It is nearly nine, and the entire staff gather around a large table at the back of the room to eat. They laugh and chatter as they eat—a cheerful, familial team. I am, for a time, the only customer, and I require no attention, being fully absorbed in my food.
Spicy & Tasty is a well-known Sichuanese restaurant, and I have ordered two distinctly Sichuanese dishes.
The first dish is Chengdu-style Cold Jelly. This consists of a kind of translucent, jelly-like sliced noodles, drenched in spicy sauce. Like glass noodles, these are made from bean or potato starch; but these are thick, cut from sheets. The sauce seems to contain some kind of fermented bean paste, as well as chili peppers and spring onions. It is complex and delicious.
The second dish is sliced lamb in fresh hot pepper. The sliced lamb floats in a bowl of red sauce, along with sliced Chinese cabbage. The hot chilies in this sauce are powerful, and at first dominate the flavor of the dish. But the sauce also has a fresh, almost minty flavor that numbs the tongue slightly. This is Sichuan peppercorn. Sichuan peppercorn is one of the oldest seasonings used in Sichuan, far predating the arrival of chili peppers in China, and remains one of the most distinctive features of authentic Sichuan cooking. I believe it is usually paired with chilies in contemporary Sichuanese food, constituting one of the pair of attributes usually associated with Sichuanese food—ma and la, or numbing and hot.
The sliced lamb is addicting. The combination of ma and la tickles and delights the tongue, and the perfectly cooked meat is completely satisfying. Though the bowl is large, I feel as though I could eat another. Spicy & Tasty has a long menu, and the restaurant doubtless warrants repeat visits. I have my eye on in particular on smoked tea duck (another Sichuanese dish) and frog in fresh hot pepper.
There are some interesting replicas of ancient Chinese artworks (such as a jade axe) in glass cases in the walls, but this does little to temper the businesslike feel of the dining area. The tables have faux marble tops and the room is coldly lit by overhead lights. Despite the excellent food, this may be a problem for Spicy & Tasty, as a beautiful outdoor mall has opened across the street, hosting two Sichuanese restaurants that both feature thoughtful and alluring interior design, and that have both serve food that has received highly positive reviews.
Spicy & Tasty
39-07 Prince Street, 1H
Flushing, NY 11354
Sun – Thu, 11:00am – 11:30pm
Fri – Sat, 11:00am – 11:30pm