Every Chinese food lover I know in New York has been decrying the decline of Chinese restaurants in Manhattan. You have to go to Flushing or Sunset Park to get a good Chinese meal, they all say.
Well, stop the fortune cookie presses. A couple of weeks ago I got a tip from a friend touting a great Sichuan restaurant in a most unlikely location, West 39th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues. I went with a chef buddy last week the day before Thanksgiving, and, boy, were we blown away.
Szechuan Gourmet, a Manhattan branch of a Flushing restaurant of the same name (I don't even know if the Queens branch is still open), serves some mighty fine Sichuan food. Everything we had was at least a solid B-plus and most dishes were much better than that. The Dan Dan Noodles With Chile-Minced Pork were merely very good, but the Chef's Ma Paul Tofu was sensational, cloud light and fiery hot. Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly With Chile Leeks was divinely porky and meaty, and the Stir Fried Chicken With Roasted Chile had me wanting to return the next day.
Szechuan Gourmet joins a short list of fine Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan:
Address: 21 West 39th Street, New York NY 10018 (b/n Fifth and Sixth; map)
Grand Sichuan International
Address: 229 Ninth Avenue, New York NY 10001 (b/n 25th and 24th; map)
Grand Sichuan Eastern
Address: 1049 Second Avenue, New York NY 10022 (b/n 55th and 56th; map)
Wu Liang Ye
Address: 36 West 48th Street, New York NY 10036 (b/n Fifth and Sixth; map)
It has been so long since I've been to the other Wu Liang Ye locations (215 East 86th Street or 338 Lexington Avenue) that I can't comment on them. The newest Grand Sichuan location (19-23 St. Marks Place) has been well-reviewed by the New York Times.
Has any serious eater been to any of these locations lately?