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xiao la jiao - Anyone been?

I'm intrigued after seeing Sietsema's article on this place in Flushing. Has anyone been and how does it compare to Spicy & Tasty?


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  1. You beat me to it. I was just going to ask the same question. I find that my taste agrees with his only part of the time. More so when it comes to Asian, Latin, and African cuisine. Much, much less when it is European and American cuisine. I think I will go there this weekend and will report back. (If the torrential rains and parkway flooding don't close the parkways again.)

    1. we went today for lunch. it was fantastic. great sichuan food. as compared to spicy and tasty, i found it a bit less elegant, but just as tasty. a bit bolder, maybe more rough hewn in presentation, palate etc. but about 30% cheaper, servings almost twice as large, very friendly service, lots of menu choices, and just fantastically delicious. i'm not an expert in sichuan cuisine, but it seemed very homey, full of flavor and a great addition to the neighborhood food options. we will return soon and often.

      1. I just got back from Xiao La Jiao, otherwise known as Little Pepper. Joey Deckle and I struggled manfully to eat our way through a small portion of the menu and every dish was a winner. I feel the food is much better than Spicy and Tasty and any other Sichuan restaurant I have been to in the States. The spicing was perfectly balanced. Hot and tingly without pain, it was Just Right. I also felt that it wasn't just Sichuan but had some more northern/northwestern style flavors going on as well, which I personally enjoy a lot.

        We had:

        Kelp in Mashed Garlic Sauce- $2.95 Lots of long strings of crunchy kelp that looked like long thin green noodles and had a pleasant taste of the sea and fresh garlic.

        Braised Sliced Fish in Spicy Soup Base- $9.95 This tied for my favorite. Curling slices of firm and very fresh fish and a mix of vegetables in a spicy and complex broth with a layer of hot Sichuan peppercorn/chili oil floating on top. Covered with a sprinkle of crushed Sichuan peppercorns and chilis. Wow, was this good.

        Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves- $7.95 Fresh, crisp snow pea leaves sauteed with fresh garlic and a wee bit of smoky sesame oil.

        Lamb with Hot and Spicy Sauce (with Cumin)- $11.95 Absolutely excellent dish. This was my other favorite. Juicy, tasty, lamb covered in a cumin, chili, and sichuan peppercorn paste that had just the right heat, spice, and tingle. Very aromatic and covered with crunchy sauteed onion chunks and garlic, with a sprinkle of cilantro. Really, really good.

        Crust of Cooked Rice with Pork- $9.95 Long slices of pork sauteed soft in a complex but slightly milder brown sauce with garlic, fresh bamboo shoots, little peppers, and Chinese celery. This was served over crispy cakes of deep fried rice (possibly brown rice). The platter was brought to the tables with the red hot rice cakes lined up on it and then the sauteed pork was poured on top where it sizzled and popped like crazy. The crisp hot rice cakes soaked up the sauce and had a unique and very good taste.

        Spicy Sichuan Cold Noodle- $3.50 Fresh cold noodles cooked al dente tossed in a thin sauce based on soy and some other elements with a hearty kick of chili and Sichuan peppercorn. Very nice and different from any spicy colld noodles I have had before.

        Plus two Tsing Tao beers, lots of ice water, and dark brewed tea that was deep flavored but not astringent to wash it all down. We brought some of the remaining food home but most was eaten over the course of a long, extended late lunch.

        One thing to note was that on a sunday they were out of Eel and Rabbit, which we tried to order in several different items. Also there is a very strong language barrier that was a little bit of a problem. I wish I spoke more than a word or two of Chinese. I memorized around fifty key words when I visited China but sadly have forgotten most of then. I have to brush up before my next visit. When ordering make sure that you point to the correct items. We were accidentally served the kelp when we wanted the cucumber in mashed garlic. The Chinese ideograms for menu items are above / come first before the English name of the items on the menu. In addition the chili peppers denoting high spice are next to the Chinese names.

        I look forward to heading back here with a large group to be able to try more dishes in one visit. They have three tables that seat four, three that seat eight, and one that seats six, and one seats three. This isn't a large place but I think it is going to become very popular, very quickly.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          Thanks for the detailed response, now I have even more reason to go and check it out.

          1. re: JMF

            I went again yesterday and every dish was really good. I won't give a full blown description this time but we had fried potato in hot sauce, braised beef in spicy soup, home style bean curd, lamb in hot and spicy sauce with cumin, enhanced pork with salt and pepper, bullfrog with szechuan pickled hot pepper, and beef stew noodle szechuan style. This was the second visit on a sunday and each time they didn't have any of the rabbit dishes.

