Spicy and Tasty - The Festival of Pork
- Bob Martinez
Three weekends - three visits - all pork - all the time.
Regular readers will remember the sudden and unexpected closing of the highly regarded Spicy and Tasty, Flushings' best Szechuan restaurant, last summer. After a bland July and August, Chowhound H. Ling found that S&T had been resurrected in new posh quarters and the food was better than ever. (See the link below).
Since I was a tremendous fan of the first restaurant I made it a point to visit the new location as quickly as I could. I have not been disappointed. After three visits on three successive weekends my biggest regret is that I couldn't sample more dishes. With that in mind, here are the the results. The menu is extensive so to make things a bit easier I'm going to list the number of each dish.
Dan Dan noodles (94) - Maybe it's just me but I remember the noodles at the old location as being just a bit better. Richer? A slightly thicker sauce? Or maybe my memory is unreliable. If they've slipped, its not by much. The old noodles scored a 10 - the new ones are a 9. By the way, the sauce has savory bits of pork embedded in it. Of course.
Hot and Sour Noodles (88) - A new dish for me, they were peppery hot and ummm ... sour. The flavor was slightly odd at first but it grew on me. I'd order it again.
Cold Noodles with Red Chili Sauce (89) - Fiery hot and very good. The waitstaff felt the need to warn me about both 88 and 89. "Very *very* hot. OK for you?" "Spicy is good!" says I. They delivered as promised.
Hot & Sour Soup (127) - The version at the previous location was the best of its type I've ever tasted. I ordered this to go and tried it the following night. It was merely very good. An aberration? I'd like to hear other opinions.
Sauteed Snow Pea Tips w. Garlic (150) - Call me naive but the name of the dish sort of implies that snow peas would be in evidence in the finished product. Instead, I got a dish of what appeared to be sauteed escarole and garlic. *Very good* sauteed escarole mind you, but I called a team of waitresses over (they travel in schools like fish) and specifically asked if the dish was correct. They swore to me that it was so I'll take their word for it. (FWIW, escarole is *not* on the menu). Anyway, it tasted great and I recommend it. Just don't expect to see any snow peas.
Sauteed Spicy Chinese Broccoli (154) - The best I've ever had. Crisp and spicy and perfect.
Moving on to the pork portion of the program....
Spicy Double Cooked Pork (39) - Very good flavor marred slightly by a few pieces that were a bit tough. I'd order it again.
Shredded Pork with Dried Bean Curd (40) - This was a favorite from the old place. On my first visit I searched for it on the menu and missed it since it was no longer billed as "spicy". Not a problem - once I located it on the 2nd visit they gladly made it as hot as I remembered. The dish consists of thin strips of peppery pork sauteed with celery and slivers of dry bean curd which pick up the flavor of the sauce beautifully. A great dish.
Enhanced Pork (37) - Don't you just love the name? I had images of Austin Powers' arch-villian Doctor Evil creating a race of Super Pigs in a secret location. Bigger, stronger, faster... able to read the New York Times... Thanks to the Rogues' earlier review (see below) I was encouraged to try this dish and I am forever grateful. It consists of rectangles of thinly sliced spicy pork which had an almost bacony quality. I love scallions and so does the chef who prepares this. Loads of sauteed scallions are a great foil for this perfect dish.
Ambiance / Incidentals
As H. Ling noted, the ambiance of the new place is considerably nicer than the old. It's located in a brand new building, a green glass office tower with shops on the first floor. New tables and chairs, new dishes, and even a new waitstaff who actually smile and display pleasure that you're enjoying the food. Could this be the wave of the future in Flushing? They couldn't be nicer, although English is not their strong suit. Pointing at specific dishes on the menu seems to work perfectly.
While the location and decor is more upscale the prices have remained the same. Most entrees are in the $8 - $10 range. Thank you Jesus.
During all 3 visits I was the only Caucasian in the place. The crowd is affluent Chinese, couples and families, who all seem to be having a great time. As Rogue noted, the waitstaff seemed to get a kick out of the fact that we had sought the place out and went out of their way to treat us right.
Another novelty - they have served beer that is consistently cold at every meal. Other Flushing restaurants, including the old S&T, often trotted out bottles of lukewarm beer and didn't seem to appreciate the fact that this was not a good thing. The new S&T gets this right.
