In an effort to map my neighborhood a little better on Feisty Foodie, I’ve been enlisting the help of others to enjoy the occasional dinner out. More than one person suggested Wa Jeal to me, so a recent Friday night, off I went with a friend to scout the place out.
Wa Jeal is located in a restaurant-heavy stretch of Second Avenue, but it has no shortage of admirers. While upon our arrival at 6:30 there were few other diners, mainly families, by the time we left the restaurant was nearly packed. Rumor has it one of the chefs — or was it owners? — hails from Wu Liang Ye, which would make sense given the menu, and the kitchen’s attention to spicy, spicy dishes. Right up my alley. So in the spirit of overindulgence we ordered far too much food.
First, a cold appetizer, the Spicy Sesame Noodles. This was a rather simple dish, with enough sesame oil in the liquid to dominate. It was a dish well-designed to start off the meal as we awaited the other appetizers.
Next up, the (hot appetizer) Dan Dan Noodles with Chili-Minced Pork. I really enjoyed these at Wu Liang Ye, so heck, if the chef here worked there, they should be tasty, right? The picture shows them pre-mixing with the sauce pooled underneath. The minced pork was appreciated as well — I’m happy whenever a spicy-ish pork is added to any dish.
Dumplings are a necessary part of any Chinese dinner, at least from my point of view, so we ordered the Sichuan Pork Dumplings with Chili-Garlic Soy. While these were indeed fried on one side, they were sort of bland, and I struggled to eat mine without repurposing some of the Dan Dan sauce.
Oh, why not, right? Sapporo is plenty refreshing and doesn’t get in the way of the taste of the food. So nice, I drank it twice. Wa Jeal has a full bar, so beer isn’t your only alcoholic option.
A plate of the appetizers, one of several as we awaited the main courses. The Dan Dan noodles were the standouts here; the sauce was fairly heavily salted, which was just perfect for me.
On to the entrees, which mostly arrived on schedule. First, the Stir-Fried Shredded Beef with Hua Jiao and Chili. As you can see, they bring this dish with its own heat source.
Laden with sliced peppers, scallions, and bamboo, the “shreds” of beef mingled with Wa Jeal’s signature red chilis and, well, this was just simply lovely. It was too much for one person as an entree with appetizers, certainly, which is a hallmark of Wu Liang Ye come to think of it.
So of course when you have more entrees…
The Braised Crispy Tofu with Pork. I was under the impression I’d ordered the Ma Po Tofu (named “Ma Paul Tofu” here), but this is what was on the bill. I’m glad this isn’t what their Ma Paul Tofu looks like, at least. Huge chunks of lightly-fried tofu, laced with pork — which in this case, meant short slices of American bacon. Maybe not as smoky as normal bacon, but it looked the part. This was rather interesting if not particularly spicy or flavorful at all (I cut it some slack, being tofu and all), but I really like my tofu cut smaller. I’m also not a fan of mushrooms, of which cap pieces popped up in this dish and which I gladly saved for my friend. The light frying worked well, but overall, this is a one-and-done dish.
My pick: the Wok-Roasted Chicken with Thousand Chili, the only one of our dishes labeled double-spicy. I think this picture can show you why.
If not, this one certainly does. Granted, maybe there were only six, seven hundred peppers, tops, in this dish. They were veined and seeded, for the most part, sure, but the heat that remained certainly made me sweat as I ate the lion’s share of this dish. The chicken had a thin crispy “shell”, much like the tofu in the Crispy Tofu, and here it served the same purpose. The crispy exterior works with chicken (duh), so I easily overate this, not having to worry about getting enough of each component of the dish in each chopstick-ful. And occasionally taking a pepper or two that was still holding veins or seeds? Rather a fun time.
Oh, and that was garlic all over the dish. You can see where I might have been interested in consuming it all. I finally had to stop stuffing myself.
All this food, and a healthy amount left over and packed, came to around $90 without tip. It also provided at least two more meals. It was certainly too much food for two people; I can’t imagine ordering fewer dishes my next visit, however. There’s just so much flavor and interesting combinations in the appetizers and in the Chef’s Menu (don’t order from the standard menu — it’s all the boring dishes you see everywhere). Sure, next time I’ll limit the noodle dishes; there’s a wide variety of options, but be prepared to eat spicy food. The most interesting dishes are definitely chili-laden. I recommend Wa Jeal, and I hope to be back very, very soon. I’m kind of hungry for it right now!