Solid, Upscale Szechuan Cuisine at Hwa Yuan (NYC)
Hwa Yuan is a new upscale Szechuan restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown. This restaurant started by the son of one of New York’s legendary Chinese restaurants. Hwa Yuan (the original opened in the 1980s) closed years ago and seminal Chinese restaurateur Shorty Tang died, his son Chen Lieh Tang reopened this current restaurant in hope to revitalize this part of Chinatown.
The restaurant is spacious having three floors, taking up the space of what was Bank of China. The basement is the kitchen and private dining room that was the safety deposit room of the bank. The main floor and upstairs are elegant, upscale dining rooms that doesn’t have the tacky, gaudiness of most Chinese restaurants in the United States.
The menu of Hwa Yuan features both traditional Chinese fare and some Americanized dishes that the chef and restaurateur thinks the place needs to draw a crowd.
The cold sesame noodles that made Shorty Tang famous is on it and it’s an incredible bowl of noodles. Nice chew from the noodles. The sauce had a tangy and pungent flavor, flinging notes of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, with a mild chile afterburn.
The Shanghainese (in origin) pork xiao long bao was good but the skin is a few millimeters thicker than preferred and needs more soup. The pork filling was delicious and fresh.
On the menu, it’s called “grilled octopus with salad” but it’s actually a sautée of baby squid with a Szechuan style sauce on parsley. (The parsley aspect to call it a salad is common in Chinese culture.) The dish was very good with the multi-dimensional spicy chili sauce tossed with the chewy squid. The parsley gave it a refreshing note.
The other signature dish of this restaurant is the Peking duck. The Long Island duck has the perfect amount of fat and meat and it’s roasted to perfection. The meat is buttery soft while the skin is crispy. The condiments to go with the duck are steamed thin pancakes and a trio of julienned toppings: scallions, Asian pear and cucumbers with a side of sweet hoisin sauce. It’s a do-it-yourself-version of an upscale duck burrito and it’s one of the best Peking ducks in NYC.
For the last round of courses, we had the mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) with an order of steamed white rice and Szechuan style lamb chops. The mapo tofu is the best I have had in the longest time. The spicy level is just spicy that you want to take a sip of tea or beer and you can’t stop eating the tofu with the rice. When the staff checked in, we had to tell him to compliment the chef. It’s really that good and my favorite dish of the evening.
The Szechuan lamb chops were super tender that you don’t really require any effort to cut with a knife but it’s too mild n flavor to indicate it’s Szechuan influenced.
Overall, the meal was very good and has promise. It’s a two-month old restaurant so there’s definitely room for them to grow and it showed potential. The best things about the revamped Hwa Yuan are the elegant presentation and level of cooking technique.
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42 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 966-6002