          2. "I feel the food is much better than Spicy and Tasty..."

            Forgive me but I'm a bit sceptical. Even Sietsema didn't go that far. I'd settle for "just as good but different."

            I'm actually looking forward to trying Xiao La Jiao. I've been hitting Spicy & Tasty pretty frequently lately and while I like it as much as ever I wouldn't mind trying some new dishes. There's room for more than one great Szechuan restaurant.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bob Martinez

              Well, I did say "I FEEL the food is much better than Spicy and Tasty", not " The food is better..." I was stating my opinion. I realize that others may feel different. Also I can only comment on the one visit so far.

              I feel that Spicy and Tasty goes overboard with the Sichuan peppercorns at times. More so than any restaurant I went to in Sichuan Province in China. I feel that many dishes are killed by this and many don't have any other spicing besides Sichuan peppercorn. I am not saying that all the dishes have this problem but quite a few do, or maybe I should say did, since I haven't been in about a year.

              I think that Little Pepper has a balance of flavor, lip numbing tingle, and heat as appropriate to each dish. What I like most about Little Pepper is the broad range of flavors and complexity.

              I love that there are so many great new places to eat in Flushing. Regional foods that we never got to experience are now becoming the norm. Many of these new places are developing their own style and it is fantastic to have places like Spicy and Tasty, Waterfront International, Little Pepper, and many more so close together. I live in Westchester so eating in Queens isn't that difficult, although it is a bit of a commute. I am moving to Maine this fall and I am preparing to be devastated. Even though the area I am moving to has a strongly developing food scene, which I plan on being part of, ethnically it isn't as diverse as I would like.

            2. i went today for lunch by myself unfortunately so i couldn't try a lot of things.

              -- Szechwan peanuts (app): Well, a big plateful of boiled, then refrigerated, seasoned peanuts. They were actually quite good; I'm sure one is not meant to eat this pile onesself.

              -- Bamboo shoots (app): Fresh bamboo shoots thinly sliced and about 3" long, fried a bit. Spicy with a sesame taste, but the fresh slightly sour shoot taste was very nice.

              -- Crust of Cooked Rice with Pork: This was great. JMF described it well. I have to say that the gravy in which it lay was especially great. I had nothing to soak it up with. And the waitress spoke basically zero english.

              There was just one other table full when I was there -- about 8 chinese people sitting at a round table, obviously enjoying their food and company.

              Re: comparison with S&T: I would say it's different from S&T. Agree with joekarten's description. The cook also has more time to spend on individual dishes because it's a smaller place. I won't attempt to put one place over another. However, it's a safe bet that if you like S&T you are likely to like this place and you should at least step in and check it out, and get takeout if you've just come from S&T.

              Re: Sietsema's reviews. Yeah, I often disagree with him on Asian food too.

              1. There was another Sichuan restaurant I used to like before I discovered Spicy & Tasty: Sichuan Dynasty. Is it still there, and is it still good?

                1. After reading the posts tried it today for luch. Place was empty except for 2 chinese lunch girls. No A/C!!! (well, why spend the $$ if no one there)

                  The poster was right, they don't speak English. Luckily, I speak Chinese.

                  Ordered the Hot Sour Soup (suan La Tang) and the spicy noodles with minced beef.

                  Soup: Vegy version (i.e. no pork) quite good and $3 less than Spicy; thin broth, not overly corn starched and good level of spiciness--hot but not numbingly so

                  Noodles (mian) Very tasty, less greasy then typical szechan style, but nothing really special..could make at home if I weren't so lazy

                  Overall, no epiphany, i.e. good but not great..

                  I will go back and try more more dishes, so I may change mind
                  Butf or now, S&T is better, with more vairiety

                  PS. For ethnic chinese, there is a soup that is not translated into english...It's only $2.95... Uh, if you like deer penis soup, get it! Although at that price its probabaly "shui'

                  1. Three of us went to Xiao La Jiao on Monday night.

                    We ordered the Whole Dried Rabbit Szechuan Style, but of course they didn't have it. They did have the Diced Rabbit Meat in Red Chili Sauce. I'm always worried about ordering this, since the version that Spicy and Tasty serves, which is the authentic preparation, is tiny pieces of rabbit with lots of bones in a tongue-tingling-spicy oily sauce. Most of my companions don't want to deal with all the tiny bones. We tried it anyway and much to our delight the rabbit was served in much larger cubes with plenty of meat and the same perfect sauce.

                    The Braised Sliced Fish in Spicy Soup Base was great -- large pieces of firm fish in a spicy sauce.

