Little Pepper Hot Pot
…fire burn and cauldron bubble”! And bubble it does. My pot bubbles over with love. There’s no bubble like hot pot bubble, like no bubble I know. Because I have to say – everything about it IS appealing. Little Pepper has long been my temple (as noted way below in an earlier post) and having gone day 1 when it was on Roosevelt Avenue and followed its move to the shiny new space in College Point, I was thrilled to return to the original shop for straight on hot pot. The basement dining is gone, you now enter through the infinitely more elegant street level entrance, where the old kitchen used to be. And it’s bright, simple and festive.
Each pot of broth can be ordered as a whole or one pot divided in half between the two house broths, the Sichuan spicy pot or the House original milky non spicy broth. They also do a vegetarian version of either so anyone can Chinese fondue it. You automatically receive one plate of mixed vegetables like wood ear mushrooms, corn on the cob (surprisingly great) and cabbage as well as thinly sliced fatty beef. That alone would probably be more than enough food for two people but there’s no way you’re going to go and not partake of the parade of enticing offerings. It would just be foolhardy to resist.
Dunk, swirl, scoop, dip and dine. You get little metal nets and long prongs, a much more interesting than normal table setting. Healing…satisfying. And frigging fun. Four of us sampled far too much. The tofu skins (called bean crud stick here!), the fatty lamb, the parsley pork meatball, lotus root, 4 of the 7 varieties of mushrooms, fried tofu, fresh soft tofu, frozen spongy tofu, house made citrus flavored sausage, sliced pork belly, fish fillets and snow pea leaves. A Chinese friend loved the spam. Go figure.
To this feast we added two favorite appetizers from the list brought over from the main Lil Pep. Didn’t need them but just had to have them. Szechuan noodles like no other and cucumbers in garlic sauce. They were actually a nice respite from the bites of hot pot wonder. And an unneeded reminder of why it’s so glorious to dine here.
But all of this is brought home to that sweet spot in your mouth with the condiments. I worship the spicy green chive sauce but not more than the jar of thickly fermented soy from the sauce service station. There are pockets of delight to be discovered there that serve to beautifully enhance all that cooking you’re doing! It’s a necessary field trip from your table.
It’s interesting that it’s not just how good the food is, how it touches you at the very very bottom of your soul, it’s the scent, the vibrant colors of the broth, your plate, the spirit of the place. That joie de vivre is at play in your hostess with the mostest, half of the couple who own the restaurant and the one with maybe the most welcoming smile ever…Jacy Wu. She welcomes you into this enchanted Sichuan kingdom and you dine under the spell.
My pot at the end of the rainbow…
Little Pepper Hot Pot
133-43 Roosevelt Avenue
** Cash only
Open daily noon-midnight