I had posted a while back asking for Midtown suggestions for a wide range of random ethnicities, as I'm working in the city at times and haven't eaten here since I grew up here a couple (cough) decades ago. One of the suggestions that came back was to go to the Rockefeller Center branch of Wu Liang Ye, because it was supposed to be the best Sichuan in the city, and better than what LA has to offer for Sichuan food.
Well, I'm happy to say -- while I can't say it was the best Sichuan in the city because it's the ONLY Sichuan I've ever had in the city, it was the best Sichuan I've had in this country.
Though I was by myself, I ordered three dishes -- shredded ma la chicken, Yibing-style prawns with asparagus and chile oil, and dan dan mian. The chicken was incredible, well-cooked and happily not just chicken breast (I swear, no one is Los Angeles will eat any other part of the chicken -- it's depressing); the dan dan mian were outstanding -- a bit al dente and with an unctuous numbing-and-spicy oil underneath. The prawn dish was the least interesting -- while the asparagus was excellent and the sauce perfectly done, the prawns were just not matching with the flavours -- I'd get the taste of plain prawn, and then the sauce, and they didn't mesh well.
By Los Angeles standards, the meal was staggeringly -- mind-numbingly -- expensive. I know from my youth that eating out in this city requires much wallet fortitude but I was not prepared for the prices at Wu Liang Ye, even knowing that it was in Tourist Central ("I GOTTA TAKE A PICTURE OF ROCKEFELLER CENTER OMG LET ME STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK OW THAT GUY JUST BUMPED INTO ME"). The meal cost me nearly $50 -- now, the quality was excellent, and the service was fine (by Chinese restaurant standards, meaning I didn't have to flail around to get a waiter's attention), but the price caused me to sweat more than the chiles did... the same meal at Chung King in LA, which is about the best we have in LA, would have cost me about half that and for larger portions.
Thanks for the rec. I have other reports coming -- Petrossian for breakfast, Pigalle on 8th Ave, Trattoria dell'Arte on 7th Ave, and I'm going down to Kossar's on the F train tomorrow because if I don't eat a bialy soon I'm going to go nuts with nostalgia.
Wu Liang Ye
36 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036