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Ex-San Francisco Hound Reunion at Spicy & Tasty, Flushing

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  • Melanie Wong Dec 26, 2005 03:03 PM
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Two weeks ago I managed to squeeze in a lunch in Flushing before catching my flight out of JFK. This was a reunion of ex-San Francisco hounds and friends at Spicy & Tasty in Flushing, NY. With nine of us, we were able to order a good assortment from the menu. I don't know that I could add much to what has already been said about this restaurant. It's very solid. While none of the dishes were the best rendition I've had, they were all very good, showing remarkable consistency across the board. Sadly, my kindred spirit, HLing, was not able to join us, but we were guided by her favorites in ordering our meal.

Besides the food, it was especially wonderful to sit at the chow table again with Sp00ny Bard, solly, and squid-kun, as I miss them all very much. Thanks for tramping through the snow and cold to join me here. A special note of appreciation to Dave Feldman for shepherding me through the transit system and for his good company. Also the Little Pie.

Here's my list of what we ordered - let me know if I've missed anything.

Cucumber and garlic
Pressed smoked tofu with Chinese celery in green sauce
Ma la kidneys
Husband and wife combination
Pork slices with garlic sauce - shown below
Bamboo shoots in chili sauce
Liang fen with spicy meat sauce
Dan dan noodles
Wontons with spicy sauce - didn't try this one
Conch with red oil and yellow leeks
Tea smoked duck
Twice-cooked pork
Ma la lamb
Water spinach (kang xin cai) with meat shreds
Chongqing chicken
Water cooked frog
Potato and green pepper strips
Pea shoots with roasted garlic cloves
Whole braised fish
Steamed rice

I was too busy eating and chatting to take photos of everything. There are a few more at the link below as well as some that others took.

Link: http://flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/...

Image: http://static.flickr.com/9/77488062_4...

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  1. Thank you so much for posting those lovely photos! There are some I don't recall from the menu. Do they have a separate menu in Chinese? If so, I will snag it next time I'm there (which will be a while, I'm in Tulsa for the next few months). How was the water-cooked frog? I had water-cooked pork and it was so hot it made me sick for tree days, but it was perhaps the best Sichuan dish I'd ever had. So a week later, nocicing I had three days free, I went back... but despited my "ma la" exhortation it wasn't as hot so I was sick for only one day.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      I don't recall a separate menu. The names I used for the dishes are my own based on the Chinese names or the contents and might not match up with what's used on the menu.

      The "water-cooked" dishes were on a section of the menu called something like Sichuan delicacies. I leaned over to Sp00ny Bard sitting next to me to point out the character for "water" and said that he should memorize that one to unlock Sichuan menus.

      When you have super spicy food like this, be sure to have lots of starch. Steamed rice or the dish of potato strips is one of my favorite chili foils. That dish was done very well here, hitting the texture spot on.

      I liked the frog very much. The texture was great (an important part of this preparation) and the pieces were quite meaty on those itty-bitty bones. It was not as ma la as pork, beef or fish versions I've had elsewhere, but it was in harmony with the delicacy of the flavors.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thanks for your reply. Yes, I know the character for water and used it to find this dish on the Spicy & Tasty menu, where it does have a different name in English. For those who don't know it, here it is below.Another trick is to find the characters for "Ma la" on the menu and point to it to indicate you want very spicy food. Here's from my food diary of Sep 19, the first time I tried that trick at Spicy & Tasty:

        "Order "ma la" La means hot, hot with capsicain, hot with hot peppers (la-dz). But the ideal in Sichuan cuisine is a symphonic blend of many different heats, and the Sichuanese call this "ma la" I figured out from the menu which Chinese characters represent this. They are the first two characters in items 9 through 11, the beef tender, kidney and rabbit tender appetizers. I pointed to those two characters and asked the waiter to recommend a pork dish that was "ma la". I ordered the first item he recommended, which was sauteed pork kidney (#72). It was wonderful, truly "ma la" At least three different heats: the numbing effect (ma) of Sichuan peppercorns, which can be, since May of this year, legally imported, the slightly hot whole chillies marinated in a sour vinegar, and the white-hot sliced, unmarinated chilies. Hot, hot, HOT! It was wonderful, the best Sichuan dish I have had outside of China."

