper (which is excellent by the way), I hadn't had Sichuan food for some time.

I went to Szechuan Gourmet tonight, in part due to Eric Malson's report above, but also because of some raves on Chowhound. I wanted to see whether this place could rival my beloved GS Eastern.

We were 2 and ordered enough food for 6. While the prices are a little higher here than at the Grand Sichuan restaurants, the portions are fairly generous.

Our order:

Sichuan pickles

Dan Dan noodles

Ox tongue and tripe in peanut/chili vinaigrette

Mixed vegetables (eggplant, asparagus, and green beans) stir fried in garlic

Baby Shrimps stir fried in chile/miso with chinese celery

Fish Fillets with napa cabbage, mushrooms and cellophane noodles in chile broth

The fish fillet dish was served in a gigantic metal bowl, and could have easily fed 6 people. I was already familiar with this preparation from GS and Little Pepper. It is basically fillets of fish braised in a searing hot broth flavored by cabbage, fennel seeds, mushrooms and chile oil (perhaps there is some addition of stock of some kind as well). The fish was perfectly tender and fresh. Szechuan Gourmet's version is very much like Little Pepper's. In addition to the chiles already swimming and bobbing in the broth, they placed a tablespoon or so of ground chile on top of everything (at Little Pepper it was more like a couple of tablespoons). In other words, incredibly spicy and almost to the point of being uncomfortable. This was tasty, but I prefer the GS version because it was less spicy and the broth itself was more heavily flavored; you could actually ladle it over your rice and eat it that way. After the first couple fillets, my mouth was on fire and I had to stop eating it for fear of annihilating my taste buds.

The ox tongue/tripe appetizer is something I always order if available. I don't think any version can compare in flavor to the one GSI (formerly on 9th Ave and 50th) used to serve. But the version I had tonight was excellent in different ways. More subtle flavors. More contrast in textures. The tripe was especially noteworthy because of how plump they were. I don't think I've ever had tripe that were so full in the mouth and juicy (is that an appropriate word to describe tripe?).

The Dan Dan noodles were decent, but nothing above the ordinary.

The most surprising dish was the baby shrimp one. I was hoping the preparation would be similar to the dry-sauteed 'New Sichuan' method that GS Eastern used to such great effect. When the dish came out I was immediately disappointed, because it looked like a typical Cantonese preparation. Even after the first bite, and perhaps due to the numbness from eating too many chiles, I kind of shrugged my shoulders. Decently cooked but nothing special. But as we went through the meal and I took more and more bites from this dish, the distinct taste of coffee and dark chocolate came through, and it was spectacular. I've never heard of chile miso (I take it they don't use Japanese miso, but rather prepare their own fermented bean paste?), but whatever it was I want more of it.

Overall, I think our meal was excellent, and no doubt I'll be returning. Incidentally, the room is rather nice: quiet, decently lit and comfortable. One reason I don't go to Wu Liang Ye in midtown is because I find the room dark, cramped and oppressive. Now I have no intention of returning to WLY, since I think the food is better at Szechuan Gourment.

Also note that they have hot pot here. I saw 3 tables going to town swishing their proteins and vegetables into spicy looking broth.

So, thanks Eric for the report. It got me out of my sichuan slumber. I foresee many happy sichuan meals this Winter.

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I've been to Szechuan Gourmet a couple times, but last year, only for lunch, and I ordered rather randomly. Seems like the right order there can make a big difference. I also am quite fond of Taiwanese hot-pot which bears more than a resemblance to Szechuan hot pot -

May I also suggest that board-members check out Ollies on 42nd. I don't know what it's relationship to the Ollie's we all know is, but, it is an authentic Szechuan restaurant. It's a nice airy room right at 42nd and 9th, in the former Sukhotai and Bistro du Vent space. For me, it can only not replace GS at 50th and 9th for lack of the fresh-killed chicken menu.

I've had dinner a couple times and lunch a dozen times, and based on those, they have really good chefs working there. MaboTofu, Mongolian beef all came out really great and everything is spiced expertly there. Any Szechuan, Cheng-Du specialties have been spot-on. In particular I recall a double-cooked bacon lunch that I had, which came loaded with peppers, ginger and spices, which was absolutely delicious. Way above average Chinese cooking.

http://www.ollies42.com/

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Well, banquo, it sounds as if we must have been there at the same time last night! Which reminds me of the one other tiny issue I have with SG, which is that it closes a bit early. Most nights they close at 10, but at SG that means they close the door and stop seating people at 9:30. I often eat on the late side after a long day, and I dislike the feeling that I'm preventing the kitchen and wait staff from going home.

