NYC East Village Szechuan Chinese Food: Hot Kitchen is on Fire!

Date October 14, 2011

Hot Kitchen Mei Shan Beef

Hot Kitchen Ma Po Tofu

You wouldn’t know I was having a really satisfying meal by watching me. First you’d see a look of incredulity come over my face – eyes wide then quickly narrow – as I examine my first bite with a mix of suspicion and awe. After tasting, you might wonder why I’m shaking my head in what looks like disagreement, eyes closed and directed at my plate; or why I’m groaning slightly and exhaling through pursed lips like I pulled a muscle. You wouldn’t know, until you hear a barely audible “wow,” that my mind and body are registering a life-changing experience; food has this power over me. You would have witnessed all of this had you joined me for a plate of the Mei Shan Beef ($14) at three-week old Hot Kitchen. Wispy curls of beef are fried and then sauteed, the edges crispy, the meat tender with a slight chew. The surface of each piece dotted with crushed Sichuan peppercorns and star anise, each bite more lip-numbing and fragrant than the last. One of the most praised dishes at RedFarm, the buzziest Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, is the “Spicy Crispy Beef.” Hot Kitchen’s Mei Shan Beef is the self-assured adult version, secure in its boldness. Ma Po tofu ($11), the barometer of a Szechuan chef’s dexterity, rises above mere staple, its cubes of tofu floating on a shallow lake of fire that would melt Nirvana’s Meat Puppets cover. For the rest of Hot Kitchen’s greatest hits, stick to what’s marked (by hand) on the menu in the restaurant.

Hot Kitchen Link 104 2nd Ave b/t 6th & 7th Street 212.228.3090

12 Responses to “NYC East Village Szechuan Chinese Food: Hot Kitchen is on Fire!”

  1. Anonymous said:

    That beef looks fucking amazing

  2. Team Mischa Go Home! said:

    oh god… that crispiness… the new hotness… must leave work for szechuan. now.

  3. Ainsley D. said:

    Unbelievable “Lake of Fire” reference. Wow. You’re amazing.

  4. Team Mischa Apology said:

    … the first picture has inspired an impromptu haiku… ahem…

    Ballzzzzz in the Szechuan

    Stingy sack hurts so bad-ly

    Can’t eat it after

    killer Nirvana link BTW.

  5. RWordplay said:

    What wonderful news. Szechuan in the East Village. I love you for the head’s up, but resent deeply that you didn’t take me along for the tasting. The descriptions are tempting, Hot Kitchen? Now on the list. Damn my dinner plans tomorrow, and damn the Giants’ game on Sunday. Can I wait until Monday?

  6. janet said:

    Mei Shan Beef was indeed amazing. We also had beef fried rice and Kung Pao Chicken – also amazing. I liked how the food tasted so clean, as opposed to greasy – maybe it was the heat? :D

  7. Mo said:

    Love Szechuan dishes delicous.

  8. The NYC Food Guy said:

    @Anonymous,
    Looks don’t even do it justice. It’s unreal.

    @Team Mischa Go Home!
    Leaving work for this food would be a wise move.

    @Ainsley D.
    Thanks for the comment, keep it coming!

    @Team Mischa Apology,
    I’m speechless, and that’s not easy.

    @RWordplay,
    You can wait, I’m sure they’ll be around for at least another week. Their location is a hindrance, placing them right under some scaffolding. I haven’t seen much action during the week, but the room was pretty full Saturday night which was a happy sight. This is the kind of place the East Village really needs. And if they can be successful two blocks from Zaab Elee, arguably the best Northern Thai in Manhattan, 2nd avenue can become a serious destination for Asian cuisine. Here’s hoping it does.

    @janet,
    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Really happy you enjoyed.

    @Mo,
    That makes two of us. Do you have any spots you like?

  9. Frank D said:

    Went to Hot Kitchen Friday 10/21. Service was fast. Place was clean. Food was terrific. Mei Shan Beef was better than expected. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with plenty of heat to spare. Also had Kun Bao chicken, even hotter. Worth going again.

  10. The NYC Food Guy said:

    @Frank D,
    Really happy you enjoyed your meal, especially the Mei Shan Beef, which I now dream about. Funny you went for the KunBao chicken, I had that on my 2nd trip and it was great. A wet sauté version of what we know as Kung Pao chicken (it’s typically a dry sautee). Really addictive with those little bites of moist chicken, chopped chiles, slivers of ginger, and crunchy peanuts. Where have you been for Szechuan before this? What’s on your eating to do list?

  11. Frank D said:

    My favorite is Empire Szechuan in Syosset but when I go it’s with my Philipino friend who knows the owner and we eat off the menu. So I’m am spoiled there. I will be back to H.K., I need to have the Mei Shan Beef again. On my short list is a new place for empanadas, been really into them lately. Also heading to Williamsburg soon to try a couple of the Biergartens. I cracked up laughing when I saw your entry on Baked pork buns. Those are my White Castles whenever I’m anywhere near Chinatown late at night. I went to Sripraphai in Williston Park last week, best Thai food that I’ve had on Long Island. Extensive menu and inexpensive, have to go back again.

  12. Midtown Chinese: Szechuan Mapo Tofu & Chengdu Pork Wontons at Cafe China | NYC Food Guy said:

    [...] In the three years since, Manhattan has seen an influx of new Szechuan joints all over the city; Hot Kitchen in the East Village (get the Mei Shan Beef), Legend in Chelsea (get Mapo Tofu and white fish w/ [...]

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