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Little Pepper Report

My wife and I ventured to Little Pepper in Flushing, located in the old Spicy and Tasty space. A few months ago we visited Spicy and Tasty and enjoyed it but weren't blown away, perhaps we ordered wrong or they just really cut back on the spices for us. Our experience at Little Pepper was everything we had hoped for at Spicy and Tasty but didn't get. We only tried 4 dishes but were blown away by all of them. I really think that Little Pepper is a step above Spicy and Tasty.

Our dishes
1) Soft bean curd with spicy sauce: silky soft tofu with peanuts, cilantro and a not overwhelmingly spicy sauce. The peanuts were a great textural contrast to the soft tofu, and the cilantro helped cut through the rich spicy sauce

2) Pork Dumplings with spicy sauce: a pile of dumplings came in a large bowl of sauce, almost like a soup. The spicy sauce was completely different than the one that came with the tofu, not quite as spicy and with more of a sweet taste. The dumpling dough was also a little sweet which complimented the pork meat and really enhanced the spicy flavor in the sauce. This was our favorite dish of the night.

3) Dried Green Beans: my wife's comparison dish that she orders at every Chinese restaurant, she learned to love it during her study abroad in Beijing and she said that Little Pepper may have made the best rendition of it that she's had yet. I don't think it's a typical Sìchuān dish, but it sure tastes good.

4) Lamb with Spices: The dry cooked lamb with cumin and spices is my favorite dish at Waterfront International, and at Little Pepper they took the dish to another level. The Sìchuān peppercorn and chili combination left your mouth on fire but begging for more. I couldn't handle eating the entire serving of this, due to the heat but I'm happy they didn't hold back for me. In terms of pure enjoyability I probably still like the Waterfront International version because I can actually finish the whole dish, but the flavor profile of the Little Pepper version certainly more sophisticated and more satisfying on an individual bite level.

Our grand total with beer and tip was $36, a total steal. I definitely look forward to going back and exploring the menu more, as we waited for our check we noticed the wall specials and my wife tried to decipher a few of them but her Chinese is kind of rusty. She was able to identify the main meats in each dish but the cooking methods weren't familiar, we'll have to ask for help next time.

One more note, we went at 7pm on Friday and the place was 100% empty except for us. I know Spicy and Tasty gets the hype on this board but Little Pepper deserves some love too. Go check it out!

Little Pepper (Xiao La Jiao)
133-43 Roosevelt Avenue

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  1. Yes! I love this place! Lots more good dishes await you, some of which are discussed here. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/311139 One of my favorites is the water-cooked (水煮) stuff (beef or fish)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      Brian do you know if there an on-line menu for Little Pepper? I have tried with no luck..

        1. re: David W

          David, thank you..How did I manage to miss that?

          1. re: erica

            just so you know, some of the prices, especially the braised dishes, are incorrect. the take out menu that i have prices the braised sliced fish as 11.95.

    2. I just want to chime in here and say that I had one of my best New York Chinese meals ever at this restaurant last night. The restaurant was empty when we arrived at 6:15 but by the time we left after 8, every table was taken with Asian diners. And every other table had a hotpot at the center. There is very limited English spoken here, as others have noted, but the staff is very friendly and most willing to help in deciphering the menu, including the separate hotpot menu which is written in Chinese only. Thanks to all of the tips here, we did not need a menu, as I had everything written down in advance. Note that the numbers are only on the paper takeout menu, not on the table menus. Here is what our group of 7 devoured; unless otherwise noted, everything was fantastic:

      Cold Sichuan noodles..best I have had
      Dry cooked lamb with Cumin..not over-the-top spicy. I think..no, I am quite certain, that they toned down the spice for our group..
      Dried sauteed green Beans..the only dish I was not wild about
      Bamboo shoots appetizer
      Pork dumplings with spicy sauce
      Won ton in soup (excellent chicken broth; wontons good..thick skin)
      Crust of cooked rice with pork..a standout. Not spicy.
      Tea smoked Duck. Now on my list of Top 5 NY Chinese dishes. I liked it better than Wu Liang Yu 86 and I like theirs a lot.
      Eggplant in garlic sauce..I was too full to try this but everyone else liked a lot.
      Shredded pork with dried bean curd...a standout. No spice, though.
      Shredded pork with bamboo shoots. Much like the dish above. I cannot stop thinking bout this, it was so good. Again, no heat.
      Fried won ton with pork.

