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Anyone tried Hot Kitchen on 2nd Ave?

Has anyone tried this place yet? I saw this post but haven't been there:

Hot Kitchen
104 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

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  1. Passed by it yesterday; intrigued...am about to go for brunch now. Will file a dispatch.

    1. I stopped in this weekend for the lunch special. Lunch is a fantastic deal. Main course, soup, and rice choice for $7, all large portions and very delicious.

      For my meal I had Double Cooked Pork, Hot & Sour Soup, and Vegetable Fried Rice. The Hot & Sour was one of the spicier versions I've had and I enjoyed it. The Double Cooked Pork was excellent, especially over the rice. It was loaded with chili oil and seeds, peppers and thinly sliced pork belly.

      Hot Kitchen
      104 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

      1. Here's the web site with menu and lots of photos! Food looks good; maybe a cross between Grand Sichuan St Marks (I spy soup dumplings) and Szechuan Gourmet (frogs on the menu!).


        Szechuan Gourmet
        21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

        1. Love the name! That does look like a good version of Twice Cooked Pork. Website photos look interesting. Is that a secret room I detect in the back, with red chairs?

          1. Fish Head right at top of the specials. Anyone tried it? I'll need to stop by soon and report back.

            Could also use a good american chinese place for delivery. EV now lacking in that dept since the new mgmt at Yummy House.

            1. I went there twice, very shortly after it opened. Despite its name, I was totally unable to get them to give me anything that was remotely hot, compared to my usual fare at the nearby Grand Sichuan St. Marks or any of the other Sichuan restaurants I frequent. In addition, the fish we got on our first trip was undercooked to the point of tasting kind of raw on its outer third (but it tasted very fresh and we didn't get sick). So unless someone (especially someone who doesn't look Asian) has a different experience, I would recommend against going and won't be going again.

              Hot Kitchen
              104 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              1. WOW!

                We went 2 days ago as a group of four and the food was great. I travel to China alot and although I don't go to Sichuan province it is my favorite cuisine so I eat it alot. I can say this food, at least in my experience of sichuan restaurants (in Jiangsu and Zhejiang) was quite authentic in flavor with the added bonus of better quality meat.

                We had the following:
                Hot and Sour Potato noodles
                Dry sauteed whole spicy green pepper
                Sauteed Spicy Chinese Broccoli
                Mei Shan Beef
                Steamed Whole Fish with Hot Bean Sauce
                Cumin Lamb

                I can not understand how anyone did not enjoy their meal. The food was hot, and dishes marked with 4 chilis were certainly VERY spicy. The potato noodle appetizer fed 4 and was delicious. The broth was in fact spicy and sour with chewy glass noodles. The whole green peppers were much too hot (we were warned) and I eat hot food regularly. The Mei Shan beef had a good heat to it and plenty of peppers and peanuts. This was almost too much for some at the table but 2 of us found it just right. This is a fried dish which is then sauteed so the beef is crisp outside but chewy inside and of better quality than most chinese resaurants. I found it just right and akin to dishes I've eaten over seas. The cumin lamb too was also served just as I've had it in china but not on skewers. But for me the highlight was the steamed fish with hot bean sauce. Fish was very fresh and bean sauce was not just spicy but had a great and distinctive flavor. Being a whole fish there was plenty of skin and fatty parts for me. But the meat was delicate and mild for others.

                I liked this beter than Grand Sichuan which I find to be overlly greasy, even considering most sichuan food is by nature quite oily. To be fair I have not eaten at GS too many times, but have delivered and never been wild for anything.

                Steam fish head with minced chilis is my favorite dish when I travel and I will have to order it next time with a more adventurous crowd. Although I urge anyone to try it, it just looks and sounds odd. If you like soft steamed fish meat with plenty of skin and soft greasy bits you will love fish head.

                I hate to pound on about traveling to China and eating the "real thing" since every restaurant either anywhere has their own spin on things. But this food was really good and it's the real deal for anyone concerned with that type of thing. I also have a fondness for gringo chinese delivery so I will be trying that out on a cold night soon.

