Apologies: Due mainly to time constraints over the past year or so we've been quite unable to be as adventurous and attentive to Chowhound pursuits as we'd like. And the "we" is not nearly royale, it's me and my wife, C, and sometimes my kid. We're out in Kensington so even with wheels we haven't ventured much past Sripraphai. I haven't had any sort of Chinese in Flushing in a couple years, and geez, Korean...not since 32nd St. blossomed. Further, the following foray happened a week and a half ago and I've been waiting for the mood and muse. Anyway, never been to Spicy and Tasty, so I may sound like a dunce here. But, um, Little Pepper effin' ROCKS.
With unusual forethought I figured since we were taking an out of town friend to dinner, and he requested something NY (he's from Boston and lives in Chicago), and we were picking him up at Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick (it's one of those dusty youngster playgrounds doling out Pabst to the young'uns re-creating their Midwestern downscale bonhomie.), why not push on thru the BQE and head out east and try something new to all of us.
Got a space directly in front at 10:15. The very sweet and accomodating hostess informed us they were closing at 11. We flipped open the menus, me n' C scoured right quick, we got nice lady back and thundered our ordered with much pride of punctuality:
Pork Dumplings in hot sauce - light, slippery, tender, juicy, bathed in sweet red oil.
Dried Radish in hot sauce - not the same oil as above, almost a crunchy salad of crunchy, chewy little radish slices. Bits of chili pepper added heat of course but also added texture. C says a strong vinegar flavor cut through and added complexity. Did I mention crunchy?
Soft Bean Curd in hot spicy sauce - silky, warm curd cubes in a small bowl of dark sauce both spicier and sweeter than that of the dumplings. Topped with peanuts and cilantro it was a textural wonderdish.
Cow Peas with minced pork - Wow! Vinegary, pickly and super crunchy with bits of spicy, salty minced pork bits. New to me by any standard and fun, fun, fun.
Fried Pomfret cold app. were cute but nothing special. Served with a goopy sweetish brown sauce they were nothing more than whole fried, meaty and chewy. I wouldn't kick 'em outta bed for eating crackers, but they were the only middling dish. At 6.95 they were also the most expensive app. A relative disappointment.
Bullfrog with Szechuan Pickled Hot Pepper - Big chunks of water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and diced red bell peppers supplied crunch and variety in a yellow, tangy, buttery broth perfect for seafood. It perfectly complimented yet had no chance of overwhelming some of the juiciest, freshest, most amphibious and delicious froggy thighs I've had in years. Does not taste like chicken! A must have dish. Ribbit.
Smoked Pork with Leeks - winner and champeen of the night! Simply oiled up leeks all slippery, squeaky and palate teasing paving the way the expressway to yr skull and tongue and throat and belly for the smoky, tender, fatty but not too, almost bacon d'Lugeresque perfectly sliced slices of pork. Even better the next day. The simplest but deepest dish of the eve.
The two women, FOH, were energetic, friendly and not at all discouraging. The two men out back, done for the night were happy to say hello and welcomed our praise. All the above, three beers and a 25% tip for Sixty Bucks. Out the door at 10:55, we were shocked and stunned, and thrilled. The only true disappointment was that it was then only a memory. But, we'll be back.
When I was a kid growing up in the literal and figurative middle of Long Island, the perceived classiness of Szechuan cuisine landed like Dorothy on the mildly wicked witch of the Column A/Column B that followed my Brooklyn bred parents and other Sunday shopping non-gentile immigrants and spawn. As a burgeoning Chowchild I dug the difference of diced, peanut topped and hotted up. Taking the heat was a red badge of stupid courage for a young, chubby male. But, Little Pepper is not my father's Oldsmobile. Glancing at the takeout menu thru chili colored glasses I see many multiple reasons to return and perhaps not repeat a dish once. I'll take the challenge with my red badge dusted off and couraged up.