So Spicy, So Tasty

Mapodofu Eater reorts that Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni is hopping on the 7 Train for the second time in his career — for a review of Spicy & Tasty as tomorrow’s lead review. Like Thai temple Sripraphai before it, Spicy & Tasty should really be in the "25 & Under" column. Unlike many of the spots reviewed under that banner, you can actually pig out (literally) for less than 25 clams. But also like Sripraphai, Spicy & Tasty is well-known for food on a higher culinary plane than any other Szechuan place in the Five Burroughs.  I’m placing my bet on Two Stars. UPDATE: two stars it is.

Perhaps my most memorable meal of 2006 was a birthday lunch at Spicy & Tasty. My rundown was buried within a long, rambly birthday weekend post, so I’ve extracted it here…

People are scared to go to Flushing, maybe because it’s the last stop on the 7 Train, but it takes maybe half an hour to get out there from Williamsburg, taking either the G or the 61 bus and transferring to the 7.

Coldaps1 Spicy & Tasty is my favorite Chinese restaurant in all of NYC and is basically Szechuan with some creative flourishes here and there. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Cold Appetizer portion of the menu. This is where some of the most delicious items on the extensive menu are found. The guy who handles them, who we dubbed the App-Master, is a genius. Bamboo Shoots with wild pepper; giant clam with wasabi sauce; pork belly in chile oil; cucumber in garlic sauce; smoked tofu and celery; smoked eggplant in tomato sauce, the mysterious but delicious "mountain vegetable"… all kick ass. (Some of these are featured in the picture on the right. Check out the annotated version of this shot on my Flickr page to find out what’s what.)

It’s good to have people who speak Chinese with you when you go but is not necessary. Sandy and Vivian consulted with the server for what seemed like ten minutes. They noticed a special listed on the wall in Chinese for homemade sausage. This was amazing, loaded with Szechuan peppercorns that numb your mouth and make water taste like electricity.

Our cooked courses included Ma La Lamb (both Szechuan and typical hot chiles), pork belly (again) with chiles and rice powder (unimpressive at first but got better the more you ate it), pea shoots sauteed with garlic, classic Szechuan dish Ma Po Tofu (soft bean curd in a spicy ground pork sauce), and a whole steamed fish in a spicy pepper sauce that was to-the-moon good. The fish bones were sucked dry like ribs and the head was deconstructed to get out every tasty morsel. All this food, plus a round of beer for all seven of us, was only $167! I dare you to do better, dollars-to delicious. (I took loads of pictures but when I got home I realized I’d accidentally bumped the settings on my camera, causing most of the shots to be blurry. Crud.)

Spicy & Tasty
39-07 Prince St Flushing, NY 11354
Phone: 718-359-1601

MP3: The Auteurs – Chinese Bakery (Not exactly appropriate, but it was this or R.E.M.’s "Seven Chinese Brothers")

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