        Image: http://ncrcls.org/csl/csl101/chars(un...

    2. The water-cooked frog wasn't one of my favorite dishes. As always, I loved most of the cold dishes, but my favorites of the entrees were the chicken (it wasn't a coincidence that the plate was rarely out of arm's length) and the whole fish.

      Gee, I don't remember the twice-cooked pork. Maybe someone was hoarding that dish!

      5 Replies
      1. re: Dave Feldman

        I hope someone can tell us which style of whole braised fish that was. The seasoning was amazing. A chopstick's worth unleashed a million flavors in the mouth.

        I tend to like the cold plates the best too. My standards for judging Sichuan kitchens are the husband and wife combo and the pork with garlic sauce. I appreciate that the group let me add those on after we'd ordered so much already.

        It's easy to get caught up in the fire power of the melange of chilis. But I think the test of a kitchen can be how well it prepares the non-spicy dishes. The potato strips were very nicely done. Also, the tofu shreds and celery dish had great balance of seasoning and textures, and good knife-work.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Melanie: Thanks. I'd like to try those dishes at our local Sichuan fave here in the DC area (menu below). I assume the potato dish is V04, under the Home-Style Entrees heading.

          Do you notice "husband & wife" (?) or your pork and garlic standard on this menu?

          Thanks in advance.

          Link: http://www.joesnoodlehouse.com/menu.html

          1. re: Marty L.

            You'll find them under House Specialties - Appetizers.

            A22 Sliced pork with garlic sauce
            A29 Sliced roast beef and tendon with hot sauce

            The character for husband and wife (or couple) is shown below.

            Oh, the "water-cooked" dishes are H20 (vbg) and H21.

            Image: http://www.formosa-translation.com/ch...

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks so much, MW. Yes, H20 and H21 are legendary 'round these parts. Takes a hearty constitution, though.

          2. re: Melanie Wong

            I had that same whole fish the other night at S+T and I'm pretty sure it's the "chengdu style" one. could be wrong though...

        2. whoa, that tea smoked duck looked amazing! It's been too long since I've been to Spicy & Tasty. When I did go, it's usually by myself, so that meant one or two dishes at a time. You know what my other favorite dish was, though? The steamed fatty pork belly coated with ground toasted rice, and served on a bed of sweet potato. I don't remember what it's called on the menu any more.

          So it would be that fatty pork dish, and a pickled Gong4 Cai4 (a very crunchy vegetable that I've only seen in Sichuan restaurants) with some sort of fiddle head family.

          Maybe next time I will get to go eat with you guys. Hopefully we can take you also to the new cuisine in town, the northeastern Chinese....

          Come back soon!

          7 Replies
          1. re: HLing

            Yes, the tea smoke duck was outstanding. The smoke ring penetrated very deep and the flesh was so moist and succulent, not dried out at all. I liked the bean paste condiment served with it. I've only had one other that I liked better, at a Hunan restaurantn in SF. But the 'hounds mentioned that this was not the best one in NY . . . don't recall where they'd had better.

            I think I've had gong cai at Shanghainese restaurants, they just refer to it as wild veggie or some such. We got our fill of pork belly in the twice-cooked pork. This broke my moratorium on that dish that has become so Americanized and characterless in most renditions. I'm glad someone thought to order it. The leeks gave it great perfume. The cold pork belly with garlic sauce was great too. The sauce was much spicier than other versions I've had where the garlic's sweetness has been the main signature rather than chilis.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Yes, for me the perfect Tea Smoked Duck in NYC had gone with the closing of China Peace on 45 street in Time Square. Nothing else from their menu was that great, but that duck was perfect.