                Hot Kitchen
                104 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                6 Replies
                1. re: 2slices

                  I have to ask you: Do you look Asian? This is an important question, because if you don't, perhaps the restaurant has changed and I can try again to get food from them that's actually spicy. If you do, then I will still stay away, figuring that what made the difference for you was probably your appearance.

                  1. re: Pan

                    Huh, I thought you were Asian yourself!

                    1. re: uwsister

                      Nope. I'm a white Jewish guy who lived in Malaysia for a couple of years as a child.

                    2. re: 2slices

                      interesting sounds good

                      was the fish very fresh water tasting? i like whole fish with hot bean sauce, but they usually use muddy tasting fresh water fish which im not that big a fan of

                      1. re: Lau

                        fish tasted quite fresh to me.

                    3. We are awash in good Sichuan restaurants. In part I think some of that is due to increased immigration from mainland China but I also suspect part of the credit has to go to Xiaotu Zhang, founder of the Grand Sichuan mini chain. Chefs work in his restaurants, hone their skills, and move on to start their own places.

                      That seems to work out for everyone. Rather than being concentrated in Chinatown like they would have been 20 or 30 years ago these restaurants are happily scattered in convenient locations all around the city. New York seems to be able to absorb them – there’s a significant segment of the dining public that can’t get enough of this cuisine. If you build it they will come and eat.

                      Based on a friend's tip last fall Hot Kitchen was on our radar for some time. We finally went Saturday night.

                      Unlike most similar restaurants Hot Kitchen is on Open Table. Alas, the management blocks out Saturday nights and forces you to make your reservation by telephone. I wasn’t sure if a reservation was actually necessary but it turned out to be a good move. We arrived relatively early, 7:00PM, and the place was 95% full.

                      The front of the house manager is friendly and efficient. He knows how to manage a busy restaurant. The décor is nothing fancy but it doesn’t get in the way either. The crowd was overwhelmingly young and Asian. It’s a similar group to the people who patronize Lan Sheng and Legend. There were plenty of groups but the noise level was pleasant.




                      On to the food.

                      Sichuan dumplings.


                      These were well made with plenty of heat. I noticed a bit of sweetness in the sauce. Not overwhelming and not unpleasant but on balance, I wished that it wasn’t there.

                      Dan Dan noodles.


                      Why not? It’s a bellwether dish at the these places. Again, these were carefully made and there was plenty of buzz from the Sichuan pepper corns. There was a bit more vinegar to the sauce than usual but it made for a nice change. As with the dumplings, we detected a little sweetness in the sauce. A stylistic preference? On the whole, a very credible version.

                      Chicken with spicy capsicum.


                      This was fully flavored and really juicy. One of the better versions we’ve had although my GF felt that the heat level could have been a bit higher

                      Sauteed home made bacon with green leeks and pepper.


                      A winner. The pork belly was suitably smoky and salty and the leeks balanced the dish out. Very good indeed.

                      Assuming you like Sichuan food is Hot Kitchen a destination restaurant? Ten years ago the answer would have been yes. Today, the equation has changed. With so many good Sichuan choices all around Hot Kitchen becomes a destination if you’re within 10 blocks of the restaurant.

                      That’s not a knock on Hot Kitchen, it’s a byproduct of the wealth of great Sichuan restaurants all around the city.

                      Hot Kitchen
                      104 2nd Ave, New York 10003
                      Btwn 6th & 7th St

                      Note that the menu that appears on their website and on Menupages is incomplete.

                      Hot Kitchen
                      104 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        nice review, been meaning to try it since it's pretty close to where i live and it sounds like it's at least worth checking out

                        1. re: Lau

                          Yet another very good Sichuan meal. It's getting harder and harder to settle on a place these days. There were 9 of us, so we ordered a bunch (hopefully I can remember everything).

                          Dumplings in chili oil were fine, if a bit too sweet for my taste. Soup dumplings were acceptable, but for obvious reasons not something I'd order again.

                          It appeared every table had one of the same dish. Being competent CH's, we immediately asked about it. Turns out this dish is the assorted (or mixed, I can't remember exactly) wok, which included chicken, lotus root, potatoes, peanuts, tripe, what appeared to be green olives, and best of all, sliced hot dogs, stir fried with Sichuan peppercorns and chiles and served on a metal dish. Probably the most interesting dish of the evening, and something I'd very much like to eat again.

