October 14, 2011
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