I have some friends (friends that know what they're talking about) that rave about Little Pepper. Gotta get there soon.

I also need to get back Szechuan Gourmet soon--they have posted on the wall what appears to be a seasonal special that sounds too tantalizing to leave untried any longer: braised goat meat casserole. Michael said it was very good (AFTER I had ordered last night...) and he now has my complete trust in that department!

Edited to add:

Not half an hour after posting the above, some friends decided they wanted to go there tonight. Who was I to refuse?

This gave me the opportunity the braised goat casserole. While delicious, this dish is certainly not for everyone. Essentially chunks of goat (with bone) braised with root vegetables in a mildly spicy broth. Lovely flavors, and the general consensus of the table was that it was a hit. Still, some may have problems with the texture of the meat. Some of the goat chunks were somewhat... "rubbery" is too strong a word... perhaps "resilient" is a better choice. While not exactly off-putting, I'm afraid I shall always prefer my goat roasted.

By unanimous table-consensus, the big winner of the evening was the Braised Whole Bass with Spicy Hot Chili and Scallion. The scrupulously fresh fish was perfectly cooked, and bathed in the most delightful sauce of red chilis, garlic, ginger and scallion, with some pickled red chili peppers for garnish. The dish is spicy, but not as over-the-top as it sounds, or even looks when it arrives. It's sensational--in a completely different way as good or better than the stir-fried chicken with roasted chili and green chili.

These were accompanied by the most expertly prepared pea shoots with garlic I've ever had.

In other news, this evening's winner in the "newly-sampled appetizer" category was Szechuan Pork Dumpling with Roasted Chili Soy.

Edited by Eric_Malson (log)

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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  • 2 weeks later...

The closing of Grand Sichuan International Midtown was a devastating blow for me. I had been a champion of the place for ages. In January of 2001, B.E.G. (before eGullet), I wrote:

The kung pao chicken at Grand Sichuan International Midtown is so good, you need to weigh your options carefully before eating it. Because once you taste the kung pao chicken at Grand Sichuan International Midtown, you will never again be able to enjoy the kung pao chicken (diced chicken with peanuts) anywhere else.

You may even, as I have, become obsessed with the kung pao chicken at Grand Sichuan International Midtown, such that you consider plans to build a kung pao chicken pipeline from Grand Sichuan International Midtown to your home that will terminate in a spigot out of which steaming hot kung pao chicken will pour into a tin cup at any hour of the day or night. Or perhaps you'll dream of acquiring one of those machines, like they have in the movie Chicken Run, except instead of chicken pies it will make an exact replica of the kung pao chicken at Grand Sichuan International Midtown.

Based on the recommendations here, I visited Szechuan Gourmet today.

Folks, I'm here to tell you that, unless my meal today was a complete fluke, Szechuan Gourmet is a better restaurant than Grand Sichuan International Midtown ever was. It is categorically the best Sichuan/Szechuan restaurant I've ever eaten at. The meal I had today was simply incredible.

Here is the utterly mundane exterior of Szechuan Gourmet, which is situated on an equally unremarkable Midtown block. The interior is also as generic as they come.

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The menu at Szechuan Gourmet is a marvel of efficiency. On just 4 pages it lists 156 dishes (well, the copy you can take away does -- the bound menus in the restaurant are laid out a little differently but are still pretty short). Most of the dishes are Szechuan dishes; very few are Chinese-American dishes, though there are enough in there to satisfy those who want that stuff.

The first dish listed on the menu seemed interesting and, to my surprise, pretty contemporary: razor clams with Szechuan peppercorn-scallion pesto (dish #1). Did you catch that description? I had to read it a couple of times, and still wasn't sure what the dish would be. So I ordered it. What arrived was a tangle of razor clams in a very pesto-like dressing based on scallions instead of the traditional basil, spiked with Sichuan peppercorns, served room temperature. When my friend and I tasted it, we had one of those "holy crap" moments. I immediately recalibrated my expectations from "too bad this place won't be as good as Grand Sichuan" to "this place could be better than Grand Sichuan."

