Little Pepper

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88 Impressive

A big, comfortable setting for some of the city’s very best Sichuan cooking.

18-24 College Point Blvd, Queens, NY, 11354

718-939-7788

Known For

The lowdown

It’s hard to describe the Sichuan flavor sensation known as ma la. You might say that it’s like going to the dentist’s and having your mouth shot full of novocaine and then rinsing with Tabasco. On second thought, no, it’s nothing like that. That would be terrible. Whatever it is, it’s delicious and it’s addictive. To Chinese-food aficionados, it’s what truffles are to truffle hogs. And nowhere else do the numbing, Sichuan-peppercorn-induced ma and the la, or hot-chile heat, frolic in such exquisite harmony as they do at Little Pepper, relocated from a gritty Flushing basement to a spick-and-span College Point storefront. For the full-on ma-la experience, order anything on the menu designated with a red-chile icon. But it’s not all about the four-alarm spicing here; there’s serious, careful cooking on display. Steamed chicken with “special chile sauce” is as preternaturally tender as if someone were in the basement on sous-vide duty. Spicy cold noodles are as springy as a brand-new Posturepedic. And the Sichuan pickled cowpeas with minced pork achieve that perfect texture, between soft and crunchy, that one hopes for — nay, demands — in a cowpea. The plating is lovely, too — ­except for the “lamb with hot and spicy sauce with cumin,” which is oddly served on a bed of aluminum foil.

Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

What you need to know

DrinksBeer and Wine

Noise LevelCivilized