                    Crust of Cooked Rice with Pork comes out sizzling. Slices of pork with mushrooms and bamboo are served with small crispy rice cakes which are used to soak up a rich non-spicy sauce.

                    The Lamb with Hot and Spicy Sauce with Cumin was also excellent. There's no real "sauce" but the lamb is moist and tender. At first the cumin smell is overpowering, but it tastes much better than it smells.

                    We also ordered one of the Dan Dan Noodles but we never got it. (it did show up on the check however.) Every dish was huge and we had lots of food left over. Is Xiao La Jiao better than Spicy and Tasty? No. It's different. S&T has a larger menu and a nicer space. Some of the staff at S&T speak excellent English. Language is definitely a problem at XLJ, but everything on the menu is translated into English. Except for the deer penis soup. I'll try that on my next trip.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: el jefe

                      Did they understand English well enough to take the Dan Dan Noodles off the bill? :-)

                      1. re: el jefe

                        Just returned to NY, so I zoomed over there and had the rabbit. It was good but not extraordinary. The rabbit had been rubbed in garlic and mild spices. Lots and lots of chiles provided heat, but not the transcendant blend I expected. I think I came on an off day and I will go back. Every table other than mine ordered either the two-chamber hot pot (not on the menu) or one of the water-cooked dishes (called braised in spicy soup in English) That's what I'll do. They both looked yummy.

                        1. re: Brian S

                          Brian, the dish your describing sounds more like "Rabbit Meat Sauteed with Chili", #39 under Chef's Specialties. I finally got to try that last night. It's a hot entree. The dish described previously, "Diced Rabbit Meat in Red Chili Sauce", is Cold Appetizer #5. That's one of my favorite dishes on the menu.

                          I went with a group of 7 last night and got to try about 10 new dishes. The Tea Smoked (half) Duck was amazing -- moist, smokey, a perfect mix of skin-fat-meat, and a bargain at $6.95. I was a little disappointed by the Shredded Tea Smoked Duck with Ginger in comparison -- not much duck and the ginger overpowered the smokiness of the duck.

                          As we were finishing, the waitress brought out a pork shoulder to the table next to us. It looked really good. I asked her which dish that was and she showed me the sign (in Chinese) on the wall. Next time.

                          1. re: el jefe

                            I went to xiao la jiao for the first time last night and was very impressed.

                            Sliced Chinese turnip with carrot and peppers: Fairly tasty, but nothing special.

                            Soft bean curd in spicy sauce: Very good. Glob of soft, freshly-made tofu in a bowl with a liberal dose of chili oil, dried seaweed and toasted peanuts.

                            Sliced Fish in Spicy Soup Base: Excellent. Firm, perfectly cooked slices of white fish in a very complex broth of Chinese celery, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, "spicy soup," and then covered in fresh herbs and crushed szechuan peppercorns.

                            Eggplant in Garlic Sauce: Very good. Greater depth of flavor than the similar dish at Cantonese or Shanghainese places. Sweet, spicy, and that great roasted pepper flavor throughout, but not so much that it overwhelms the delicious eggplant itself.

                            Add in friendly service and $2 Tsing Taos and you have a real winner in my book.

                          2. re: Brian S

                            I went back as promised and ordered the water-cooked fish, aka Braised Sliced Fish in Spicy Soup Base- $9.95 The place was full of Chinese families and, when I ordered the fish from a Chinese sign on the wall, all the families applauded. Embarassing but pleasant too. The fish was wonderful... fish on a bed of vegetables surrounded by a fiery red broth... a whole swirling mix of different peppers. I can't say it was better than Spicy and Tasty. It will take a lot of return visits to decide which is better... visits which I will enjoy making.

                            1. re: Brian S

                              is the Braised Sliced Fish in Spicy Soup Base something that is not on the English menu? (or which sign is it on the wall?) I would like to order it but I don't speak Chinese....

                              1. re: cervisiam

                                It is on the English menu, number 36, in a section called "Braised dishes" which offers the same dish made with a variety of ingredients. I ordered from the wall cause I'm a show-off.

                                1. re: Brian S

                                  i went on friday with a friend, armed with the printout of this entire thread :) we got the braised sliced fish in spicy soup base, shredded pork with dry bean curd, and crust of cooked rice with pork. it was an accidental balance of dishes--the fish was salty and very spicy, the shredded pork was slightly spicy but a tad sour, and the pork and gravy in the cooked rice was sweet(--and bonus points for the extra thick chunks of garlic in the mix!). so i jumped from dish to dish, alternating between over-spiciness and just right :)

                                  unfortunately, i was in transit to jfk, so i couldn't take the leftovers with me. the total + two cokes was 30 dollars, which was awesome, given the amount of food we managed to force down in 30 minutes. i definitely cannot wait to come back, and hopefully will have some pictures to post later tonight.

