Lao Ma La | Chinatown | Asian, Bar/Lounge, Chinese | Restaurant
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Mike Sula

Sichuan street food—skewers, mini hot pots, snacks—as well as standards and Tony Hu favorites.

Our Review

"Ma La" corresponds to the pinyin characters 麻, for "numbing," and 辣, for "spicy," the addictive buzzing sensation that results from eating a lot of Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. That's what Tony Hu's Lao Ma La is all about. Though the main features of the menu are relatively truncated for a Hu spot, there's a great variety of stuff on hand, most of it duplicative of his other places (Lao Sze Chuan, etc etc). Skewer hot pots—available with a wide selection of meats, vegetables, and seafood on sticks—get top billing, along with "grilled fish in pan" and solo a la carte charcoal-grilled skewers. The second quarter of the menu is concerned with smaller mini woks, based on single ingredients such as cauliflower, chicken giblets, or string beans augmented with other vegetables. Stray into the soups, appetizers, and snacks and you find more variety: a big bowl of tender, cold poached pork belly in a sweetish, spicy sauce with a ton of garlic provides something of a relief from the onslaught of heat, as does the Chengdu-style noodle salad, wheat noodles tossed with crunchy crushed peanuts. And then there's the back half of the menu, given over to a selection of familiar things like ma po tofu and kung pao chicken, along with some of the greatest hits from the Hu empire, like boiled beef in spicy Sichuan sauce and Sichuan string beans. To top it off, much of this is student friendly: hefty portions in the range of $5-$6.

Mike Sula

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