Forest Hills is quickly becoming one of our go-to neighborhoods for amazing Chinese food, and this small restaurant on Austin Street was one of the pioneers. Since 2018, Chef Tom Lei has been serving up the usual Sichuan greatest hits, but with a fine touch that produces some of the best versions we’ve ever tasted. The mortar and pestle smashed eggplant and peppers, a beautifully reimagined version of fish-fragrant eggplant, has such a silky texture that it’s almost paste-like. And the slow-simmered fish with chilis will make you wonder if every other white fish you’ve ever eaten was overcooked. Beyond seafood, the crispy spicy shredded beef has the perfect amount of chewiness and smoky mala flavor. You may also want to get a double portion of the smashed cucumbers in spicy garlic sauce to cool your palette throughout the meal.
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Mortar and Pestle Smashed Eggplant and Peppers
Listed under “Hot Appetizers,” this smashed-eggplant-and-peppers dish is a beautifully reimagined version of the Sichuan specialty known as fish-fragrant eggplant, with a silky texture that’s almost paste-like. Even if you’re not a big fan of eggplant, you need to order this in order to taste how sublime the nightshade can be when prepared a little differently. Spy-C serves several other great eggplant dishes, but this is the one we rave to everyone.
Pan-Seared Pork Dumplings
You can’t go wrong with any of the dumplings here, but these are the best of the bunch. The wrappers are medium-thick, the filling is juicy, and the bottoms are uniformly golden-brown.
Beef in Pancakes
The popularity of wraps seems to have waned since the mid-aughts, but maybe it’s time to bring them back in the form of this amazing beefy appetizer. The scallion pancake on the outside is masterfully crisp, tightly swaddling five-spice and cumin beef.
Braised Beef in Chili Oil
You know a Sichuan restaurant is the real deal if they have cold meat appetizers on the menu, especially cold offal appetizers. The thinly sliced beef shin and tendon absorb the soy sauce and chili oil sauce beautifully. This dish has a bit more sauce than usual, so we recommend saving a few slices of meat to eat over rice.
House Special Braised Pork Belly
Spy-C’s rendition of Hunan-style red cooked pork is one of the best you’ll find in New York. Each piece of pork belly is equal parts meat and fat, and the shiitake mushrooms have a firm meaty bite. This dish is sweet, sticky, and savory, and it’s basically pork candy that you can scarf down as an entree.
Crispy Spicy Shredded Beef
This dish is like the lovechild of Sichuan dry-fried beef and chicken strips. There’s a light batter coating but also the perfect amount of chewiness and smoky mala flavor. Because the cooking process allows the beef to soak in so much chili flavor, each bite is like a firecracker in your mouth.
Slow Simmered Fish with Chilis and Soft Tofu
We could easily wax poetic about this fish entree like a lovelorn teenager. Instead, we'll remind ourselves that we’re adults and just tell you to come here and order this, stat. The fish is unbelievably silky, like the tofu it’s paired with, and it will make you wonder if every other white fish you’ve ever eaten was overcooked. And the sauce? We want to drink it up.