This week, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells took us to a place where the silken tofu is “turned the color of bricks by chile oil,” the Chong Qing chicken “weaponizes capsaicin in just about every known form and should not be faced without a full glass of water or beer at hand,” and the whole fish is “lip-smacking and deeply flavorful, like a Bolognese by way of Chengdu,” aka the stuff of dreams. Our mouth numbing dreams.
That place is Little Pepper, and it’s about 15 minutes past the Flushing exit in College Point, Queens. Find yourself a car and get there.
The restaurant isn’t new; it’s been around for a dozen years, but according to Wells’ Twitter, it’s his current favorite Sichuan spot in the city. His favorite dishes include silken tofu with fresh scallion, chicken Chong Qing style; lamb with hot and spicy sauce, ma-po tofu, and a fried potato in hot sauce that he makes sound like what I imagine crack feels like:
How did crinkle-cut fries get into a Sichuan restaurant? How can I be so helplessly, irretrievably crazy about them? Why, when they cool and lose their allure, do I want to ask the waiter to drop them back into the fryer again? Is something wrong with me? What is this wild desire? And where is the hot sauce?
He acknowledges that servers can sometimes seem overwhelmed. This could be because sometimes there’s an English language barrier. Wells recalls a visit during which a server handed the phone to his guest, who ended up taking a customer’s takeout order.
Still, though, the food shines. Wells gave it two stars. We haven’t even been there but we’re definitely craving some of those potatoes.
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