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Jul 21, 2006 02:47 PM

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.