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Chinese Mirch --how hot IS it?

I'm going there with friends this weekend. I like my food hot, but my friends - not so. Will they be able to find enough mild sttuff to satisfy them? Or will they just whine?

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Chinese Mirch
120 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

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  1. Not everythying is blaziing hot. Mention the situation to your waiter and they'll steer you to things that your friends can eat while helping you find the really hot stuff.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bob Martinez

      And not everything there is chile-hot either. The Tellicherry Pepper Chicken, while listed as "spicy" is primarily black pepper (hence the name). So it's not hot in the traditional sense of spiciness. No one's mouth should burn if you get that (which is very good, by the way).

    2. There are enough non-fiery dishes on the menu to satisfy those who aren't that into spicy food. even the truely spicy foods aren't that overwhelmingly hot.

      1. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan, and I eat out a lot. Didn't know about this place until last spring when one of my friends suggested it as we were strolling around. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/517659
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/541556

        I agree with everyone here that your friends will definitely be able to order non-spicy items. Even if they wanted a typically spicy dish, the servers are really nice and will actually adjust the spice as requested. There are also several items that can be ordered dry rather than with gravy.

        I'm completely addicted to the Mirch 65 (just had it this past Tuesday) and strongly recommend it for you b/c it is a super-spicy appetizer and they don't dummy it down for Americans. The chicken chili and chili paneer are also really great.

        Have a great time and please report back. Oh, this place is typically packed solid so you might want to make a reservation. Here's a site where you can view the menu and make a reservation through OpenTable: http://menupages.com/restaurantdetail...

        30 Replies
        1. re: nativeNYer

          Chinese Mirch has been one of our favorites for a long time. For inexplicable reasons we hadn't visited for a long time so we fixed that last Saturday. The lineup -

          Steamed chicken momo's (dumplings). These were well made but unremarkable. What pushed them over the top was the 4 dipping sauces served on the side.

          Mirch 65 - Chicken spiked with curry leaves & red hot chiles. Plenty of zip with nicely balanced heat.

          Crispy Szechuan Lamb - twice cooked crispy meat, tossed with red & green chiles. Plenty of lamb flavor plus a nice blend of spiced. Not overly hot.

          Basil Chicken - shredded white meat, broccoli & fresh basil stir fry. Middling heat, great flavor.

          The wine list is well chosen and nicely priced. We had a pinot grigio for $32.00.

          Service, as always, was very good. The space is narrow but comfortable enough. If you arrive on the early side you'll get seated by the front window which is very pleasant. The crowd is 90% Indian, primarily in their 20s and early 30s. We've been about 6 or 7 times and the place is always crowded. Unless you're seated next to a particularly noisy group the noise level is moderate.

          Slideshow here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/64756738...

          Chinese Mirch
          120 Lexington (At 28th St

          )

          Website - http://www.chinesemirch.com

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            Bob and NativeNyer, could you guys do an update? I hear they lost their chef in 2010.

            1. re: Jim Leff

              I had dinner there back in June. There were just 2 of us so we only had a limited number of dishes but I remember the meal as a B to B+. My memory is a bit hazy as to specifics but as I recall their version of hot & sour soup (which combines Indian spicing to the usual recipe) was good as was their Mirch 65. I believe we had the chili chicken as well, served dry.

              This is a funny cuisine. The first time you try it it's a revelation - the Indian/Chinese flavor combinations are unusual and you're blown away. Over time you get used to them and the wow factor diminishes. That said, it's still a place I get back to every year.

              FWIW the patrons are still largely Indian. That's not a guarantee of quality but it's a useful data point.

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              Chinese Mirch
              120 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                Thanks, Bob, that jibes with some so-so reports I've heard recently.

                Also, I'd suggest that it's not the cuisine, and it's not you. For some reason, people are loathe to blame restaurants when the spark goes away....just so long as the spark declines GRADUALLY. For example, the vast majority of New Yorkers didn't even notice that pizza slice quality declined about 80% from the 1970's to the 1990's. Those who registered the decline at all just figured they didn't like pizza as much anymore.

