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Wu Liang Ye Pleases

January 21, 2011

Up the stairs, into Chinese food excellence.

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.

The cold sesame noodles are particularly special.

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.

Before...

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.

... and after.

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.

Who doesn't love fried dumplings?

Look at those fried dumplings. I think you can probably guess what I’m going to say about those beauties.

The pork filling is fresh and delicious.

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.

Tangerine beef.

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.

Prawns

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.

Delicious beef lo mein.

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.

The star of the show.

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.

Wu Liang Ye

36 West 48th Street
New York, NY 10036
212.398.2308
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Hugh Zanger permalink
    January 24, 2011 10:33 am

    I feel it appropriate to note the following points:
    1) management’s approach to service was one of benign neglect;
    2) the physical plant was hilarious and added to our recent dining experience – the temperature inside sharply shot up at one point to 100 degrees, and at another point the main lights in the room turned off – I was there – it happened;
    3) dumplings, shrimp, beef, & lo mein – pretty good, cold noodles – ok, but vinegary, duck – fatty.
    HUGH

    • January 24, 2011 10:53 am

      All excellent points, Hugh. I didn’t notice the fluctuation in temperature but the “disco” lighting moment was a bit worrisome.
      It is true that the cold noodles are a bit vinegary, but what I like about them is they are distinctly different than the thicker paste preparation of CSN you get most places. They also have a welcome spiciness. I guess they remind me of bok choy from Peking Duck, if you remember that joint… .
      The duck is a bit of a wrestling match, but that flavor is winning.

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