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Next, just to get a baseline, the dan dan noodles (dish #21). A very fine specimen. I've not had better. There was also, when we ordered, not the slightest hesitation on the issue of spice. Two white guys usually have to battle for appropriate Sichuan spice levels, but our server just took our order and the food came out spicy as all get out. There are from one to four peppers in the margins next to the spicy dishes, and they're accurate. One pepper is more than most Americans want to deal with, four peppers is competition-level stuff.

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Final appetizer item, also for a baseline, pork dumplings with roasted chili soy (dish #23). Clearly the best example I've had of this dish. Sichuan dumplings are usually anemic; the sauce is the main draw. But these were plump, delicious, pink porky dumplings -- and the sauce was excellent, the subtle roasted flavors of the chili showing well even through the aggressive spiciness. I must apologize for this photo being even worse than my average bad photo. The problem is that my friend and I are such pigs that we started eating the dish, and only after we had each taken dumplings and started stuffing our faces did I remember to snap a photo. So this is a photo of a pawed-over, incomplete portion, provided purely for informational purposes:

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I believe this dish was mentioned above. This is shredded beef with spicy Asian green chili leeks (dish #52). A beautiful, complex, moderately spicy dish that was excellent by itself and also a strong player in the ensemble because it had none of the ubiquitous red chili sauce common to the other dishes we ordered.

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This next dish is perhaps the most bad-ass Sichuan dish I've ever had. It's called braised fish fillets with Napa and roasted chili (dish #57). The menu also contains permutations of this dish with beef, lamb or pork. It has four peppers next to it in the margin. Really, you're going to laugh when you see the quantity of chili in this dish. Yet, despite the insane hotness of the dish, the fish was still totally enjoyable as fish. Somehow, the chefs at Szechaun Gourmet have cracked the code of allowing flavor to shine through even the most outrageous levels of spice.

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Slightly less spicy, but still hardcore, we have braised crispy tofu with chili and sliced pork (dish #61). Superb. I would have doubled the amount of pork, but that's just my obese American sensibility talking. I realize the pork is more of a garnish than a main ingredient here. Not that we finished this or any other entree on the table.

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Last, the one dish I wouldn't order again. Not bad, but not on the level of the previous six dishes. I was attracted to the name of the dish: "Madam Song's braised noodles with shrimp and fish fillet" (dish #144) and was a little surprised that it turned out to be a soup, and not a terribly interesting soup at that.

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Still, six stellar dishes out of seven is a real tour de force, especially at a restaurant where you've never been before and don't know the menu.

Seven dishes, $75 and a few cents, including tax, before tip.

I didn't see kung pao chicken on the menu, which is just as well. Some memories should be left to rest in peace.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Nice! I've been meaning to post about this place as well. I've been there three times, and I think there's a good chance that Eric's been there... oh, I don't know... maybe 25 times since his first post to the thread. It's all outstanding.

I can confirm that the razor clams are off the hook delicious, and also remarked to Eric that I thought the dumplings were unusually tender and juicy. Another must-have in my experience is the ox tongue and tripe with roasted chili/crushed peanut vinaigrette cold appetizer. Even people who would ordinarily not like either tongue or tripe loved this dish. Eric's beloved diced rabbit and peanuts with chili garlic black bean jam is also a must-try appetizer.

In the main dishes, I've had the lamb iteration of the fish fillet dish Steven describes above. It's more or less the same as GSIM's braised beef fillets with chili sauce, only it's possible to get it with beef, pork, lamb or fish. Eric, like Steven, has also had the fish version and reports it as outstanding. Don't miss out on the braised whole bass with spicy hot chili and scallions. I saw several other tables eating this and couldn't resist. It's rewarding. They have another, less spicy version of the dish with Sichuan chili miso that sounds interesting.

I've also had what I think was stir fried fresh pork belly with chili leeks. It could have been double cooked sliced pork belly with chili leeks. . . or at least it was similar to other "double cooked" pork belly dishes I've had. In any event, their preparation is outstanding. Definitely more savory and delicious than the iteration at GSIM.

I do miss the gigantic menu and some of the more poetic dishes at GSMI, and Szechuan Gourmet doesn't have (or at least doesn't advertise) fresh killed poultry. But so far everything I've tried there has been at least comparable to GSIM, and several items have been better. I expect I'll be back many more times.

