Hound hangout Little Pepper is rewriting its menu, and you're invited to help. kamiko says the owner is soliciting ideas over the next few weeks for new dishes at her Sichuan restaurant in Queens. Dry-sautéed shredded beef? Sure! Twice-cooked house-made sausage with leeks? No problem. Tripe à la mode de Caen? Uh, no—this is a Sichuan restaurant. But if you suggest anything within the regional canon, it's a good bet to be added.
As for what's already on the menu, kamiko has been exploring some less familiar and even pedestrian-sounding choices, which turn out to fall "between excellent and amazing." They include shredded pork with bamboo shoots; chicken in house special sauce; shredded potato, which gets crispness and depth from pickled cabbage; and sliced pork with wood ear ("best version we've ever had. Just amazing balance of complementary flavors"). And as always, kamiko notes, the chef will gladly improvise to order if the ingredients you want are on hand.
On the other end of the customer-receptiveness scale, at least for some customers, is Ming Chan Dong. At this Chinese-Korean restaurant in Flushing, you'd best go with someone who speaks Mandarin or Korean—and even that might not get you in the door. "Our Mandarin speaker had to convince the staff to let us non-Asians in!" reports Ike. "They didn't want to serve us because they thought we'd hate the food."
Happily, his group's persistence was rewarded with delicious and quite accessible chow, including baby squid; cucumber with clear noodles; kimchi-stuffed wheat buns (a past hound favorite); pork in black bean sauce, served with bean curd skins for wrapping; and eggplant with garlic (careful: This one came to Ike's table "molten-lava hot"). Another winner was lamb with cumin, "excellent and complex and spicy," and better than the version at North Dumpling House, a recent Chowhound find. In the end, the great food erased any bad taste left by the initial cross-cultural mixup. Ike's verdict: "this place is excellent! ... We almost licked our plates clean."
Little Pepper [College Point]
18-24 College Point Boulevard (between 18th and 20th avenues), College Point, Queens
Ming Chan Dong [Flushing]
36-24 Union Street (between Northern Boulevard and 37th Avenue), Flushing, Queens