      Order of kung pao chicken and an order of sweet and sour spare ribs (which were boneless and surprisingly delicious..ordered for the spice-hater but sampled by me!)

      I cannot wait to return and apologize for the poor reporting here..I was in such a swoon over the food that I lost all reason and memory. I could kick myself for not bringing home a few extra things....

      24 Replies
      1. re: erica

        Thanks for the lovely report. I don't think the lamb with cumin is normally spicy -- except, of course, for the cumin.

        1. re: Brian S

          Thanks, Brian...you are too kind about my "report!" I cannot get that food out of my mind, even 3 days after the fact!

          1. re: erica

            Ohhhhh you should try the fish!
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/46756...

            I've been there twice this week. First time, lamb in clay pot, which was very good but not my favorite. Second time, that fish. I noticed someone at another table ordered a simple noodles with beef, and it was served in a cute little miniature wok.

            1. re: Brian S

              Which one is the lamb in clay pot? There is no such description in English, and I don't recognize any of the Chinese characters for lamb dishes explicitly stating that they come in a clay pot (maybe I didn't look hard enough).

              I too have been there twice in the past week. I'm hooked on the cowpeas with minced pork (labeled as black eyed peas in the takeout menu). It's the immature whole pods cut into very small pieces; slightly sour and somehow buttery tasting to me.

              Also got the braised lamb dish. I prefer the lamb with cumin instead and think that the braised fish would be a better choice if one wanted to go with a water-cooked dish.

              Smoked pork with leeks is another good dish. Thin slices of smoked pork belly. Slightly chewy and tasting of a good barbecue. Could be spicier though.

              Has anyone ordered the ma la fish dish from the wall menu ($29.95)? It sounds good but eats the budget of 3 dishes.

              1. re: Joe MacBu

                Lamb in a clay pot is on there in English.

                1. re: JFores

                  I don't see it on the takeout menu. I'll check the dine-in menu next time.

                  1. re: Joe MacBu

                    It's not on the takeout menu but it is on the dine-in menu in English, and on the wall in Chinese.

                    1. re: Brian S

                      You know what's really funny? People have come around to using it's English name like they do with every other Chinese restaurant. No more "Xiao La Jiao." The Curse of Sietsema has been lifted.
                      http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        I use the English name because, as you pointed out, if we send people out looking for Xiao La Jiao, they will be doomed to spend the rest of their lives wearily trudging back and forth on Roosevelt, looking for a sign that doesn't exist. Who is that sad spectre? children will ask, and their parents will sigh and say, it's a story too sad for your ears, the ghost of Chowhound past!

                        Happy New Year!

                        1. re: Brian S

                          Brian I am howling out loud just picturing that...and his or her clothing will be all raggedy with big holes and sliding off the scrawny shoulders...the soles of the shoes will be separating from the uppers...the laces will have been long lost...the buggy eyes peering through thick glasses bound with tape...just looking..looking for that sign........

                2. re: Joe MacBu

                  I second the cowpeas and smoked pork with leeks. Both are crazy good and unique. Those were standouts from my report earlier this year. Can't wait to go again, been way too long.

            2. re: Brian S

              Both times I have had this dish it has been quite spicy tingly with sichuan peppercorns. This is not the norm? Really good! I'm so glad you enjoyed your meal so much Erica, you are making me want to go back now!

              1. re: prunefeet

                So we finally decided to order take-out tonight from this place, and failed miserably!. The woman who answered the phone responded to my "I'd like to place an order" with "No English" and hung up. I tried again and asked, very slowly, if I could place an order. Again "No English." I asked if there was anyone else there who did speak English, she said no, then hung up again. Third time, I asked if I could simply order by number off of the take out menu, thinking she might at least know English numbers. But again, the response was "No English" and a hang-up.
                How do other people order from this place? I can't imagine I'm the only non-Chinese speaking Chowhound in Queens!

                  1. re: johnk

                    So phone-ahead take-out is not an option for non-Chinese speakers at this restaurant? I guess I'll stick with Spicy and Tasty...

                    1. re: jennielap

                      Just go to the restaurant, spend a few extra minutes, it is well worth your trouble as a Chowhound.

                      1. re: Astoria Lurker

                        Yes it is worth the trouble, and I must say that I've never heard anyone say, I phoned Mario Batali's hottest restaurant to order takeout and they refused to take my order.