--

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This next dish is perhaps the most bad-ass Sichuan dish I've ever had. It's called braised fish fillets with Napa and roasted chili (dish #57). The menu also contains permutations of this dish with beef, lamb or pork. It has four peppers next to it in the margin. Really, you're going to laugh when you see the quantity of chili in this dish. Yet, despite the insane hotness of the dish, the fish was still totally enjoyable as fish. Somehow, the chefs at Szechaun Gourmet have cracked the code of allowing flavor to shine through even the most outrageous levels of spice.

So, I feel like I'm bearding you somewhat on this issue, FG, but I have to say that I find the fish with roasted chili and Napa cabbage at Wu Liang Ye on 48th St (and yes, they have the same dish) better than its equivalent at Szechuan Gourmet. Same goes for the noodles. It is possible that SG trotted out a better showing for you than for my [equally non-Chinese] self, but I'm just curious as to what a side-by-side comparison illustrates.

Edited by Mayur (log)
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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We should definitely keep Wu Liang Ye in this discussion. I've been to Wu Liang Ye a lot, and have long held that Wu Liang Ye does some things better than Grand Sichuan even though overall it was always second best. I've have never had the fish-Napa dish, so I can't make a direct comparison there. I've had the dan dan noodles many times at both Wu Liang Ye and Grand Sichuan, though, and if that's the dish you're referring to when you say "the noodles" I'd characterize the Szechuan Gourmet noodles as better than Grand Sichuan, similar in quality to Wu Liang Ye (which always had better dan dan noodles than Grand Sichuan) but more of them for less money (not for nothing, Szechuan Gourmet seems generally to have huge portions and quite low prices -- for example the fish-Napa dish that's $19.95 on Wu Liang Ye's menu is $14.95 at Szechuan Gourmet and I'm betting Szechuan Gourmet's portion is bigger only because the portion seemed bigger than any two Wu Liang Ye dishes I've ever had, not that portion size is a qualitative issue).

Other dishes on which I can make on-point or nearly on-point comparisons: the Szechuan Gourmet razor clams are in a different league, in my opinion, than the somewhat equivalent (similar ingredients, different effect) razor clam dish at Wu Liang Ye; the dumplings in hot oil at Szechuan Gourmet, as I mentioned above, are much better than any I've had (at either Wu Liang Ye or Grand Sichuan), and while the tofu dish I had at Szechuan Gourmet is not exactly the same as the tofu dish I've had a few times at Wu Liang Ye (at Wu Liang Ye I've always had the one with minced pork), it's close enough to make a comparison and Szechuan Gourmet's preparation seemed much better to me.

Most of my Wu Liang Ye experience is with the East 86th Street branch, because it's my local, so maybe the issue is that 48th Street is better -- though my very limited experience says that's not the case. Overall, though, as much as I like Wu Liang Ye and some of the individual dishes there, Szechuan Gourmet struck me emphatically as a better restaurant overall, just based on this one stellar visit.

Edited to add: I'd love to do a side-by-side comparison of the fish dish, however my concern is that science has not yet invented a takeout container that would be able to withstand a Szechuan Gourmet four-peppers-in-the-margin dish.

Edited by Fat Guy (log)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've only ordered delivery from SG so it's not really a fair sample...but my (very limited) perception was that it was a slight level below GSI, about equivalent to the Wu.

but I had an only ok meal at the Chelsea GS on Monday night with a large group...trying a lot of dishes.

I thought S&T was better than all of them.

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Well, S&T (and Little Pepper) are IMO in a somewhat different league of fabulosity!

FG: Interesting thoughts regarding the individual dishes... and you're right, a side-by-side comparison of the two "sample" offerings is probably out of the question. Perhaps there needs to be a traveling tasting done of everyone's Manhattan Sichuan faves? Given the portion sizes at SG, it looks like it'd need to be a large group... :)

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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I was there Thursday night, and all I can say is "wow." I have been to what I thought were fairly authentic Chinese places before that claimed to be Szechuan, but what I had here was a whole new level.

The dumplings with roasted chili soy were incredible. The depth of flavor in the roasted chili made me seriously contemplate a second order.

