Flaming Kitchen

This joint offers a legitimately awesome Chinese food experience in the heart of Chinatown. The owner contacted me for a press meal, and I was quick to jump at it.

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The interior is very bright, pretty, spacious and clean. The dining room was a cool and comfortable, with plenty of elbow room.

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My wife and I turned over all control of our meal to our waiter, Griffin, after we poured ourselves some oolong tea.

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Griffin asked a few questions, like “do you like spicy foods,” and “do you have any food allergies.” Yes, and no. “We are willing to try anything.” He was happy about that, as he was planning to feature some of their more signature dishes for us. And then we were off…

The first thing that came out was this plate of thinly sliced conch with spicy chili sauce.

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The conch was cooked perfectly. It was tender enough to make you think you were eating chow fun noodles, but it still had snap to it, like you might associate with nicely cooked squid. My wife referred to this dish as “protein noodles.” I thought that was pretty clever, so we did a “lift” photo for all of you Instagram whores out there.

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And the spicy chili oil with lemongrass was the perfect sauce to deliver all of this deliciousness. I can’t wait to go back and order more of this. $12.95.

Next up were these pan fried mini pork buns. Say what? Steamed pork buns that are also fried? Yup. Take a look:

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They’re steamed first, and then one side is pan fried to give it a nice flat and golden brown crisp. I’ve never seen this before.

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Inside was tender and lemongrass-spiced pork meat with scallions.

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They were great. The bun was soft but not sticky and gummy, and the pan fried side gave them a nice texture mix that kept my taste buds interested from the first bite to the last. $5.95.

We tried four entrees! The first, and our most favorite, was the braised whole tilapia in spicy chili broth with peppercorns.

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It may LOOK like a nightmare of spices for you heat pussies out there, but I assure you, this broth is drinkable. I love spicy foods, and I can handle a lot of heat, but my opinion is that this dish is accessible to all in terms of spice levels, so long as you don’t actually eat the dried red chilies. The peppercorns within are very herbal and only slightly numbing, like a milder version of the kind you might encounter in spicy hot pot. This was so addicting that we brought home whatever was left of this dish so that we could have at that broth again and again. It almost had a Thai tom yum flavor, but without the lemongrass.

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But back to the actual fish: the meat was extremely tender and flavorful. Braised means it is fall-apart tender, and with some fresh cilantro on top, you feel like you are eating so fresh and healthy. Tilapia is a light fish to begin with, so this was a very good entree to start with. $24.95.

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We even got some of the cheek meat out of the head. Mmm.

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Next up was sauteed frog with spicy peppers.

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The frog itself was mainly leg meat, with some occasional other parts mixed in, but chopped up coarsely so you had to be deft with not swallowing any bones. I found that eating in the front of my mouth, with my front teeth, was the trick to maneuvering the bones with ease. The meat was awesome. If you haven’t had frog, to me it tastes like a cross between tender chicken and a scallop, both in texture and flavor.

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This was the spiciest dish of the day, too, as the chopped dried red chilies added a nice kick in the balls for heat. The green peppers aren’t that spicy but they have a great aroma and flavor. I even tasted traditional black pepper in there as well. $22.95.

The next dish was salt and pepper jumbo shrimp. These were presented butterflied, but with the shells and heads still on, on a bed of lettuce, peppers, sliced garlic and scallions.

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While a few were slightly overcooked, the salt and pepper batter was delicious and crunchy. We dipped these into the sauce that came with the frog dish as well, for a little more spice. $21.95.

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We treated the fourth entree as a side, since it came out alongside our fish dish. This was sauteed pumpkin with celery and artichoke.

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The pumpkin was tender and slightly sweet, which went well with the fresh braised celery flavor. The artichoke added a bit of starchiness to the dish, so if you are not a meat eater, this will be nice and filling for you, and unique to boot. Not bad for vegetarian! $14.95.

We will definitely be back here, again and again. For a long time my wife and I were hunting for a good Chinese and spicy Szechuan joint in the area. This place will give us our fix, every time. When you come here, I highly recommend the pan fried mini pork buns, the braised whole fish and the sliced conch dishes. All three were amazing. I realize that frog is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we really enjoyed it. If you are up for trying something different, then go for it because I recommend that as well. They also serve dim sum, so if that’s your thing, I suggest doing that as well. Oh, and upstairs is a karaoke joint. So you can go up and sing your ass off after dinner.

FLAMING KITCHEN
97 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

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