                        1. re: Brian S

                          With all due respect, that is a ridiculous comparison. Batali's places are fine dining establishments. Little Pepper is, to put it kindly, a hole in the wall. Sure the food is great, but it's definitely the sort of restaurant where, given the surroundings, it is reasonable to want to get it "to-go." And in my experience the food travels perfectly well.

                          1. re: evets

                            What's wrong with the surroundings? They have a nice interior compared to most places I eat...

                      2. re: jennielap

                        In my experience, the home style dishes here are head and shoulders above Spicy and Tasty. Then again, after my first trip to Chengdu Heaven I've been spending every trip to Chinatown in the basement of a steamy mall getting eyed like a 3 headed dragon by Chinese passers by.

                        No reason to write off Little Pepper. I wouldn't want many of their dishes if they sat anyway. Ma po do fu or double cooked pork would both get kind of rank if they sat. For that matter, most pork belly would just rubberize.

                        1. re: JFores

                          Well, I don't know how a take-out order would fly at Babbo; I've never tried that. In an ideal world we would go to Little Pepper and, I'm sure, get our socks knocked off by the food. But the truth is that we have 3 small children, none of whom like Chinese food, and we don't get a lot of chances for dinners out. So if we want to have the good stuff we have to compromise and get it to go. And until I learn the pronunciation for the dishes I like (or they get someone who speaks a little English), we'll have to forego Little Pepper. By the way, the double-cooked pork from S&T travels just fine.

                          1. re: jennielap

                            I'd follow Astoria Lurker's advice and place your takeout order in person. It's easier to communicate in person, where you can point at the menu. Then take a stroll - maybe a half block east, to pick up a bag of frozen dumplings at Best North Dumpling ( http://www.chow.com/digest/1743 ), or around the corner for a smoked chicken at Tian Jin ( http://www.chow.com/digest/4029 ).

                            -----
                            Best North Dumpling Shop
                            135-08 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11354

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

                            Tian Jin
                            135-02 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11354

                    2. re: jennielap

                      I've eaten at Little Pepper a bunch of times and they really don't speak much English. I get by through pointing at the menu items (which are in both Chinese and English, although not the items listed on the wall, which are only in Chinese). I imagine that if I tried to call in an order there would be virtually no chance of communicating what I want. That much being said, I'd still try to go and order in person. If you're doing takeout (as opposed to delivery) it will only be a few extra minutes. Every time I've gone I have (deliberately) over-ordered and taken portions home, and everything I've had seems to do fine with reheating, so takeout shouldn't be a problem.

                      1. re: LloydG

                        I'm there during work hours and have taken to over-ordering takeout pretty much by necessity. You can get a few items for $10-12 and spread it over a few days if you have access to a microwave; this way I get a little of each item each time, and it breaks down affordably to boot. I haven't had any problem showing up in person and pointing to the menu either, and it really doesn't take much time. They even offer tea while you wait.

              2. I just dined here for my second time. By chance I ended up eating two of the same dishes I had at the first meal---I'm usually more adventurous---and was as wonderfully happy this time as last. While many previous posts have focused on the barely ESL staff, we were greeted with warmth and guidance on menu choices; one order was not available and another was suggested with relative ease. (There was also a slight, seemingly innocent, fascination of my enjoyment of the Tsingtao.)

                We ordered the braised fish in spicy broth, and I can't think of any way I'd want to change the dish. Cohesive, balanced, and full of character. Also, one serving could easily be a quick snack for 2 or 3 over cheap beers before a night of painting the town red.

                We also had the lamb with cumin that has been mentioned by many other ChowHounders. While I loved the crispy bits, I sometimes desire a more substantial piece of food---especially meat---to fully explore the flavor and textural spectrum. Heavily spiced with cumin, this dish brought a huge, late heat that grew with time. I love spicy more than most and this dish almost broke me... made me "emotional," let's say. I found myself having the great debate of "m m goodness" vs. "can I take the heat?"

                But that's not I debate I mind having.

                Out for under $40 bucks (for two) with drinks, I find good reason to make this a more regular chow.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Crisp Otter

                  Thanks for the report. Have they moved to their new location yet?

                  1. re: Crisp Otter

                    Otter this is a great description of the cumin lamb here...it's the first place I ever had it and it set the bar for me...I have not liked it as much anywhere else...those crispy bits, full of sichuan peppercorns and cumin, WOW, major buzz!!!