                I promise: it's not that you've grown jaded or "used to" the cuisine. A great chef would undoubtedly excite you anew.

                1. re: Jim Leff

                  Jim, this is an interesting topic. I'll say up front that I fully appreciate what a great chef can do to keep a favorite dish exciting. I think I'm talking about something a bit different.

                  Take dan dan noodles. The first time I ever tried them was a minor life changing moment. I was very familiar with spicy food but this was different. It felt like electricity was dancing on my tongue. I was eating alone on a weekday afternoon at a Chinese restaurant in Flushing (Spicy & Tasty in the early days) and I felt like calling up everyone I knew and telling them about Sichuan pepper corns. "Come over here! You've got to try this!"

                  I've been back dozens of times and brought other people with me. I had the pleasure of introducing 3 or 4 friends to dan dan noodles and it was a treat to watch them take their first bite. The same look of amazement passed over their faces. They were trying something completely new. I was eating the same dish and while I was enjoying it very much it was a different experience for me. That's the phenomenon I was trying to get at in my earlier post.

                  Now this doesn't negate the effect of superior skill. You can now get versions of dan dan noodles all over town but some are mediocre, some are good, and a few are great. (Even the excellent ones are great in different ways.) After awhile you learn which restaurants do the dish really well and you make sure to always order them there.

                  I love that dish but each time I have it, even at the best places, it's not quite the same as that first time.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    What I'm saying is: trust your palate. If the thrill is gone, it's almost certainly not due to your shifting perceptions and disaffections.

                    I've gone up and down on different foods, renditions, and cuisines in my life, and one lesson keeps repeating itself: deliciousness is deliciousness. If you're not digging the chocolate pudding, it's not because you don't dig chocolate pudding. There will appear a chocolate pudding with the power to reignite you (and convince you that previous puddings really weren't up to snuff).

                    If a previously loved restaurant stops floating your boat, it's them, not you. There's a weird human psychology issue that makes us question our perceptions and blame ourselves for lack of enjoyment (not just in food; I constantly hear people telling me they don't "get" jazz when I know they're listening to LOUSY jazz!). That's the issue that makes so few New Yorkers furious about current average pizza quality. They think it's THEM!

                    If it's great, you'll love it....and if it's leaving you cold (and you're someone with experience, paying a decent amount of attention, with reasonably open sensibilities), it's almost always their fault, not yours!

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      What restaurant is this in reference to? Thanks.

                  2. re: Jim Leff

                    is Dom's still at the top of the heap for NY 1970s style pizza???

                    thanks.

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      ahh but the vast majority don't even know about LOUIE & ERNIES. as they say in the michelin guides "worth ze detour." sounds like you are due a visit up there to cheer you up monsieur leff! ;)

                      1. re: mrnyc

                        mrnyc, I'm pretty cheery as-is, but I could always stand a top-up! Thanks! I'm really into the Bronx these days.

                        Kevin, we're talking about Chinese Mirch. But everything I said in that last posting applies anywhere. As for Difara's, he hasn't made 1970's style pizza in many years. His pizza-making has been transforming, and it's now very much his own thing. And it's still great (round, not square, though...he makes the square crusts ahead of time).

                  3. re: Jim Leff

                    I like indian chinese a lot (and have eaten a fair amount of it in india). Im not sure what "losing the chef" means in this context, as its a franchise (and they are pretty up front about it, down to soliciting potential franchisees all over the website and in several places in the actual restaurant). We had lunch there within the last month and it wasn't exactly up to snuff - the food we got was fine but not much more. Some stuff ive had there has been really great - the fried okra, chicken 65 and cumin lamb are all excellent, some stuff is pretty good - the gobi manuchrian for example, and a few items are somewhat underwhelming - ive not been impressed with the cilantro sauce preparations (sort of like a bland pesto stir fry?) or the noodle dishes.

