Wu Liang Ye Pleases
My buddy, a former New Yorker, considers Wu Liang Ye one of the best Chinese restaurants in New York City. It’s certainly his favorite, winning because it serves far less of the Americanized Chinese food than your average place, and also the preparations are winning. I also find the place to be winning, if inevitably somewhat cramped. It is filled with round tables, in a narrow space, so you’re certain to be bumped into or stuffed awkwardly into a nook.
I am a particular fan of Wu Liang Ye’s cold sesame noodles. They are some of the best I’ve had in town, although there’s a place on the Upper West that steals my heart in this regard for sentimental reasons. The sauce coating the noodles is a bit more oily than thick (as can be the case in some cold sesame noodle preparations). The garnish is excellent, crispy and refreshing, but of course it is the flavor of the sauce – which packs a surprising amount of heat – that is the winner.
We ordered some juicy pork buns as part of the appetizer set. While I was expecting a larger version – more like steamed, stuffed bready confections I’ve had at some dim sum joints – but instead it is the more traditional, smaller bun.
As you can see, the wrapper (or bun) portion of the dumpling is a bit thicker and doughier, but also quite rich as a result from all that devil white flour. The meat preparation inside is quite fresh, with a savory flavor that cuts into the sweet of the bun and complements it. The shredded greens mixed into the meat also help mellow the flavor. But the overall tone is sweet.
Look at those fried dumplings. I think you can probably guess what I’m going to say about those beauties.
What’s so startling about the dumplings is the filling. The texture of the filling is crumbly, as opposed to the dense, tense brick or patty one usually finds in a pork dumpling. The shredded scallion is lovely. The fried dumpling wrapper is crispy where it lay on the pan, slightly chewy where it didn’t.
The tangerine beef wasn’t quite what we expected. The strips of beef seem to be dipped in flour-based coating and fried up, but not to a point of crunchiness, rather it adopts a slight, flavorful skin (which may sound disgusting) that is an excellent captor of the spice and tangerine flavor.
As you’re probably noticing by now, Wu Liang Ye’s main courses aren’t exactly afraid of a heavy portion of sauce. The good news, though, is that though the various sauces (as with the prawns in garlic above) may be heavily ladeled on, they are not heavy in themselves. They don’t interfere with your ability to eat or overwhelm the flavor the protein they are trying to set off.
The beef lo mein was one of the better ones I’d had in a while. It’s not too greasy, the beef wasn’t just turgid strips of god knows what, the veggies were also substantial and fresh.
Wu Liang Ye makes something called tea smoked duck, which I haven’t seen elsewhere. As you can see, it is a hacked up duck. I’ll bet (given its name) you can guess its preparation. The tea smoking is wonderful, adding a richness from the smoke and a slight lightness from the tea that offsets the foul’s hearty nature. It is served on the bone, so expect to do some wrestling, but it’s a winner.
As is Wu Liang Ye.