With the Midtown food scene moving at hyper-speed with the arrival of a slew of new restaurants, including Naru and Jupiter, one constant in the area around Rockefeller Center has been Wu Liang Ye. The Chinese restaurant located in an a turn-of-the-century townhouse (36 W 48th St) with its towering ceilings, crystal chandeliers ornate plasterwork and elegant wooden archway remains a fixture in the area, known for its fiery Sichuan cuisine and relatively tame prices.
Here large and small groups gather with a glass of wine or icy beer and prepare for the feast to begin. It begins with crispy spring rolls, light and delicate, served with a pungent sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard, and Chicken Corn Egg Drop Soup, usually an afterthought in many Chinese restaurants, this one arrives piping hot as if it was prepared at the moment with morsels of chicken that can be scooped up from the bottom.
Several types of dumplings are available for sharing ranging from pan-seared pork dumplings with chili vinaigrette to crab meat and pork soup dumpling that arrive in a steam basket. Each is filled with a rich broth that bursts into your mouth upon the first bite. Navigate that first bite carefully. Dan Dan Noodles fire up the senses with minced pork and chilies turned tableside over a bed of thick, chewy noodles.
Signature dishes include Camphor Tea Smoked Duck with crispy skin and lots of moist meat. Camphor, which comes from the camphor tree, is known for its ability to stimulate the senses. General Tso’s Chicken is perfectly prepared with crispy bite-sized pieces of fried chicken packed with heat from red chilies found throughout. Stir-fried prawns with sliced asparagus arrive in a spicy Yibin sauce named after a Sichuan province in southeastern China.
While there is no dessert menu, guests are offered a dish known as Tang Yuan, sticky sweet rice balls filled with black bean paste that are served in a simple broth. It is simply delicious!
We just scratched the surface of the menu at Wu Liang Ye. As our server recommended, sit back, take your time and enjoy this wonderful food adventure.
By Thomas Rafael