Wow, just got back from Wa Jeal at 82nd and 2nd... definitely one of the better Sichuan meals I've had in a while. Went with 4 other friends, one is familiar with Sichuan, the other 3 are newbies, but everything we ate satisfied veteran and freshman alike.
First up, "pork and cucumber roll with chili garlic soy." That's from the take-out menu, but it's listed as pork belly on their in house menu. The head waiter smiled at me when I picked it, so I knew I was in for something good. I asked for everything "ma la" and authentically spiced, and the chef complied. This was great, thin slices of pork belly rolled around green onions dipped in the typical chile soy garlic sauce, but with an extra nuance. Sichuan pickles were also great, with lots of hua jiao and delicious pickled radishes.
Next was a sop to my non Sichuan eating friends: fried spring rolls and wontons. Both were good as well.
Dan dan noodles were very good... but I still make better ones at home.
Our mains were a nice variety. Loved the mapo tofu with diced fish (tilapia), great mixture of textures with a very flavorful sauce. Sauteed string beans with ya cai and minced pork had great wok sear and were very well seasoned, a big hit. Chengdu spicy dumplings were some of the best I've had in Manhattan--- their chile/soy/garlic/ginger sauce is really fantastic with great nuance. Tangerine chicken is not something I usually eat, but this was perfectly fried and crispy with a flavorful, sweet sauce. Really outstanding, even with low expectations.
One of the coolest dishes was listed as limb ribs with chile and cumin, but was actually 6 pieces of rack of lamb. The lamb was slightly overcooked, but the sauce was fantastic, cuminy and rich but not too spicy.
The bartender recommended diced rabbit and whole fish with minced pork and chile sauce for our next visit. She also boasted about how much she loved to pour strong drinks...so check that out. I'll definitely be going back, everything was nicely favored with great nuance, nothing was overpowering at all. It was fairly crowded at 8-930 on a Friday night, I'm glad they're doing well, but it's always helpful to give them more business. The waitstaff was very nice and excited once it was clear we wanted some authentic food. Highly recommended.
1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028