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                    Chinese Mirch
                    120 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                      "Im not sure what "losing the chef" means in this context, as its a franchise"

                      The guy who prepares your food is, far and away, the main determining factor in deliciousness, regardless of the restaurant's business model. The owner (of the restaurant or of the restaurant group) can certainly exert influence, but if food's being cooked in an actual kitchen, the person doing that cooking makes a huge diff. "Touch" is where the magic is (or isn't)!

                      Of course, there is a sort of franchise restaurant that doesn't employ chefs. Their model is to open cans, defrost, and otherwise function as mindless cogs in a machine-line set-up (Olive Garden, Wendy's, et al) where there's a determined effort to remove all traces of "touch". Such places aren't real restaurants, though, they're fake. And until the PF Chang model comes to Indian food, the quality of an Indian kitchen (even if part of a group) hinges not on minimum wage technicians, but on the experience, talent, and soul of professional chefs.

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        I guess my comment came off as a little snarky and it wasnt intended to - it may be partly a semantic distinction, but the distinction between chefs and cooks is important. To my mind the "chef" is the person whose role is creative and administrative, they oversee the production of the food and guide the aesthetic and practical processes leading to diners meals (from menu planning, recipe tweaking to training and supervising line cooks getting them to taste and season etc).

                        Just because someone is actually cooking your food in a kitchen doesnt, to me anyway, make them a chef, it makes them a cook. In the context of "hearing that the chef left," does your interpretation mean that the entire kitchen crew was replaced? I appreciate the CM is no fast food or olive gardens/pf changs, but having worked in corporate owned, non-chain restaurants, I think you may be overstating the role of kitchen managers/chefs in these environments.

                        I'm not saying that cooks/chefs/kitchen managers who cook static, traditional menus are soul-less, or that they dont put amazing amounts of effort and heart into what they do, but it is my experience that there is less significance in changes at the top in these contexts than dynamic chef-driven restaurants (where a claim like "the chef left" would be cause for major re-evaluation of the restaurants status, potentially).

                        apologies for the pedantics - i think that the discussion between you and bob above gets at many of the issues which could lead to some of the luster being lost with regards to CM's appeal. Id venture to guess that those are better explanations than changes in personnel.

                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                          First, no snark perceived. We're just discussing!

                          The center of your argument is this: "having worked in corporate owned, non-chain restaurants, I think you may be overstating the role of kitchen managers/chefs in these environments."

                          Let me ask you this: have you worked in a corporate owned, non-chain restaurant where the chef was brilliant? I ask because I don't think non-brilliant chefs make a diff in ANY environment!

                          There's non-brilliance in every sector of the industry. Lots of it. But we're not discussing non-brilliance here. We're talking about a place some posters (whose opinions I respect) once found great. And that's always due, in great (though not complete) measure, to the chef's touch (and, yes, that of his staff, following his example). So if this place got less great, it makes sense that the chef left. Which I heard he did.

                          Deliciousness is never due to really smart procedures from the front office. If it were, then Burger King would be delicious, because their procedures are as smart as procedures can be. Deliciousness largely stems from the touch of the person making your food....IF s/he's brilliant!

                          And re: calling someone a chef or a cook, you can draw whatever distinction you'd like. But I've eaten out quite a bit, and some of the most inspiring food I know is grilled on a street cart in Queens http://jimleff.info/arepa.html and baked from a dumb recipe with supermarket ingredients http://www.chow.com/topics/817542. So for me, it's about the cook/chef's touch, regardless of the trappings.

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            The food is not the same, I agree with you. We ate here, after a visit to Kalustyan's, about a week ago. I couldn't figure out why the chicken coriander and the hakkan noodles weren't as satisfying as usual. The chicken had a weird aftertaste and the noodles were unusually non eventful.

                            Like, Leff said, I'm glad we are not "going crazy" thinking that it was having outgrown IndoChino...

