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Szechuan Chalet - finally, a reason to go to the upper east side

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Szechuan Chalet - finally, a reason to go to the upper east side

Bob Martinez | Jan 6, 2010 10:47 AM

Why Szechuan Chalet? Why not Szechuan Tee Pee? Or Szechuan Igloo? I prefer not to know the answer - I like a bit of mystery. The important thing is that the food is very good.

I may be getting the back story wrong but my understanding is that this place opened up about 6 months ago and is run by alumni of Szechuan stalwart Wu Liang Ye. A friend has been telling everyone she knows that the place is very good; she's right.

A mixed group of MFers, CHs, and fellow travelers made a visit last night and performed the usual drill. Order lots of dishes and then swap them around so everybody gets to try everything. We were seated at a big circular table with a giant turntable in the center. This made the dish swapping a far neater operation than usual.

I took no notes so my list of dishes will be incomplete. Here we go -

Starters:
Dan dan noodles - a solid version of the classic dish. The Szechuan peppercorns produced a nice buzz

Cheng Du Chilled Noodles (aka sesame noodles) - served chilled, this was a stellar dish, the best version I've ever had. Often the sesame flavor can be a bit overwhelming but in this dish all the flavors were perfectly balanced. Excellent.

Sliced Beef Tendon - I'm not a tendon lover but other people seemed to like this.

Sliced Poached Tender Beef w/Five Spices - not much eye appeal here but this was surprisingly good. I'd happily order it again.

Razor Clams with Scallion Pesto - a pretty dish. This got eaten fast.

Mains:
Sichuan Lamb - there was a lovely picture of this in the menu. We ordered it and it looked just as good in person. Unfortunately the dish was a bit flat. Not bad, but with so many other good choices on the menu there's no reason to eat this again.

Double Cooked Fresh Bacon w/Spicy Capsicum - Ahem. This was my selection and it was an absolute winner. The pork belly was cut much thinner that usual. Very bacon-like and the spicing was suitably complex. The dish was a bit saltier than I would have liked but that's what beer is for.

Ants Climbing a Tree - An off menu item and one I've never had before. This turns out to be a noodle and minced pork dish with a pleasant level of spicing. Very enjoyable.

Crispy Whole Boneless Sea Bass - (I think I'm identifying this properly. There are 3 or 4 bass dishes on the menu.) This was served with a generous pouring of sauce, a bit of a surprise. People only got around to it after they tackled the other dishes but every bite was finished.

Tofu Sautéed w/Crab Meat - People liked this although I skipped it. I prefer my tofu on the dry side and not served in sauce. That's a minority opinion and if this dish appeals to you I'm sure you'll like it.

Sautéed Baby Bok Choy w/Clear Sauce - Most people claimed to like this but I noticed that it was one of the few dishes that wasn't completely eaten. Feh. Why order this when you can have sauteed green beans and minced pork?

Under $40 with beers, tax, and overtip. A steal. The menu is extensive; I could eat here 5 or 6 times and not repeat myself. The ambiance is a level above your standard neighborhood Chinese; it's certainly not Shun Lee Palace but you don't get the feeling that you're slumming. The restaurant is located on a stretch that's being ravaged by construction of the 2nd Ave. subway. Perhaps that explained the sparse crowd? Or maybe it was the bitter cold? I prefer not to think that upper east siders aren't sufficiently appreciative of good Szechuan cooking but time will tell.

Szechuan Chalet
1395 2nd Ave (73rd & 2nd)
(212) 737-1838

Website with menu - http://szechuanchaletnyc.com/food-del...

Extra Points
* If you're looking for a place to have drinks before heading to SC the bar at Beach Cafe (1326 2nd Ave, at E.70th St.) works nicely.

* SC does a good takeout business. I wish they delivered to Park Slope.

-----
Wu Liang Ye
36 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036

Wu Liang Ye
215 E 86th St, New York, NY 10028

Wu Liang Ye
338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

Shun Lee Palace
155 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022

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