                          Pork belly in brown sauce with chestnuts was good, but not exciting enough to order again.

                          Beef with cumin flavor was not the beef with cumin flavor I'd hoped. (I'm looking for the dry version that's sprinkled with cumin powder and chiles, it's served at a couple of the Grand Sichuan restaurants around town-- outstanding dish.) This one, with chunks of onions and a oily sauce was much closer to the more common lamb with cumin. It was fine, but disappointing under the circumstances.

                          Dry fried green beans and pea shoots with garlic were both well executed. You could do much worse for your vegetable sides.

                          Our last main to arrive was a whole fish with pickled chilis. Not sure what type of fish it was, but it was definitively not tilapia– a major plus in my book. Very good dish. I'd like to try the fish head next time.

                          A free dessert of balls of gelatinous rice was herbal and not sweet enough to prevent us from going to Chickalicious afterwards.

                          I'll be back for the hot pot.

                          1. re: ChiefHDB

                            Thanks Chief for your report! Did your group manage to sit by a round table? Seems photos I've seen of the place show mostly rectangular ones.

                            1. re: scoopG

                              Yeah! They sat us in the back at a large round table we jokingly called "the chef's table," since it was set off from the rest of the dining room between the kitchen and bathrooms and the waiters' station.

                        2. re: Bob Martinez

                          Bob - I went here yesterday, based on your review/recap, above. Really enjoyed my experience. Thanks.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              Yep, you were my party of eight's hero yesterday!

                        3. Finally got here...eh...

                          Went tonight w/ a Chinese-Malaysian friend who is in town from Taiwan...we had:

                          -- cucumber in scallion sauce...fine, but i like the Cafe China and Legend versions better...the Hot K version was bizarrely oily, like they'd added a hefty splash of cooking oil to the dressing...

                          -- cold eggplant in sesame sauce...eggplant itself was fine but the sauce was goopy and bland...

                          -- empty-heart vegetable stir-fried w/ garlic...i liked it, but my friend pointed out that about half of it was fresh and half was a bit old...still, it was tender and tasty to me...

                          -- kung pao chicken...nice quality white meat...but a) barely spicy at all, and b) despite our request (made in Mandarin and very clear) that they make it w/o sugar, it was one of the sweetest cracker-jacky-tasting versions i've at any of the main Sichuan places...

                          -- whole fish, steamed w/ ginger and scallion...personally i would have gone for a more Sichuan preparation but my friend was in the mood for this light Cantonese version...the fish was not very fresh -- not bad enough to send back, but bad enough that i'll never order a whole fish there again...

                          Many other tables had the double-cooked pork w/ green pepper (looked very yummy) and various pan-roasted w/ combos of seafoods and meats (w/ ginger and potatoes), which looked very good too...

                          I'd try it again, but i'd be unlikely to reorder any of the five dishes we tried this time...

                          They are also a bit understaffed: there seemed to be only one waitress taking orders, w/ the rest of the staff relegated to bussing tables, etc...and overall it was not the friendliest place (they might want to take a lesson from Cafe China or even Amazing 66)...

                          Clientele was 95% Chinese, mostly 20-something and 30-something...

                          Will get back there eventually to give it another try, but w/ my consistent fav Cafe China around, it may take a while...

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Simon

                            What a coincidence; the Times reviewed Hot Kitchen today.

                            "Hitting the Sweat Spot, Straight From Sichuan" extolls the "complexity of flavors" to be enjoyed there.

                            Check this out: "Pickled peppers are the barbarian invaders in a demure plate of pale steamed eggplant. You are stabbed, then soothed."

                            1. re: knucklesandwich

                              i think that's the other cold eggplant dish on the menu -- sounds better than the one we ordered...

                              1. re: Simon

                                I'm curious. Did you read the review? And if you did, were you swayed?

