La vie en Szechuan: an Authentic Sichuan Restaurant with Multiple Flavors

Article by Yvonne Lo
Photo by Niko

Located in the heart of Manhattan on 14 East 33rd street, La vie en Szechuan brings the authentic taste of Szechuan to New York. It’s a restaurant equipped with an amazingly skilled chef who create each dish with a unique and different taste. They offer both spicy and non-spicy dishes that will please any palate.

The marvel is that the chef, Zhong Qing Wang, a native of Chengdu, refines Sichuan flavors without extinguishing them. Chef Wong was born and raised in Chengdu, Szechuan and he became a chef because of his love for food. He was a student of multiple Szechuan cuisine masters, graduated from Chengdu Cooking Art College in middle 1980s. He then was trained for standardization of Szechuan cuisine at Martin Hotel in Chengdu and served in different hotels. Since Chef Wang came to the United States in 2000, he has been working at various well-known Szechuan restaurants in New York and other States. Chef Wang was reported by a couple of media outlets and gained a wide-spread reputation and credibility. Chef Wang is proficient in both hot and cold dish cooking skills, and takes a lot of pride in emphasizing the appearance and details of each dish. He tries his best to present the essence of real Szechuan cuisine.

What’s their secret? Sichuan green and red flower peppers from Chengdu. Sichuan peppers have a unique aroma and flavor that is unlike any other pepper – not hot or pungent like black, white, or chili peppers. It has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbing sensation in the mouth. Chef Wang comes in every morning at 10am to prepare the special ingredients for the day. The chef hand grinds the peppercorns daily to create the various homemade chili pastes that are used in a variety of his dishes. When the peppercorns are combined, a new taste is created, leaving an enjoyable impression behind.

Sichuan peppers have a unique aroma and flavor that is unlike any other pepper – not hot or pungent like black, white, or chili peppers. It has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbing sensation in the mouth. A great appetizer to begin your food journey.

Sliced Beef in Chili Paste is a dish of thinly sliced beef with a spoonful of chili paste by its side. The chili paste is made of green peppercorns and red chili oil. There’s also a secret ingredient within the dish. Make sure to order this to discover the secret ingredient that ties it all together.

Sliced Pork with Fresh Garlic Paste is presented beautifully with the sliced pork delicately placed on a wooden rack that brings a certain luxurious aesthetic. The fresh garlic paste placed in a saucer at the side includes red peppercorns which compliments the pork; the sweet and tenderness of the pork contrasts with the spicy and numbness of the chili paste, fighting to shine its flavor on the taste buds. It is a delectable dish that will surprise your palate.

Seaweed with Fresh Green Peppers is refreshing dish that is unlike the typical seaweed salad. It is categorized as an appetizer however; it can also be a palate cleanser between each spicy bite. It is a wonderful way to try each dish and truly savor the flavor it has to offer.

Chicken with Szechuan Pepper Sauce is a lip-smacking chicken dish that brings out the essence of chicken. Eating chicken will never be the same again. There are no words to explain the flavor of this tasty and mouthwatering dish. It is one that must be experienced firsthand. When ordering, the dish will appear differently in person than the picture on the menu.

Braised Napa with Chestnuts is a signature dish of La Vie en Szechuan due to the seasonal chestnuts. This dish has an earthy note due to the aromatic and abundance flavor of the chestnuts. The braised napa has a slight crunch and allows the chicken broth to sink into its stem where each bite is juicy and will have you going back for more.

Braised fish fillets Chongqing-style is a one-of-a-kind dish that can appear intimidating at first, however, is pure seafood heaven. Chef Wang has already filleted the fish and presented it in a way that will complete amaze you. Piled high on a fileted fish was the chef’s special chili mixture of jalapenos, red peppercorns, green peppercorns, garlic, and parsley. It was an explosion of flavor, the fish was luscious and scrumptious, and I just could not get enough of this dish.

Royal style Tofu with Seafood is one of the popular dishes at La vie en Szechuan and it sure doesn’t disappoint. This is one of the signature dishes that Chef Wang presents that is a non-spicy but is full of flavors. It is also seasonal, it is not always offered on the menu. The main ingredient that makes it special and limited is the fresh pumpkin. Get this while you still can!

Thousand Eggs with Chili Paste clearly shows the chef’s efforts in plating a dish that is very different from most Chinese restaurants you might have experienced. It’s beautiful! The thousand eggs have a dark brown gelatin shell that is a bit salty with a creamy consistency in the middle. The chili paste consists of jalapeños, red chili oil, and green peppercorns. If you had thousand eggs before, this is a new and innovating way to appreciate its taste. If not, this dish should be your first bite of thousand eggs. Chef Wang brings out the thousand eggs flavor in such a simple way.

All of these are original dish that can only be experienced at La vie en Szechuan, you won’t be able to find it in your nearby Chinese restaurant. La Vie en Szechuan dishes allow customers to eat with their eyes first, to admire and be amazed by the beautiful presentation. Next, you eat with your nose, you’re hit with the aromatic smell of the dish and you can’t help but salivate. The final step, you can actually eat. Enjoy and savor the wonderful dishes La Vie en Szechuan has to offer.

There are so many delicious dishes, that even Chef Wong can’t decide his favorite. You’ll just have to visit La vie en Szechuan for an unforgettable food experience that will want you coming back for more. If you’re tolerance for spiciness is low, don’t worry. The chefs of La vie en Szechuan can adjust the level of spiciness to your taste and the Wang Lo Kat (now known as Wanglaoji in mainland China) is a great way to cool off your taste buds.


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