I just came back to visit NY from MN and have some thoughts to share.
I grew up on Empire Szechuan, and I would never in a million years argue that it is great food. What it USED to be was basically average quality comfort food. The cold sesame noodles were pretty good, I liked the pork with peking sauce. Last night we ordered takeout from there and it was utterly wretched. They seem to have turned a corner in quality so that now it is basically inedible. What happened and when did it happen? The chicken was gristle, the pork was flavorless. There seems to be no connection between it and Chinese food or even its old self.
This begs the question: where is the best Szechuan in Manhattan? And I am sure it is here on the boards somewhere, so if someone could point me in the right direction, that would be great.