                                  also, thanks to bob for the extra information about how to find it--we would've been walking up and down roosevelt for a long time!

                        2. I finally made it to Little Pepper after the US Open’s day session on Thursday. I knew the place was located in the old Spicy & Tasty venue which was a good thing since I would never have found it otherwise. More about that later.

                          Unlike Sietsema, (see the original post in this thread for a link to his Village Voice review) who made a point of following “our usual habit of ordering things we'd never seen before” I figured if you’re going to compare Little Pepper to Spicy & Tasty it’s only fair to order the same dishes at the both restaurants. We picked the Dan Dan noodles, Enhanced Pork, and Shredded Pork with Dry Bean Curd. (This is a dish that normally isn’t spicy but for years I’ve been requesting it that way at S&T. Little Pepper gladly made it that way as well. If you haven’t had this I strongly recommend it at either place.)

                          All three dishes were first rate. I’d hesitate to say that they were better than the versions at S&T but they certainly were just as good in a slightly different way. Since I didn’t have the dishes side by to do a comparison I couldn’t say exactly how they were different but anyone familiar with S&T knows that their kitchen is remarkably consistent. For better or worse there are no surprises. If you liked a dish the last time you had it you won’t be disappointed because it will be made exactly the same way the next time you visit. From my point of view, that’s a good thing. I like to pick my own surprises.

                          At Little Pepper there were subtle variations in the way those dishes were made but the end result was excellent. (I can’t address the consistency issue because this was my only visit.) It was obvious to me that the people in LP’s kitchen know what they’re doing. Good Szechuan food has a nice balance of spiciness against the other ingredients. It’s not all fire and skyrockets – nothing overwhelms anything else. LP has this down cold and I’m looking forward to trying lots of their other dishes.

                          Having said that, all was not perfection. We ordered a Five Spice Beef appetizer that sounded a lot more interesting that it turned out to be. It consisted of a goodly portion of thin slices of sinewy beef with a slightly interesting blend of spices. It wasn’t bad but there would be no reason to ever order it again.

                          The speed of the kitchen was also an issue. We arrived at around 8:45 on a Thursday night and didn’t get our main courses until 9:30. The place was about 70% full but this still was an unusually long wait for a restaurant of this type. When the food finally arrived it was certainly worth the wait and I have no idea whether the delay was unusual or routine.

                          Little Pepper is not a particularly stylish place. The décor is bare bones and the lighting is bright and florescent. The atmosphere at Spicy and Tasty, one block away, is more upscale. This isn’t an issue for me but I figured I’d pass it along.

                          The main dishes are around $2 cheaper than their S&T equivalent. Portion sizes are about 30% larger. As others have mentioned on this thread, the wait staff aren’t particularly fluent in English but the menu pointing trick works just fine. Although we were the only non-Chinese diners in the place they were extremely friendly and seemed genuinely glad we were there.

                          OK – if you’ve read this far and are thinking of eating here you should be aware that if you walk along Roosevelt Avenue looking for Xiao La Jiao you will hit the Nassau County border and not find it. That’s because the only English words that appear on the restaurant’s street sign are “Little Pepper.” Xiao La Jiao is the Chinese translation, which is swell if you are fluent in Chinese but utterly useless for native English speakers trying to find this place.

                          It’s Sietsema’s little joke.

                          Little Pepper
                          133-43 Roosevelt Avenue,
                          (Between College Point Blvd and Prince St, one block from the Main St. #7)

                          Look for a cartoony smiling little pepper and walk down the stairs.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                            Thanks for this. I still remember your last post about pork, from Spicy & Tasty. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... I've eaten at Xiao twice. 20 minute wait for the meal each time. Consistency might be an issue since the second visit was far better than the first. (The first was on a Monday, maybe the top chef is off that day.)

                            1. re: Brian S

                              Ah yes - the Festival of Pork post. Glad you remember it. :-)

                              I'm looking forward to eating my way through the menu at Little Pepper. It's nice to have another outstanding Szechuan restaurant in Flushing.

                              Just to clarify, my point about consistency referred to the way I could be definitive in my memory of those dishes at S&T. I *know* exactly how they're made there so I was in a good position to compare them to the same dishes at LP. They compare very favorably although they're a bit different. Nothing wrong with that at all.

                              It's interesting that hte kitchen appears a bit slower at LP than S&T. Sometimes the food there seems to come out almost a bit *too* quickly, even when the place is full. Well, we'll see how LP does in the future. Maybe they're still shaking down the kitchen.