                                1. re: knucklesandwich

                                  i went last night, before the review came out...and wrote my take on it here before i knew it was being reviewed in the nytimes...i read the review today after you mentioned it :)

                                  Their review doesn't change my take on it: i'll likely try it again at some point, but i won't be ordering any of the 5 forgettable dishes i got the first time...i'll be mainly giving it a 2nd chance based on the yummy dishes i saw on other tables rather than on the nyt review...cheers

                                  1. re: Simon

                                    I've had a couple of very good meals there since I first posted. I'll see if i can put my notes in order and do another detailed post. Even so, you may find that you like other places better. (I've got a rotation of 6 or 7 Sichuan places.) I'll see if i can get that post up in the next few days.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      Cool...would like to hear your recs so i can choose dishes wisely on my next visit...

                                      And, true, we're really lucky in NYC these days to have so many Sichuan options to choose from and compare...the fact that we can have a rotation of several fine Sichuan places within 20 or 30 blocks of each other is a luxury: most cities in N.America would be lucky to have one...

                                    2. re: Simon

                                      We've added this place to our regular rotation since our first visit in February. Overall the meals have ranged between good to very good. Occasionally we've had some lackluster dishes but for every one of these we've had a couple of stellar offerings.

                                      When I'm feeling compulsive I jot down notes about my meals the following day when I'm too lazy to write a full review. Here we go -

                                      Sichuan dumplings. A very good version, somewhat more al dente than what we had at other restaurants. Excellent.

                                      Dan dan noodles. First rate.

                                      Dry Sauteed Chicken w/ Three Kinds of Pepper. This looks somewhat like chicken with spicy capsicum but it’s a bit spicier and more complex. A slight dusting of rice flour gives the chicken a pleasant bit of crunch. This description really isn’t doing justice to this dish. This was really good.

                                      Mei Shan Beef – New to us. Shredded beef, dried chilis, peanuts, a touch of Sichuan pepper corns. It also included something I’d never seen – what appeared to be a fried rotini noodle. It actually turned out to be some type of wheat cracker and while it didn’t seem to add any particular flavor it made for some interesting conversation around the table. Some blogs have described this dish as spicy. Wrong. As Sichuan dishes go this was on the mild side with just a touch of sweetness. It’s not bad at all but it’s somewhat uninteresting when compared to the other dishes on the menu.

                                      Steamed pork buns – My GF really likes these more than me. I thought they were a solid B but she said A. Skin a but doughy and thick.

                                      Dan dan – we asked for spicy, these were mostly bland, with just a hint of peppercorn. We were surprised - we'd ordered these 3 or 4 times before and they were always very good. We mentioned the lack of heat to our server and it seemed to make him unhappy. As he was clearing the table he banged some dishes. But …

                                      I had ordered minced pork sautéed with minced picked cabbage, a new dish for me. After about 10 minutes waiter came back and said either they were out or it wasn’t very good. I'm not sure which but I switched to lamb w. scallions. A very good version of a standard dish I’ve had elsewhere. Not hot nor was it supposed to be.

                                      ChongQuing Chicken – Excellent. Juicy. Hot. Perfect.

                                      I see from my notes that we haven't been back since mid May. We'll fix that soon.

                              2. re: Simon

                                I've been getting takeout/delivery from there and eating in relatively regularly as part of my rotation, before and after spending most of July away. They have some great dishes, at least one awful one, and some that are merely good.

                                The cold eggplant, when I got it, was terrible - awful, gloopy texture, just slimy and dreadful.

                                However, their Spicy Chicken Wings are great! It's a humongous dish, and full of other stuff - black mushrooms, sliced potatoes and lotus root, peanuts, ginkgo nuts, scallions, ginger, celery, cilantro, and a lot of red peppers, with hot oil on the bottom. It's a real winner of a dish!

                                I also like the Chicken with Three Kinds Pepper that's mentioned above.

                                Some other things are merely pleasant and not outstanding, but have their place, like the Braised Oxtail with Daikon (not sure exactly what the menu name is, off-hand).

                                For cold dishes, the Chengdu Pickles are outstanding, but they tend to give you the next menu item - which is not nearly as good - instead. Make sure to tell them you want the cabbage.

                                I'll try to come back later and look up some more things from the menu that I like.

                              3. tried it and it's very good.... had the dan dan noodles and the village chicken (spicy)... loved the village chicken... I'd say it might be slightly better than Grand Sichuan.

