I first heard about the MáLà Project at a panel of other restaurant reviewers, where two of them highly recommended the Sichuan dry-pots. We stopped in at this East Village spot for lunch before heading to the small but informative and fun Gangster Museum. (If you go, be sure to take the free tour as that’s what makes this museum special.)
We didn’t get off to a good start as our pan-fried vegetable dumplings (six for $7) arrived cold, not room temperature but cold. Our server did take them back to heat them.
I’d recommend the oddly named leftover fried rice ($13) with pork and veggies. That dish did arrive steaming hot.
Our Sichuan dry-pots came in giant brown salad bowls filled with the combo we each had selected. You could also customize your order with a choice of ingredients, paying only for what you chose. Having not been before, we each decided to go for one of the combos. I requested the sliced lamb (“Got Lamb”) and my dining partner, the beef tenderloin (“Beef Please”).
Our server explained that each Sichuan dry-pot came with wok-fried ingredients along with up to 24 spices and Chinese medicines, made spicy with a profusion of chili peppers. Each is offered in four spice levels: non-spicy, mild, spicy or super spicy from none to super spicy. The latter is said to be numbing.
Our waitress suggested ordering mild with an accompaniment of red chili oil on the side to spice it up. She said that the spicy might be too much even if I liked spicy food. Glad I did, as I picked out whole chili peppers and drizzled the oil over my bowl. Each bowl was quite filling.
If you’re in the area, do try it out and be sure to stop by and visit the Gangster Museum.