I’ve always believed that when you are with good friends it doesn’t matter where you are…however, knowing where to go doesn’t hurt. I recently caught up with one of my favorite wives…who happens to be married to one of my best buds. While the lady isn’t a fan of heat her worse half has developed a taste for it and asked me to create a mini tour to test and tantalize our tongues while providing dishes to satisfy his far better half.. Like a Dark Knight I “Rose” to the challenge.
We met at the Spring Street Lounge to prepare for this spice fueled Odyssey. I had a Lagunitas Little Sumpin,Sumpin, she had her new drink…a Martini and he had some beer…Our first spicy food stop was at Pok Pok wings. Not because they are known for being so hot, but because my bud loves wings. *Pok Pok’s are supposed to be rather different and they are available hot. These are noting like your Sports Bars wings, they are coated butter and Tabasco but in Nước chấm…(Vietnamese fish sauce). I really like them and can see why they have on the one-hand a cult following lining up outside the door and on the other those who are not fans. If you enjoy Thai/Vietnamese food I believe you will fall into the former grouping. We drank their version of Thai iced coffee(made with condensed milk and sugar) and Pandanus water.
For our first spicy drink stop we hit Barrio Chino(their margarita’s hit back harder:) home of the spiciest drink I’ve had yet….the Grapefruit Habanero margarita, the drink the bartender will say “why don’t you try the jalapeno…most people return the Habanero….it’s just too spicy for them” I ordered it and admit, it’s not easy to drink…(read:brutal) but I like it. My bud took the bartenders advice which opened him up to a flurry of verbal jabs and upper cuts while his wife enjoyed her Lime Margarita. We ordered up the tasty pescado tacos to nosh on that came with 4 salsas. I went tomatillo ..there was just no way to go hot with a Grapefruit Habanero margarita already lighting my lips on fire…
Heading up Allen(what 1st Ave turns into across Houston) to our next stop we popped into Marshall Stack for a Beer to cool us down. I had the Saranac Blueberry Wheat while they went Brooklyn Summer. It was here that for the 2nd time of the night when my bud proclaimed to all that would hear that “we were on a Spicy food & Drink craw!”l we were asked…”Are you going to Brick Lane for the dreaded Phaal”?
Next up we popped into the *Toucan and the Lion. Not for the food which I hear is good, but for a drink called The Lion in Summer( tequila, lime, simple syrup, Sriracha , topped w ginger topped )I love Sriracha…and while it is a tasty drink it’s not spicy and my buds better half relieved me of it while he drank Ithaca Apricot wheat beers. When I shared our quest for fire with the bartender he said …I got your drink…it’s something ive been experimenting with…Please allow me to introduce…La Cucharracha… Mescal w/ muddled Thai chilies, bitters ,and simple syrup. It’s smoky with some nice sweet heat…just what I was looking for. Then he asked…”Hey have you heard about the Phaal at…”?
My original plan was to hit Xi’an Famous Foods for their crazy hot Western Chinese Cumin flavored cuisine and bring it to Van Leeuwen, eat it and then finish up with some of my favorite ice cream and give our insides a fighting chance the next day. However my bud was intrigued by this palace of heat he kept hearing about….
Believe it or not…I the Heat Hunter had never been to Brick Lane…so I said sure…let’s see just how dreaded this dish of curry is that you need to sign a waiver(not joking). Well after hearing the waiters description of the “Phaal” curry while we drank beers all of a sudden my bud felt Vindaloo would be hot enough. While I ordered tandoori chicken for his wife with black lentils I started questioning his masculinity(wonder if this might be why he requested reviewing this piece before it went to virtual print:) while I simultaneously complimented him on how pretty he looked in his skirt(his calves are so huge it looks like he swallowed two bowling balls…if he were a Highlander he would have terrified his enemies…unfortunately for him he was just a guy not manning up and getting put through a verbal wood chipper over it:) The waiter suggested we order the Phaal sauce on the side…which for the record I was absolutely against it…but what we ended up doing. Thus, we ordered the Lamb Vindaloo w/side of Phaal with some rice, yogurt sauce, and Naan w/mango chutney to prepare ourselves for the Phaal curry onslaught.
To say the Phaal is not very hot would mean one is talking smack out their…and/or one is an idiot. This stuff is very hot…but the kicker (as I learned the hard way in an Arab Market in Tel Aviv years ago) is it is loaded with the types of hot peppers that build up and get hotter as they hit your system. My friends eyes bulged and his head swelled as he turned a bit red when it hit his lips. Thing is I’ve had hotter and with plenty of Naan topped with yogurt and chutney with a pints of beer I’m fairly confident I could eat a bowl( as was the waiter who smiled and said so…while he looked at my bud just shaking his head:)
We finished up at Van Leeuwen around the corner. I went Mint chip, wifey was delighted with her Espresso and Gianjuda for her hubby. It was the perfect way to end this epic epicurean spice trail tour and cool down our tortured tongues and tummies…
Special Spicy Bonus: I had lunch at Jack’s Wife Freda yesterday and had the Chicken Prego sandwich. When I asked if they coated the chicken with Peri-Peri sauce they use on their kabobs they said they don’t but they brought out a spicy florescent green sauce they had that delish that they say they always have…just ask. I found it more tasty then hot…but again…I’m not the best barometer when it comes to how spicy is that food…or for the record..”is the water cold”
*Please note that Pok Pok has moved to Brooklyn and the Toucan and Lion has closed since I first wrote this piece. I am in the process of updating with replacement spots to satisfy your sweet heat cravings…stay tuned.