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#1 Lex

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 09:32 PM

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 Orik’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.

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On to the food.

Sichuan dumplings.

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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.

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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.

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

Sauteed home made bacon with green leeks and pepper.

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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.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

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#2 hcbk0702

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 05:23 AM

Thanks for the report. Can't complain too much about the Sichuan choices nowadays.

#3 Orik

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 04:42 PM

I think if you try one of their specialties you'll expand that radius to more than 10 blocks (better than Sichuan Gourmet is these days, for sure) and it's really an improvement for us because the St. Mark's Grand Sichuan can be very variable.
I never said that

#4 Lex

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 05:01 PM

We just had 2 starters and 2 mains, a really small sample. I look forward to going back. We're in that area often.

If you like Szechuan Gourmet (and I do) you really should check out Lan Sheng, on 39th St. and just down the block from SG. I'm not going to play the "best in the city" game, there are too many variables to make that a meaningful judgment, but I'd put it in the top 3.

I know what you mean about the inconsistencies of GSI on St. Marks. We gave up on it for exactly that reason.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52


#5 Daniel

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 05:03 PM

Beautiful photos, Lex. I have not been to this place but, it's on the radar.. i have heard some really great things about Hunan Manor.. Has anyone been?
Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#6 Lex

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 08:05 PM

We've been eating a lot of Sichuan food lately. At the risk of beating a topic to death I'd like to bring things up to date. Last weekend we made it back to Hot Kitchen. On the dance card:

Dan dan noodles. Very good - a 9 out of 10. (Check out my subsequent Little Pepper post for what a 10 looks like.)

Sichuan dumplings.

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We had this 3 weeks before but this time around they were a bit different. The slightly sweet taste we noted last time was absent. (A good thing.) The dumplings were also slightly more al dente than we're used to. I found this pleasant. Is there someone different in the kitchen or is just by chance? Who knows. I figured I'd mention it in any case.

Dry Sauteed Chicken w/ Three Kinds of Pepper.

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This looks somewhat like chicken with spicy capsicum but itís a bit spicier and more complex. A slight dusting of rice flour gives the chicken a pleasant bit of crunch. This description really isnít doing justice to this dish. This was really good.

Mei Shan Beef.

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The was completely new to us. Shredded beef, dried chilis, peanuts, a touch of Sichuan pepper corns. It also included something Iíd never seen Ė what appeared to be a few fried rotini noodles. It actually turned out to be some type of wheat cracker and while they didnít seem to add any particular flavor they made for some interesting conversation around the table. Some blogs have described this dish as spicy. They're wrong. As Sichuan dishes go this was on the mild side with just a touch of sweetness. Itís not bad at all but itís somewhat uninteresting when compared to the other dishes on the menu.

We look forward to getting back and working our way through the menu on future visits.

“I have a dream of a multiplicity of pastramis.”

"One of the Evil Twin beers I tried smelled like a foot." - LiquidNY

"I don't have time to point out all the ways in which you're wrong" - irnscrabblechf52


#7 chopjwu12

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 07:15 PM

Have been hear twice and absolutely loved it both times. The spicy frogs legs were great as well as many dishes that have been discussed here before. However my friend just told me that they were shut down by the DOH. Not sure if its true because i havent seen it myself but thats sad. I will go back regardless because i thought it was that good.

#8 porkwah

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 10:50 PM

i tried to go yesterday (hadn't been before) and they were closed. sign said they would be closed "for the weekend". who knows. we ended up at wasan, which was lovely.

ABCDEFGHIJKLNMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

bob marleycorn must die 

this food left intentionally bland

and i swear that i don't have a pun

 

originality is a bitter


#9 Orik

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 04:52 PM

I feel really safe now that the Sichuanese menace has been eradicated.
I never said that

#10 chopjwu12

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 03:28 AM

I know its crazy. I was just saying i really wish there were less good restaurants in the city. That not enough people are getting shut down for spoon water.

#11 Orik

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:45 PM

Reopened.


Japadog around the corner has been closed for a week now, seems like their mice are hard to catch.
I never said that

#12 porkwah

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 11:38 PM

went yesterday, thought it was good. what have people had there that they've loved?

ABCDEFGHIJKLNMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

bob marleycorn must die 

this food left intentionally bland

and i swear that i don't have a pun

 

originality is a bitter


#13 Daniel

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:46 AM

We went tonight and were not overly impressed.. What was impressive was the amount of food we ordered and consumed. 

 

We started with cucumbers with garlic, ox tongue and tripe and spicy rabbit.. Then we had soup dumplings Then we head fish head with pickled peppers, chongqin chicken and peashoots.  

 

The cucumber with garlic and scallion sauce was really nice. One of the better versions I have had in recent memory.  The ox tongue and tripe, while I enjoyed the quality of the meat, I found the spice level to be boring, the seasoning bland.  The spicy rabbit was just bad.  It was flavorless rabbit in a flavorless sauce.  No sichuan peppercorns in any dish at this point.  

 

We  then had the soup dumplings.  A nice version.  Not stand out spectacular but,  certainly enjoyable.   The fish head was also kind of boring.  It was steamed fish that was then topped with scallions and red pickled peppers.  Normally, they would be topped with green and red pickled peppers. The sauce was sugar, soy and cooking wine.  It was a nice piece of fish but, the sauce and the fish didn't really gel together.  The chongqing chicken was ok. It was diced.  We opted for no bone and it felt like we were eating a dice chicken at your corner Generic Chinese Place.  First bite of Sichuan Peppercorn of the night.. The peashoots were basic.  

 

All in all, it was ok, not bad, but, I don't see myself returning any time soon.  Not to mention, it appeared to be on the higher price end.  


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#14 Suzanne F

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 02:55 AM

Dinner there tonight with The Princess and her sister, and Taliesin. I trust Daniel as an arbiter of Chinese food, but I guess we have different taste based on degrees of exposure. It's been ages since we had Sichuan food, and we all loved just about everything we had, although I will say that nothing we ordered turned out to be super spicy. Well, maybe the chiles on the steamed fish, but I only had a little of them. But everything was well flavored.

 

Soup dumplings (crab and pork) were moderately juicy; the filling was very flavorful.

 

Crispy oysters with crispy peppers was my favorite. The surprise was that the crisp chunks of dried red pepper were not the least bit spicy, although the fresh green peppers were, a bit. And although I'm not a fan of peanuts, they were delicious with the red peppers. The oysters were little crunchy balls, very cleanly fried.

 

Red-cooked pork with chestnuts. A bit on the sweet side, lots of star anise, nice touch with the teeny baby bok choy. Chunks of both lean and fatty pork (with rind on).

 

Ox tongue and tripe. I can see why Daniel thought it bland; I'm used to it being in a much spicier chili oil. But the flavor was good and the meats very tender.

 

Pea shoots with garlic. Paul's favorite vegetable in Chinese restaurants. Very straightforward, would have been a perfect soother if we'd needed one.

 

Braised duck with taro curd. The least successful dish for me--duck was okay but if it come with skin on like this I'd rather it were crisp. Tasty sauce and vegetables with it, including some preserved vegetable that cut the fat of the duck well. But that skin and fat were not great to me.

 

Steamed whole fish with hot bean sauce. Nicely cooked carp, but it was carp with its muddy flavor. I only had a little and a little of the chile blanketing it.

 

So obviously, very little we ordered would have been spicy in any case. But we all liked it well enough, as the flavors were strong and everything was different. Next time, more little chiles next to the dishes we order.


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#15 Jesikka

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 07:06 PM

Fourteen of us had dinner here on Xmas eve.  I won't bore everyone with the menu (Sneak can if he wants), but some of the standout dishes were a shredded duck with ginger, the whole fish with pickled pepper, fresh killed chicken with potato (sadly came when everyone was full) and a nice cumin lamb.  Soup dumplings were a huge crowd pleaser.  The restaurant was great about the large group and the food came out quickly.

 

I thought this meal was much stronger than a Christmas meal at China Blue (Cafe China owners) last night with some of the same crowd.  The food at China Blue is more complex and may turn out to be really great, but execution was weak.  In addition to being out of a ton of things, dim sum was gummy, as was a rice cakes dish. A fish with mustard greens could not have been more bland.  Both soups- a lamb stew and a chicken noodle soup- showed the potential for the restaurant; they were complex and fantastic.  I have hope for this recently opened restaurant, but I'm going to wait awhile to return.

 

I do not like the trend of Chinese restaurants charging for tea.