Spicy, Tasty, Sweet, Tart

Sunday, November 26th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Friends

B’s family’s final full day in New York City. He had arranged for the five lovely ladies to stay at the Sheraton LaGuardia their last night in town, which made for an excellent excuse to explore the Queens Chinatown scene.

After spending most of the day with Mom, I met the M crew at their hotel, and together we rounded the corner for dinner at Flushing’s Spicy & Tasty on Prince Street.

The restaurant created a sensation on the NYC foodie boards when it first opened a few years ago, generating a blip on the mainstream food journalism radar. Eric Asimov of The New York Times reviewed the restaurant in 2002 when it was still housed in the original seedy, basement space on Roosevelt Avenue, as did Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice.  Quite an accomplishment for a hole-in-the-wall that one could then generously describe as “humble,” more accurately, as “divey,” far off the beaten path at the terminus of the 7 line in Queens.

Three years ago, the restaurant relocated to somewhat swankier digs in a new marble-fronted construction that houses a few tea parlors and notable Manhattan transplant, Sentosa — yet another Malaysian restaurant on the vipnyc “To Eat” list.

By most accounts, Spicy & Tasty’s move has only improved the restaurant: the owners succeeeded in sprucing up the décor (adding thick carpet, brocade chairs, glass display cases, lots of gold) while still preserving the brash, tastebud-grabbing flavors characteristic of native Sichuan cuisine. The layered combinations of chili oil, multi-hued chili peppers, those infamous Sichuan peppercorns, and copious amounts of garlic continue to draw (still predominantly Asian) crowds.

Spicy & Tasty

After briefly examining the tempting array of chilled appetizers in the glass display cases up front, we were shown to a large round table upstairs.  SC and JG joined us soon afterwards, and our group began to peruse the extensive menu.  The offerings certainly looked authentic — or for the uninitiated, off-putting: tendon, tongue, tripe, pig blood, jellyfish, stinky tofu, eel… — but the true taste adventure would have to wait for another night.  We settled mostly upon the more universally appealing Chinese, if not particularly Sichuan, dishes — lo mein, chicken with broccoli and such — mixing it up with some less standard fare, which true to the restaurant name, packed quite a heat wollop. My favorite dish of the evening was a heaping platter of savory Home Style Crabs.  So messy, but so good!

Three days after our meal there, Frank Bruni of the New York Times called Spicy & Tasty 2.0 “perhaps the most aptly named restaurant in the city” in his two-star review.  So next time: Dan-Dan Noodles, Bamboo in Hot-Spicy Sauce, Enhanced Pork, Smoked Tea Duck, Ma-Po Bean Curd, Pork Belly with Leeks and, and, and…!

Afterwards, SC and JG treated us all to dessert at nearby Sweet-n-Tart, where we introduced the visitors to the gummy, squishy joys of bubble tea, a.k.a.  boba(!) tea.

Flushing, “Destination of Choice”:

Main Street

It’s these little things, they can pull you under.
Live your life filled with joy and wonder.
I always knew this altogether thunder
Was lost in our little lives.

Oh, oh, but sweetness follows.
Oh, oh, but sweetness follows.

Sweetness Follows,” R.E.M. (1992)

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