              Since then I've had pretty good ones from Grand Sichuan International, but I'm always a bit disappointed at how it must be so salty. The saltiness makes it not so enjoyable.

              Obviously there are different version of Tea-Smoked duck. The ones at Grand Sichuan isn't as dark in color as the one from Spicy & Tasty, but both might be heavy on salt. I think the one I like (one from Houston, Tx's Dumpling King, now no longer, the other from China Peace) involve some deep frying at the end, which may or may not be "authentic", but it somehow managed to keep the smokiness without the salt attack and made the eating good.

              1. re: HLing

                The tea-smoked duck at S&T was a little less salty than Grand Sichuan International's (at least at the midtown west branch, where I eat most often). I agree with you that GSI tends to oversalt, but I like the flavor of the duck very much.

            2. re: HLing

              HLing- which is your favorite of the Northeastern Chinese places? Waterfront Int'l or Afanti? I've been to each 5-6 times but still haven't comenear exploring their menus. I need a translator. Or do you know any other new / good places?

              1. re: JMF

                Don't forget Emerald Island! Link below is to L Wong's post about it, and my reply to that post has a link to one of my posts about it, which is hopefully informative. Afanti is wonderful! But it transcends northeastern. They have Xinjiang dishes (and I believe Afanti is also the name of a big Uighur restaurant in Peking) and Sichuan too. But the owner is Korean and the waitresses are from Manchuria.

                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                1. re: Brian S

                  I mispoke about Afanti being northeastern when it is as you said northwestern / Xinjiang / Aighur with some Sichuan spicing. I posted about Afanti last year after coming back from a trip abroad and having Aighur cuisine in Beijing/Peking at Afunti among other places there. That's interesting about the owner being Korean... that's why they serve Soju. And finding out the waitresses are manchurian makes sense since we had several conversations among my friends trying to guess where the waitresses were from since they didn't look like most mainland Chinese.

                  I have to check out Emerald Island soon, it is on my to do list. Now if I can only get back in touch with some of my Chinese friends to help translate... it makes meals at the interesting regional Chinese restaurants much more enjoyable and fun.

                2. re: JMF

                  JMF, I had a schedule/budget change right around the time the Northeastern cuisine descended upon Flushing, so I'm not able to sample much nor often. I did notice that the Waterfront Int'l had extended their hours to 6 am (!) It does seem as if they are quite popular. I've only gotten something to go from there.

                  Another one is the Emerlad Island just around the corner from Waterfront Intl on 40th rd, across the street from the LIRR's NYC bound tracks. I had really good lamb heart there one time, and then the next time it was pretty bad. There has been posts by BrianS on this place.

                  I've never been to Afanti, which I understand has been around a while now.

                  A different aspect of the northeastern region is the Muslim Chinese from Tian Jin. I've enjoyed quite a few hearty breakfast there inside the mall across the street from the A & C supermarket on Main street. I think I posted about it maybe a month ago?

              2. Thanks Melanie for the link! I agree that Spicy and Tasty is solid in terms of good szechuan food. Looking at the dishes you tried, I think you might have beaten me out in exploring their menu.

                Side note, I never ordered the water boiled frog since I didn't really know what to make of the dish. Traditionally, I believe the dish was always prepared either with small river fish or beef and didn't think frog legs would be a good idea. Maybe I was right since I think the water boiled dishes at Spicy and Tasty are quite good.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Mike Lee

                  "I agree that Spicy and Tasty is solid in terms of good szechuan food."

                  Solid?

                  I'd say S&T is the the best in New York city for Szechuan food but maybe I've missed something. I've eaten in 3 branches of the GSI chain and thought they were good. I like the 39th St. branch of Szechuan Gourmet a lot too but I still give the nod to S&T. What are your favorites?

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    You didn't miss anything at all. It would be my choice for the best Sichuan in NYC. Similar to experienced expressed by Melanie, I had better versions of their dishes elsewhere, namely Los Angeles (though I refrained from saying this as I did not want to get into the what city has better food debate).

