If I could call a restaurant home – this would be it. I would come in after a long day and curl up by dishes beautifully balanced with spicy heat and an almost haunting taste. I would set my clock by the always delectable lamb with cumin and cilantro (a signature dish) and at night my head would rest on luxurious tofu alive with tongue melting peppercorns and crushed peanuts.
Almost six years ago I wandered down a flight of steep stairs looking for Spicy and Tasty (which had moved around the corner) and found myself on opening day of a brightly lit, bare boned, non english speaking sanctuary of insanely fantastic food. For these last years I’ve become addicted to the owner Jacy Wu and her husband’s hosting and cooking. I have ferried many friends to flushing and tho I have a couple of other favorites – Little Pepper will always be my touchstone.
As they grew in popularity, they went from a menu written only in Chinese (luckily I have a friend from Szechuan) to a bilingual menu where you had to point and drag your finger if you weren’t fluent and hope for the best. Sometimes you got a dish you might never have tried (huzzah for the spicy, spicy, spicy whole green peppers in salt & sour sauce!) now they have moved to College Point. Fancier digs, bigger kitchen, slight increase in cost but the food is as sublime as ever. The flavors are layered, complex and distinct as well as beautifully and not overwhelmingly peppered. Maybe the food is even better because the Wu’s energy is very relaxed. And the restaurant sparkles. The menu is now completely in English and it isn’t even sticky anymore! I could always locate my favorites on the hard to read bilingual menu of yore and I kind of miss that point and see what happens aspect – this is all much more organized, but I’ll adapt.
Even something as simple and surprising as french fries beat out your old favorites by a long shot. They look like your average bear but boy oh boy do they pack a punch! Fried in oil then dusted with crushed Sichuan peppercorns and sprinkled with coriander. Zowie! Spicy, hot, lip numbing, mind bending.
It’s not that I want this place to be flooded with non asian faces, and not like they need the business – you now need a reservation for a weekend table, but I’m amazed how it still flies a bit under the radar. All fine with me! The owners have bought the College Point building and are no longer planning on re-opening the Roosevelt Av location so they are thankfully here for the duration. Phew. Safe. There is no chance of them dumbing down their dishes, the cooking is not by formula so sometimes there’s more spice than less and vice-versa but no crazy pendulum here. This is food that you can count on, be satisfied by and yes – grateful for. And don’t even consider starting a meal without the cucumber in mashed garlic. The Little Pepper gods will know…
A few additional can’t live without faves:
- Surf clam in wasabi sauce
- Spicy cold noodle – no relation to peanut butter noodles!
- Lotus root with dried pepper
- Dried sauteed string bean
- Shredded potato w pickled cabbage
- Sauteed pea shoots
- Smoked tea duck – whole if you order the appetizer version and shredded with vegetables further along the menu.
- Braised whole fish with hot chili and scallions is spicy, smoky and just slightly sour.
- Braised sliced fish in spicy soup and I mean spicy!
- Enhanced pork with salt & pepper
- Shredded pork with bamboo shoots
- Pork with leeks (homemade bacon) all the taste and way less hot
- Sauteed diced chicken, Chongoing style
- And the hot pot!
18-24 College Point Blvd . College Point . 718.939.7788
Sun-Wed 11am-10pm / Fri & Sat 11am-11pm **closed Thursday