I've been a devotee of both for several years now, especially 24th Street. In the past month or two, I've had one very mediocre meal at 24th and one at 50th. It was a real shock for me because both have been so brilliant in the past and because the difference was so drastic. Chef's night off usually decreases quality a bit, but this seemed like a more substantial change.
At 24th Street a month or so ago, Au Zhou chicken lacked its brightness. Soup dumplings were more bland (my wife thinks the skins were also less delicate). Even sesame noodles were not nearly as good as they had been. Vegetables (steamed in chicken stock) had declined because the stock wasn't as good.
At 50th Street, where I went on Monday night, sesame noodles were really lousy - icky sweet and without much sesame flavor. Shrimp Sichuan style was genuinely not good - harsh raw garlic/ginger flavors. Fried shredded potatoes (something new for me, I've always liked the warm shredded potatoes in vinegar) tasted *exactly* like BBQ-flavor potato chips. Yuck. Au Zhou chicken was still pretty good, though it was never as good on 50th as it was in the heyday of 24th Street. The soup dumplings were still good, though again not as good as 24th St. in its heyday.
In fairness, I did have a pretty decent lunch at 24th St. about a week ago. Really liked the "roaring grass" dish (cold, spicy, pickled vegetables). Shrimp Sichuan style was good (though not brilliant). Soup dumplings were still too bland. Fresh Chicken with Mushrooms was good, though not exactly a stretch.
Anyone been having similar experiences recently?