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Dining Out: Flushing’s Spicy & Tasty lives up to its name

Sometimes there’s truth in advertising. Like at Spicy & Tasty, a Flushing restaurant whose food is both. They specialize in Szechuan dishes that are full of what might make Emeril Lagasse yell “Bam!”

The décor at Spicy & Tasty could be described as minimalist Chinese modern. There are wood-framed, illuminated, glass display cases set into all the walls that hold interesting Chinese artifacts like jade carvings, elaborately detailed knives, and exotic kitchen utensils. This would have created a rather pleasing effect except for the unforgiving lighting. The management must have decided that dimming the lights might imply a more leisurely style of dining.

The service is fast and efficient here, and the diners are expected to respond in kind. During prime dinner hours there are always customers waiting for tables, so lingering over your food is tolerated, but not encouraged.

Most of the appetizers are served from a glass counter in the front of the restaurant, so you can eyeball them on your way in, especially if you have to wait for a table. One of the most popular appetizers you’ll see is called “Beef Tender in Red Chili Sauce.” A word of explanation is needed here. There are, in fact, several dishes described as “tenders” of one sort or another. This does not mean that these dishes are easy to chew. What they actually mean is “tendons.” We tried the “Beef Tenders” and found them to be spicy and tasty, but more chewy than tender.

Our other two appetizers were cucumbers with fresh garlic and seaweed with garlic sauce. Both were loaded with raw garlic. The cucumbers were mingled with dried hot peppers and a sprinkling of Szechuan peppercorns. I reveled in the opportunity to enjoy a dish with Szechuan peppercorns, because it has become illegal to import them, and when present supplies are exhausted, they will be hard to get. The reason for this, by the way, is that Szechuan peppercorns are a member of the citrus family, and some carry a disease that can be transmitted to our citrus crops.

Our favorite entrée was smoked tea duck. I’m not sure what that duck was smoking, but the flavor was magnificent. It was the least greasy duck I’ve ever eaten — presumably the smoking process renders the fat. It is served with Hoisin sauce for dipping and slivered scallions. Think Peking duck with no pancakes. Whatever else you order here, you MUST try this duck.

Lamb home style was another winner. It’s a bone-in lamb stew served in a cast iron crock over a portable gas flame. The lamb was plentiful, and the dish also included lamb liver. Very spicy and tasty, indeed.

We also tried Ma Po Bean Curd at the suggestion of our waiter. It was adequately well-prepared, but less exciting than some of the more unusual offerings.

Spicy & Tasty offers no desserts, but happily we spotted the Relax Tea House on our way over, and adjourned there to complete our evening.

Relax Tea House is what I imagine a diner is like in Hong Kong. Its décor is sleek and modern, almost European in feeling. There is a large mid-air tropical fish tank that spans the room above the heads of the diners. The clientele is young.

Relax’s menu features a large assortment of drinks and snacks. The food ranges from Chinese dishes to Chinese renditions of Western dishes like Spam and egg over rice or hot dog and egg over rice. The beverage selection of hot and cold teas, bubble teas, smoothies, shakes, juices, and “exotic drinks” is daunting.

We could have gone for one of the exotics like “exotic indigo” described as “a luscious mix of non-dairy creamer and blue curacao,” but decided to play it safe. We chose instead a cold papaya shake with milk, tea and tapioca, and a green peach tea. Both were delicious. The papaya, usually referred to as bubble tea for the large beads of tapioca drunk through an oversized straw, was sweetly refreshing. The peach green tea tasted amazingly like hot liquid peaches. These drinks were the perfect finale for an outstanding evening in Flushing’s Little Asia.

The Bottom Line

Spicy & Tasty has terrific Szechuan food for the adventurous diner. Some of the animal parts listed on the menu may be off-putting to the squeamish. They seem to tone down the heat for non-ethnics. If you like really spicy food, ask for it to be made “Ma La” and carry a fire extinguisher. Relax Tea House is a great follow-up for cooling down.

Spicy & Tasty

39-07 Prince St., 1H

718-359-1601

Cuisine: Szechuan Chinese

Setting: Kitsch-less Chinese modern, too much light

Service: Fast, efficient, and English fluency adequate to describe dishes

Hours: Seven days 11 am–3 am

Reservations: No

Parking: Good luck

Dress: Casual

Children: Families welcome

Takeout: Yes

Credit cards: No

Handicap Accessibility: Maybe, if they move stuff out of the way

Recommended Dishes:

Beef in red chili sauce…$5.95

Cucumber w. Fresh Garlic…$3.95

Seaweed in Garlic Sauce…$2.95

Smoked Tea Duck…$9.95

Lamb, Home Style…$10.95

Chinese String Bean w. Minced Pork…$6.95

Relax Tea House

39-07 Prince St.

718-888-1488

Cuisine: Tea, Hong Kong diner food

Setting: Hong Kong diner

Hours: Seven days

Recommendations:

Papaya shake with milk, tea, & tapioca…$2.85 14 oz. / $3.75 20 oz.

Peach green tea…$2.45 14 oz. / $3.35 20 oz

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