                                1. Been there lots and lots of times... Perhaps over twenty + times... I love their food, better than many other well known Sichuan restaurants... except it has consistency issue. Dishes under the same name tend to vary pretty significantly depending on the chef on duty on a particular day or time.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: kosmose7

                                    Consistency seems to be a serious problem at most all Manhattan Sichuan places...amazing Chengdu-worthy food one night, and cornstarchy trash on the next (and if you ask, it's usually because they have multiple/substitute chefs -- and the managements don't appreciate the need for consistency)...

                                    1. re: Simon

                                      I haven't had that problem at Lan Sheng. I've gone 3 times in the last 4 months; my last visit was 2 weeks ago,

                                      I haven't been to Hot Kitchen in awhile - I need to get back there. I've been pretty happy with my meals at HK.

                                    2. re: kosmose7

                                      kosmose7 - you talking lunch vs dinner? bc at almost every chinese restaurant in NY bar none they put their B team on lunch. i pretty much stopped eating chinese food for lunch unless its like some noodle shop or something

                                      Simon - "Chengdu-worthy food"? haha c'mon that is a pretty bold statement...im jk with u

                                      1. re: Lau

                                        I always go there for dinner only, because my office is in midtown.

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          Chinese kitchens don't operate that way, with an A or B team. They work ten+ hour days, six days a week. Yes, there are inferior or inexperienced cooks or chefs. What will happen is that any Americanized Chinese dish will be handed to them to stir-fry. Also there is a fairly high turnover in these places and that is likely the issue.

                                          1. re: Lau

                                            I don't think I've found that either of my local Sichuan restaurants - Hot Kitchen and Grand Sichuan St Marks - cooks the same dishes differently at lunch than at dinner.

                                          2. re: kosmose7

                                            I get a lot of food from them, and it's usually very good, but one really disappointing thing that sometimes happens is when I get one of their "aromatic" dishes like Assorted Spicy Wok or the chicken wings, which includes cauliflower, and the cauliflower is so undercooked it tastes raw. That doesn't happen all the time, thank goodness, but I really don't like raw cauliflower or broccoli and do like cooked cauliflower (a bit chewy is fine) very much.

                                          3. A friend and I prepared for the impending blizzard by going to Hot Kitchen for hot pot last night. I had my first hot pot ever at what I think is Hot Kitchen's ancestor, Old Town Hot Pot. This was way better. Also way more expensive, but we over-ordered. There are only a few tables in the back of the restaurant that have the necessary induction heaters, so when I requested the hot pot menu - it wasn't automatically offered - we had to move. No biggie. I asked whether we could get a half & half broth, and yes! we could. The hot side was just spicy enough for me, and too spicy for my friend. Our server brought us a dish of ground chiles, along with some sesame sauce, oil and ginger, and ground peanuts, so anyone wishing to heat things up further could certainly do so. The mild broth was nothing special, but it was pleasant enough and a good way to take a break from the burn - sichuan peppercorns were very much in evidence. I was also pleased that both broths were very soup-like, in contrast to the more watery versions I've had previously.

                                            We ordered prawns, fish tofu, chrysanthemum, water spinach, Chinese cabbage, assorted mushrooms, and bean noodles. Then our server, who hadn't been particularly interested in us thus far, expressed dismay that we weren't getting any beef: "the best thing for hot pot," according to him. So my friend ordered some beef, which she said wasn't all that. I loved the fish tofu (which was fish cake) and the chrysanthemum (which I'm pretty sure was amaranth). The prawns were pretty good, as were the mushrooms (oyster, enoki, and some white slabs that were probably sliced king mushroom) and the cabbage. I wasn't crazy about the water spinach - it tasted like nothing. The noodles were standard issue.

                                            The bill for the hot pot was around $65, and I think they forgot to charge us for the beef. But this was, obviously, way too much food for two not-huge women, so I was thrilled when one of the staff offered to wrap up the leftovers - even the spicy broth - so I could take it home. I am now very, very prepared for the blizzard.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: small h

                                              Yup, you should always specify that you want hot pot when making a reservation or when you arrive so they can seat you at the appropriate table. Hot pot requires a much larger table than the normal menu.

                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                We went from one four-top to another - same size table. It was pretty crowded, though, and an actual party of four would've had a lot of trouble finding room for all the plates. You can get frog for the hot pot, fyi (per your post upthread).