I also tried the Dan Dan noodles. I will shudder henceforth at the mention of P.F. Chang, the only other place I had ever ordered this dish. I feel like what I imagine someone who had been fed fish sticks all his life might experience after his first taste of braised black cod.

My last dish was the prawns stir-fried with asparagus, diced pork, and chili. It was sublime. The shrimp were huge, plentiful, and not even slightly overcooked. The asparagus was not something I had encountered in Chinese cuisine before, but it stood up better that I would have guessed against the fiery onslaught of the chili-garlic sauce.

I can't wait for my next trip to New York.

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I was also there Thursday night. My first visit so I ordered based on what I read here. Excellent Sichuan. I did like the Mao dishes at Grand sichuan on 9th ave and I still think I prefer Spicy & Tasty, but GS is very good and very convenient. Had the tongue and tripe, what a great dish! Next time will try the rabbit as this is my favorite dish at S & T. Also had the dan dan noodles. not blown away but it never is my favorite. Had the whole bass with chili and it was incredible! Moist fish and not as spicy as the tripe even though it had 3 peppers on the menu. Also had the beef with leeks,, just ok. A large table in the back was eating a hot pot, it looked like shabu shabu, and it looked terrific. Service was excellent and the menu is large, so I'll be back.

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Planning to go there on Friday night for a party of four. We all like spicy food.

How does this sound? Is it way too much food? How many the following could we reasonably expect to order and finish?

1. Razor Clams with szechuan pepper corn – scallion pesto

2. Ox Tongue & Tripe with roasted chili – peanut vinaigrette

21. Dan Dan Noodles with chili – minced pork

23. Szechuan Pork Dumpling with roasted chili soy

47. Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly with chili leeks

50. Crispy Lamb Fillets with chili cumin

60. Chef’s Ma Paul Tofu with chili minced pork

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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We ended up doing:

21. Dan Dan Noodles with chili – minced pork

23. Szechuan Pork Dumpling with roasted chili soy

47. Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly with chili leeks

50. Crispy Lamb Fillets with chili cumin

60. Chef’s Ma Paul Tofu with chili minced pork

48. Stir Fried Chicken with roasted chili (boneless)

The stir fried chicken was at the suggestion of our waitress:

Her: Is that it? No vegetable?

Me: Vegetables? Ah, I didn't see anything that jumped out, I don't know.

Her: You don't want vegetable? How chicken? Stir fried chicken with roasted chili, number 48 is good, very good.

Me: Well...

Her: Is very good!

Me: OK, the chicken it is, then.

After a short wait, all of our food showed up at the same time, so the noodles and dumplings sat in sauce a bit longer than they should have. There's also way too much sauce with the dan dan noodles, nearly soup like, so it's very hard to share without dribbling all over.

The consensus winner of the group was the crispy lamb with cumin: lightly battered and fried, with both green and red chilis, and a nice but not overpowering flavor. The dan dan noodles and pork dumplings were both quite good, and I liked the pork dumplings in particular because of the sweetness of the soy and pork meat, a nice foil to the spice-factor of the rest of the dishes. Two of our group really loved the chicken, but I didn't think it was all that special, as I really like the chicken dishes at GSI (chong qing spicy chicken and gui zhou spicy chicken). The chicken, however, was extremely well cooked -- right at the point of done-ness. Pork belly was good (it really is like eating bacon) but not all that special in terms of the different pork belly dishes I've had at other restaurants in NYC. I think I just prefer my pork belly in larger pieces, not sliced.

We finished off everything except the mapo tofu (the lamb and chicken were actually kind of small portions in comparison). While not quite "4 pepper hot" it was still hot enough to be eaten only in small doses, with rice. The dish was huge, no way we could have finished it. For me, the spiciness didn't really hit until after I'd ingested some tofu, allowing the flavors to really shine; I loved that the spiciness didn't dominate the dish. Oh, and the tofu was perfectly cooked as well. Quite delicate and tender. Yum.

They also gave us some warm tapioca soup at the end, which I found rather bland and flavorless. It's to help with the numbed lips and tongues? Anyway, I like my chinese dessert soups to have something more in them (red bean, etc).

Next time: that ox tongue (my companions were a bit sqeamish), one of the "with Napa and roasted chili" dishes, and those razor clams. Also spotted a table nearby with a giant blue crabs dish, which looked intriguing.

Edited by kathryn (log)
"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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