                            But could this really happen because chef's changed hands? I don't get it, if its a "franchise" shouldn't they be able to standardize their recipes for consistency? Maybe on the business end, in order to expand and transition into a franchise they are sacrificing quality kitchen labor in favor of cutting costs? I can't image how they could really trim their budget via cutting down on their "spice" budget, because even the crappiest joints with the crappiest cuts of meats can still put out a phenomenal dish. So maybe they did lose the magic touch by "losing their chef...."

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                            Chinese Mirch
                            120 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                            1. re: RawTunaFan

                              We paid a visit last night and I am sorry to say that the food was nothing like what it has been. We have enjoyed the place for years, but something has changed. The Crispy Szechuan Lamb was MIA so I tried the Chatpati chicken bao; okay but nothing special. I thought the bao were carelessly steamed, a little hard in spots. The Hyderabadi Chili Chicken was pretty good, but my favorite standby chicken, the Mirch 65 was really disappointing. "Spiked with red hot chilies" my ass. Utterly characterless.

                              Maybe this meal was a one off, but it depressed me.

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                              Chinese Mirch
                              120 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                              1. re: Deb Van D

                                A weekend night, too! Oh well....

                                1. re: Deb Van D

                                  We were there last night as well, Deb Van D. Did they tell you they ran out of crispy lamb? We had it. It was good but not outstanding. We are still unable to bring ourselves to eat the chicken for reasons I had described in a previous post. I share your disappointment.

                                  1. re: nativeNYer

                                    Yeah, Jim, another theory shot to ribbons.

                                    Oh, frack ntvNYer--if I had read your earlier post more thoroughly I might have avoided ordering the chicken. Maybe not, though, because I am a little wrong-headed and have liked it so much in the past. Almost unrecognizable.

                                    I didn't see the crispy lamb on the menu, unfortunately, and didn't bother to ask. I liked the bao well enough, but it didn't retrieve the evening.

                                    Sorry, if I knew you were there I would have waved. I'm charming that way.

                                    1. re: Deb Van D

                                      Heehee. I think several CHers have mentioned the possibility of developing a secret phrase to mumble in a restaurant. Upon hearing the phrase, all CHers will identify themselves. Ya never know when one of us will be lingering in any given restaurant.

                                      I stubbornly kept ordering the chicken as well until I just couldn't any longer. Did you have an opportunity to mention anything to them? The manager on board (he's typically behind the bar) is very nice and eager to please. The place held such promise. I miss the mirch 65 tremendously. You may have been happier with the lamb. It was good but not mind-blowing. I've been using the vinegar to enhance the flavors.

                                      1. re: nativeNYer

                                        Because they usually don't serve beef (offend Hindus) or pork (offend Muslims), these restaurants are pretty darned chicken-heavy. So having to avoid chicken is a little counterintuitive. But sometimes chowhounding's like that....

                              2. re: Jim Leff

                                You don't like a a good whopper? blasphemy big dog!

                        2. re: Jim Leff

                          Hi Jim,
                          I'm still addicted to the flavors here but the food has definitely not been the same for at least a year or two. It seems they have gone through several chefs over the past several years as things have been very inconsistent and rarely as great as it had been years ago. I agree with tex.s.toast's feedback on the noodles. They've never been good. Since 2008, the folks in the NYC location know me as a regular and I try to provide as much feedback as possible.

                          Something as simple as the momos have completely changed at least three times, but they have since improved. When questioned, they mentioned "using a different supplier" but they expressed an appreciation for the feedback.

                          The mirch 65 was always my favorite dish but the spices and the quality of the chicken (I almost gag when I think about it) have changed so dramatically that I've stopped ordering this dish. Totally agree with RawTunaFan's take on the chicken. Ugh. I also miss the hot chili oil they've always served. Whenever I've asked for it again, they politely attempt to recreate it but the oil is just not the same in appearance. spice level nor taste.