                              BTW, last Thursday my GF and I were looking for a place to have a pre dinner drink before hitting LP. Flushing is a notorious wasteland when it comes to decent bars but we found the bar at the Sheraton, around the corner from Spicy & Tasty, to be more than respectable. Martinis were a bargain at $7.00.

                          2. The Fesival of Pork post was what got me to try Spicy and Tasty. Thank you.

                            I've been to Xiao La Jiao 4 times now. Once on a saturday night, the other 3 times midweek. I've had several dishes more than once and they've been prepared identically every time. I agree with you and appreciate the consistency. I've never had a problem with food arriving late. I don't think I've ever had to wait more than 10-15 minutes for the first dish to arrive. Like most Asian restaurants, food comes out when it's ready, in no particular order. Last time I was there I was with a group of 8. The first dish came out in 10 minutes, the last one 40 minutes later.

                            The one waitress that speaks a little English recognizes me and is always helpful. It's a different experience here than Spicy and Tasty and I'll continue to eat at both, but I don't know of any other Sichuan restaurant in the tri-state area as good as these two.

                            1. I went back for my fourth visit and had the pork with rice cakes. It was superb. An enormous platter of cakes of rice krispies was brought, along with a big bowl of sliced pork and mushroom stir fry, which was poured over the cakes. Normally stir fried pork would be the last thing I'd order, but this was done so delicately I loved it. It came with a translucent vinaigrette sauce, more Shanghai than Sichuan. But you already know the pork is good, so that's not why I'm posting this. I'm writing this because I learned two things.

                              1. I noticed on the wall posters that you can get the same dish with either sliced fish or shrimp instead of pork for $2 more.

                              2. I saw people ordering hot pots. They hand you a menu printed on paper and a pen. You choose one of six hot pots, ranging from ten to thirty dollars. Presumably they contain some ingredients, especially the more expensive ones. Then you choose from a list of thirty or so additional ingredients, each with its own price. You circle the ones you want with the pen and give the sheet back. There's a ladle so at any time you can snag some soup from the hot pot and eat it, and a little buffet table of condiments you can add to your soup. Looks great. They have the two chambered hot pot if you wish.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Brian S

                                I forgot to specify -- the hot pot menu is in Chinese.

                              2. We just went with 16 people, including kids (age 7 to 15). The food was great, and they were able to take the heat out of several dishes to make the kids happy. This allowed all of us to have a good time. Some excellent dishes included the dan dan noodles, the crab in garlic sauce and the smoked duck. The tofu with pork in pepper sauce was exquisite. They were willing to take a reservation in english over the phone, too, but you have speak slowly and make sure they get the number right.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Ira.B

                                  So glad you enjoyed it and that they are flexible with spicing and are able to take reservations. Must try the tofu w pork next time.

                                2. On my last two visits here I've managed to get dishes they usually dont have. On the first of these I had "cubes eel with garlic in hot bean paste". But that was back in December and all I remember about it is that it was delicious. Finally, after a long exile I returned tonight. After a long and raucous and very amusing discussion with the waitresses about what I should order, with half the customers joining in and me not understanding about half what was said, I settled on the bullfrog with pickled hot pepper. Not my favorite dish, but very well made, with succulent morsels of frog (not very many, alas), radish, scallion, minced red chilis, all in a wonderful sauce the consistency and color of chicken soup (but definitely not tasting like chicken soup). Two good meals!

                                  Little Pepper
                                  133-43 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11354

                                  1. After reading the all the comments debating which restaurant was the best Szechuan restaurant in Flushing I had to go to Little Pepper. We went on a Wednesday night, no crowd at all maybe because it was Halloween. The service was quick and cheerful. My boyfriend and I ordered the Spicy Sichuan Cold Noodles, Braised Sliced Fish, Rabbit Sichuan Style and Chinese Waterspinach (with some American spinach tucked in).

                                    We thought the food was prepared nicely but the dishes did not blow us away. The rabbit was chopped up into too many pieces with lots of bones and the oil tasted a little stale. Almost like eating chicharones with more bones.

                                    The fish was quite lovely and tasty. The added fresh cilantro made the dish quite attractive and fragrant. An excellent value.

                                    I found the Spicy Sichuan Noodles disappointing. Little Pepper's version of this dish cannot come near Szechuan Gourmet's version. No comparison what-so-ever. Szechuan Gourmet is an easy winner.

                                    I'm sure we'll be back to the Little Pepper. I'd like to try the Squid with Pickled Peppers and a few more dishes. We still love Szechuan Gourmet best, Spicy and Tasty next.