                  2. Ate at Little Pepper this past Saturday with a large and very congenial group. Everything was delicious (with the sole exception of the eel (which was rubbery) in the water (really oil) braised eel - but the broth and the vegetables in it, bean sprouts, enokidake, and cabbage were fabulous).
                    Had the Sichuan pickled veg - a very nice version, with carrot and daikon slices, more cured/sour and more piquant with Sichuan pepper than most), the wontons in hot sauce, the silkworm potatoes (crinkle-cut, with ground chili and Sichuan pepper and something sour, rice vinegar I expect on them – if I lived closer I would want these once a week), the cold beef shank appetizer (which was too tough, should have been cooked longer – was served with a ground chili and Sichuan peppercorn dry dip), the cumin lamb (v good, more oily than some, served in an aluminum foil boat), the pickled cowpeas with minced pork (I love this dish, its resemblance to the Taiwanese congtouying was remarked upon), the meatballs in a xiang la sauce, and the sautéed water spinach with garlic. I may be missing some dishes, there were so many.
                    The fish with soft tofu in a chili sauce was the absolute standout dish, tender fried fillets in a tart and bracing chile sauce with custardy soft tofu – the textures were brilliant together (I adore soft tofu, especially in savory dishes.
                    All of this and about 8 Tsingtaos came out to $20.00 per person with a large tip included. Great meal, the best thing about it was that, while pretty well all of the dishes were chili-hot, each was spiced to a different degree of ma la.
                    More homestyle and better on the whole than the food in the various Manhattan Sichuan restaurants we’ve visited.

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

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: buttertart

                      Thanks for the detailed update! I am glad they are staying put there, or so it seems.

                      1. re: scoopG

                        Knew I forgot to mention something - the tea-smoked duck was fabulous - very smoky and not at all fatty. YUM! The best in a long time.

                        1. re: scoopG

                          when i was there last - maybe a month ago? the owner held up 3 fingers when i asked about moving.- charades style. somehow this seemed to translate to about 3 months for all of us at the table. stay tuned.

                            1. re: scoopG

                              i kno they had some architect problem many moons ago but yes - we'll see. i'm happy with it just exactly where it's at so....

                        2. re: buttertart

                          I was at Little Pepper this past Wednesday with a large group. It was probably my 50th visit. We've always found the water braised fish much better than the water braised eel. We had the "Eel with Garlic" again and it was very good, although several in our group said it should have been called "garlic with eel".

                          The lamb with cumin and the tea smoked duck were as spectacular as ever. My only complaint is that every time I've been there for the past year or so, the spice level gets notched down a bit each time. imho, that's because their customer base has changed. On this particular night only one of the 7 tables was exclusively Asian when we arrived. Several, including mine, were exclusively non-Asian.

                          Personally, I can't wait for the move. First, with only 7 tables there was a wait at 8:30 on a Wednesday night. I assume their new space will be substantially bigger. Second, parking at their new location has to be easier. It can't be worse. And half the time I come by bicycle. The new location is supposedly only a mile further away. And third, because the lack of public transportation might mean some Chowhounds won't make the trip, and the clientele becomes more Chinese, hopefully the cooks will bring the spice level back to it's prior perfection.

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

                          1. re: el jefe

                            Hmm, that Sunday lunch there were tables available even with us hogging 2 of the big ones. Everybody else there was Asian, presumably Chinese. And the spicing was exactly as it should have been, and as I've had it in Sichuan places in Taipei, HK, and the mainland. Too bad you didn't have a better time of it. I'm still lusting after those crabs I saw on another party's table.

                            1. re: el jefe

                              What is the status of their proposed move? Seems like I've been reading about this for a year or so..

                              1. re: erica

                                The new place @ College Point Blvd X 18th has had a sign up it for over 4 months now, but not easy to read from a street level and the lock's been securely up. ;-) No hint of moving, thanks god.

                            2. Still my all time favorite place in Flushing. As always, the tea smoked duck, twice cooked pork, cold noodles, are amazing.

                              Here is the cook out front taking a break (with the cute little pepper logo)
                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/arnade/5...

                              1. did they finally move or did they actually close down? http://ny.eater.com/archives/2010/11/...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Lau

                                  Anyone have an update on Little Pepper?

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

                                  1. re: erica

                                    I was passing by their new location @College Point: still closed.