Been doing Hell Night at the East Coast Grill off and on for at least 12 years. Always great drinks at this bar, though tonight's swank margarita is too tequila-light for my taste.
I ease into the heat with a 4-star beef spare rib: Inner Beauty-based sauce gives a very familiar, lingering habanero burn.
The raw oyster in spiced tomato juice (Satan's Bloody Barnburner, or somesuch) is tasty, but doesn't deliver the promised heat. Likewise, the 5-star lamb-two-ways is delicious: a grilled sirloin, cooked perfectly to my medium-rare order with a nice char, plus a "vindaloo" of chunks of lamb on basmati, disappointingly un-vinegary; they're hot but not scorching.
Great plain cornbread and coleslaw sides, terrific and friendly service on a frantic night. But I don't get the promised chili fire in 2 of 3 of my dishes. A friend orders the Pasta from Hell (7 stars), a couple of small bites of which delivers a paralyzing habanero burn: I'm rendered speechless for 5 minutes after every taste.
If you want a reliably endorphin-inducing chili rush, get Mary Chung's Yu-Shiang pork, or Khao Sarn's larb gai, or India Quality's chicken vindaloo. Never mind Hell Night's weird macho "I can eat more crazy hot stuff than you" vibe; the heat of most dishes here is wildly over-advertised, and folks like my buddy who polish off the legitimately-insanely-hot pasta just ain't right in the head: no human being should eat that much concentrated habanero paste in a lifetime, let alone one sitting.
Still, a fun and tasty night out, and we all leave saying, "This reminds me that I need to come back here for the BBQ and the grilled fish and the awesome Carribean brunch." And knowing we'll be reminded of tonight's excesses tomorrow.