                          In mid-September, the crispy szechaun lamb had changed as well - far less flavor but ridiculously spicy (keep in mind I LOVE spicy food), and they also began serving the dish with gravy that did not at all complement the dish, I immediately wrote to one of the owners via facebook after the dish had been served this way for several weeks (needed my addiction) at their NYC location as well as at their Stamford location (which I've only visited once). She immediately replied that she was surprised to hear this b/c "none of the recipes had changed" but she promised to look into it. Two weeks later, when I had returned to their NYC location, the problems with the dish had been completely resolved. But, still, not as good as it had been back in 2008. Luckily, the dish has subsequently remained unchanged since Sept.

                          But here's some good news. Shortly before the holiday, I stopped in for my usual fix on a Friday evening. The food was so incredibly good (momos and crispy lamb) that I had to mention it to one of the managers. My dinner that evening definitely "excited me anew". :) I was quickly told that the "head chef" is only there on weekends. Whether this chef is new or the former one is unknown. Unfortunately, I typically go on week nights but I will need to return this weekend to determine whether we are in luck. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

                          I would suggest just giving them as much feedback as possible. If you have access to Queens, try Tangra in Sunnyside or in Elmhurst. Both are a block or two are from the subway system. Amazing food and really nice people.

                          I will report back this weekend. BTW, anyone hear of any new Indochinese places in Manhattan? It seems this is the only one (how crazy is that!!?!?), since Indo Munch had closed, aside from a small cluster of Indian places that may have several Indochinese selections on their menu but never as good.

                          One last point. I agree with your take on our perceptions, Jim. It's a very important point b/c I've often found myself questioning my own taste and whether, perhaps, my opinion has been affected by merely frequenting the place too often. But, ultimately, I am aware this isn't true.

                          Please report back if you go but I would suggest trying it on a Fri. or Sat.

                          Best,
                          nativeNYer

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                          Chinese Mirch
                          120 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                          1. re: nativeNYer

                            Thanks. Weekend nights it is!

                            I definitely have access to Queens, btw.... ;)

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              Looking forward to hearing what you think after trying both. At Tangra, try the chili chicken dry and the Manchurian noodles. Folks like the lollypop chcken, the curry rolls and the fish fingers. I also love the momos here. They are just about the best dumplings I've tasted even after doing two Chinatown dumpling tours.

                              1. re: nativeNYer

                                I'm a longtime fan of Tangra. I think I was there their first week. But it's good to add the tip to the thread for those reading along.

                                FWIW, some of the best Indian/Chinese is usually found in Hicksville, Long Island, though it's like a shell game, and I don't currently know where the good chefs are at.

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  I've seen these Hicksville places listed but have not yet made an effort to try them. But, did stumble across one on Jericho Turnpike (I think) just a couple of months ago. After a quick search, I'm unable to find the name but the food was phenomenal. It is part of a big banquet hall (with a couple of tables to the left after entering an ornate hallway. The restaurant stands alone and there is a big parking lot to the side of the place. This place may have been closer to Syosset and it was near an exit to either the LIE or GCP, I believe. Will post the name on the outer borough board once I locate it as well as any other feedback re these Hicksville restaurants.

                                  1. re: nativeNYer

                                    Very very curious about the Jcho Tpk place. Would you mind posting a link here to the new thread, once you figure it all out, just for those of us following along?

                                    Also, Syosset's "NY State" not outer boros (yes, I know, it's crazy....don't get me started...).

                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                      Here it is but brace yourself for this one. Looking forward to hearing your feedback if you decide to venture out:

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/826983

                            2. re: nativeNYer

                              I have a craving for good chilli gobi or gobi manchurian, after having a pretty damn addictive one from Delhi Garden in Edison NJ recently (but I'm probably not getting back to central NJ anytime soon). Is Chinese Mirch no longer the place to go for this? Can anybody recommend something better in Manhattan? Who's currently got a good Indo-Chinese chef, anybody know? I could venture to Jackson Heights if that's appreciably better. Tangra in Sunnyside is mentioned elsewhere, but there are some pretty poisonous recent reviews on another site... I need up-to-date info....