                  2. re: Mike Lee

                    My favorite prep is usually with pork. The natural sweetness of the meat helps balance out the fiery seasonings.

                    Hard to believe that we ordered that much food for lunch . . . then again, I was with real chowhounds who love to explore! We finished about 4:30pm, then I headed to the airport. Guess it's no surprise that the pastrami sandwich from Katz's went uneaten on the flight.

                  3. Melaine, many thanks for the outstanding review. I went this afternoon and had the amazing Ma La Lamb. So incredibly good. Is the water frog legs called Frog & Fresh Garlic in Hot Red Pepper Sauce? Also, is the Chongquing Chicken called Diced Chicken & Pickled Turnip in Spicy Sauce? I dined alone so only had the Lamb. Would like to try the Frog Legs, Chongquing Chicken and Smoked Tea Duck next three visits. Again, thanks.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Mike V

                      Glad you enjoyed it!

                      I don't recall the exact name for the water-cooked frog. All the water-cooked dishes were in a separate section of the menu called something like Sichuan Delicacies. If you look at Brian S's post below, you'll see the character for water which each of those dishes has in its Chinese name.

                      Now I'm not sure about the Chongqing chicken now, and think that what we had might not have been that classic dish. It was actually diced and not chicken on the bone (usually hacked sections of the wing), so the dish that Dave liked so much might well be the one you've pointed out. I just don't remember it that well, since he was hoarding it! (g)

                      If the restaurant is a long ways for you and you'll be alone again, let me make a suggetion. You might want to go at lunch time to eat something there and then get an order of the smoked tea duck to go. It's a dish that will hold up well for your dinner time. It might lose a little moisture, but duck meat is so fatty, it won't dry out. The optimum serving temperature, IMO, is just slightly warm. You can heat it in a slow oven just until the fat starts to glisten and melt a little bit. Just warm to the touch, it doesn't need to be hot. Be sure to get some of the condiment in your package. That way you don't have to delay your gratification so far into the future!

                      At other Sichuan restaurants, I've had water-boiled lamb, beef, pork, and fish. My overwhelming preference is for pork in that preparation, followed by fish. So, if you like the frog legs, you might want to try it made with another meat.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Most of the chicken pieces were on the bone. The mystery deepens!

                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                          I'm no help at all on this chicken mystery since I only got one little taste of it before it disappeared!

                      2. re: Mike V

                        It's called "in fresh hot pepper" Link to my description of it below. (Note that the other restaurant in the linked post, Chen & Chan, has gone downhill)

                        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        1. re: Brian S

                          Chongqing chicken is made with dried peppers, a mountain of them, so that's not it.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I was talking about the water-cooked dish. Sorry for the confusion.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I went today and planned on having Chongqing chicken. I showed the waiter (actually several waiters) this dish written on a piece of paper. Was told, "we don't have that dish." Instead, I order the Enhanced Pork which was awful. Very thin slices of dry tasteless pork that looked like sliced bacon. When I went the first time early in the week I ordered Lamb with Chili Pepper (MaLa) which was incredibly good. When I was leaving I ordered Dan Dan Noodels to take home. Awful over cooked noodles with a little sauce. I threw it out. Will return for the Lamb dish and following visit the Frog which I've never had. I noticed they don't serve scallops.

                              1. re: Mike V

                                I have had the enhanced pork and, though it was my least favorite dish there, it was very very good. Perhaps they didn't add enough spice when they made it for you? Oh, and there is one other place where I've had wonderfully spicy Sichuan food. See link below.

                                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        2. For comparison, I found a website with photos of an awesome meal at Oriental Pearl in Los Angeles. Link below. I wonder if Spicy & Tasty would take requests? For instance, if I got a copy of the Oriental Pearl menu, copied down the Chinese name of a luscious dish, and showed it to them. The photo below is from ChungKing restaurant, also in LA, and has spicy dumplings with stirfried fish in back.

                          Link: http://www.oldflutes.com/Kathy&Ri...

                          Image: http://www.foodzealot.com/images/food...