Albany NY and Capital Region Restaurants

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wu Liang Ye

Other than food, I am pretty passionate about traveling -- whether they're short weekend trips, or just day trips, I love to get away and hopefully, take in some new restaurants while on travel. Below I'm briefly summarized a recent experience in NYC. I wrote this prior to creating the blog, but wanted to upload it in the interest of completeness.

During a recent trip to NYC I was craving "authentic" Chinese cuisine prepared in the Sichuan (Szechuan) style. Sichuan food enjoys a reputation for being spicy and flavorful, and primarily employs preparation techniques such as stirfrying, steaming, and braising.

I've heard rave recommendations about "Wu Liang Ye" which has several locations in Manhattan. I was closest to the one at Lexington and 39th.

The dining room was empty on Saturday night ~ 9:30 pm. Most of the staff were sharing "hot pot" type dishes in the back of the restaurant. I secretely desired to share what they were eating. My dining partner and I were overwhelmed by the menu -- it was nearly 10 pages offering well over 200 dishes.

We ordered a few beers each and then ordered:

(1) Dan Dan Noodles
(2) Poached Razor Clams
(3) Sliced Beef Tendons
(4) Tea Smoked Duck

This was the first time I had tried Dan Dan Noodles. They were tossed tableside and when the hot/warm noodles were mixed in with the "vinaigrette" it released it salty/sweet/earthy aroma. We knew we were in for a treat. The noodles offered so many flavors dancing around in your mouth. (WLY +1) To those who'd never had it before, I'd liken it to a "chinese bolognese" but even that phrase doesnt do the dish any justice. If I lived in NYC, this would certainly be a weekly treat for me. My only recommendation -- and Im sure this is a bastardization of the meal -- would be to add some extra spinach and perhaps some chopped green onion.

The Poached Razor clams "special" was prominently displayed over the bar. I had read about prior recommendations of the dish and ordered it. The dish was served cold accompanied by a scallion sauce. Again, the dish was infused with an abundance of flavor; my only regret was that I wish this dish was served before the noodles as I wouldve benefitted from a "cleaner" palatte to really enjoy the clams.

Sliced Beef Tendons may have been the highlight of the evening. (WLY +1) This dish was served cold and offered a salty/chewy/crunchy texture. It was served in a red sichuan oil "sauce" and this dish really challenged and highlighted what traditional "carry-out" chinese places cannot offer to the public at large. It really made me wish I lived in NYC (just for a moment :) so I could experience foods like this on a regular basis.

The tea smoked duck arrived along with the Tendons. It was half a duck (at this point my dining partner and I were so full) and chopped into bite sized pieces. The first bite revealed a smoky/earthy and salty quality. The duck was not gamey and offered a crackly skin. It was perfect. We contemplated how they prepared the dish so quickly and agreed that it was likely prepared in advanced and kept in some type of oven that didnt dry out the meat while still maintaining a crisp skin. We finished the best pieces of the duck leaving behind some bones and large pieces of fat.

I look forward to my next visit to NYC to try out Wu Liang Ye again. I only hope the next time I can go with a larger group of similarly-minded diners so I can try out a larger variety of dishes.

Wu Liang Ye
338 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10016
(212) 370-9647

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