The new incarnation of Spicy & Tasty is not some struggling venue that needs our patronage to survive. This place is doing a ripping business. I initially visited at about 7:00 on a Saturday night. The place was *packed* and people were milling about the very small waiting area. I was told that the wait would be 30 minutes, maybe an hour. Such vagueness didn't reassure me so I made other dinner arrangements that night.
Since then I've been seated successfully at 3 in the afternoon and at 5:30 in the evening. All visits were made on Saturday. During the 3:00PM visit my friend and I had to share a large round table with a polite group of well dressed 20 somethings (which was fine by us). In the early evening I've managed to get tables but barely avoided the rush of the dinner crowd.
This place gets busy early and stays that way. Plan accordingly.
39-07 Prince Street, just around the corner from Roosevelt Avenue and one block from the Main Street #7 station. 718-359-1601. Reservations? Who knows? But I would expect they would accomodate larger groups. The big round tables will seat 12 or more. The listed hours are 11:00AM - 3:00AM.
Next time I go I'm going to have beef or chicken. Really. I swear it.
Great post. I just wanted to say that by snow pea tips they mean the shoots, the tender and thin last six inches of the pea vine. I am pretty sure these are the tasty green stuff you thought was escarole. I love pea shoots especially if they are barely cooked, just wilted a bit, and garlic is a great accompaniment. I can't wait to try their rendition. It's 8am and I am now famished, I have a 75 mile drive to work and nothing to munch on but a few pieces of fresh fruit. Good fruit, but no Spicy and Tasty... waaaa...
Thanks to you and your link and all who post such valuable experiences here. That's why I love chowhound, such dedicated eaters. I haven't yet had the pleasure of Spicy and Tasty and was kicking myself when it closed. Alas, I am working in Jackson Heights on a deadline and will probably have to lunch on some Uruguayan sweetbreads or pasta. El Chivito d'Oro isn't a bad place to mull over the Times and fuel up for my big push to finish writing, but after reading all those spicy posts I want some of those pea shoots and eggplant and Enhanced pork. Maybe El Chivito will have pickled eggplant app, not the same but... soon I'll get to S&T. Thanks again.
I salute you, Sir Bob, for your thorough post.
You write, "I had to share a large round table with a polite group of well dressed 20 somethings"
I believe I know this group - their names are Arthur, Galahad, Uriens, Leodegrance, and others; I often join them at their table myself. Their armor is fine indeed.
Glad to hear 'twas a merry time.
great post! i have a friend visiting next week who used to live in china and loves sichuan food above all. where she lives now (belgium) no kind of chinese is obtainable so her trips to ny are a big deal. we usually go to Grand Sichuan International or Wu Liang Ye in manhattan when she comes. how does Spicy and Tasty compare to these two? should i plan a field trip to flushing instead when she arrives this time?
somehow i've haven't been to flushing yet, but plan to head out there soon for myself on the strength of all your posts (esp. HLing).
I haven't actually had a chance to set foot inside the new branch of S&T, (but am thinking I need to go there for dinner tonight, if not sooner,) but I did eat at the old one a few times, as well as at the other places you mentioned. Lately we've been hitting Wu Liang Ye about twice a month, and finding it inconsistent. Also think they've toned down the heat over time. I strongly suspect an accomodation to the gringo crowd (among whom I count myself.)
I don't hear that in the descriptions of the new S&T (and didn't experience it at the old one.) I think the pressure to serve good food is pretty high in Flushing - lots of savvy eaters, and there's plenty of competition nearby.
I think your Belgium-dwelling friend will thank you for taking her out to Flushing next time. She'll know she's not in Belgium anymore! So much more fun than the Upper East or West. Come hungry. Eat early and often.
It's not a bad trip from Manhattan, esp. on weekday evenings when the 7 express is running - or if you're near Penn Station you can hop on the Port Washington line of the LIRR for a more comfortable (and more expensive) ride. (Not sure if every train stops in Flushing, check the schedule.) But the 7 train runs more often, lets you out closer to S&T, and is a pretty nice ride as these things go, even on a sluggish local.