My experience at Hotluck is eerily similar to the one I had at Alvin Garden. Months before my visit to Alvin Garden (the one I posted about), I went there to try the lunch special. I had the beef/cumin dish and complimentary soup. Both were uninspiring…the beef dry and flavoured, it seemed, only with cumin. After a couple of follow-up visits I found out about the good stuff. Months before this visit to Hotluck, I went there to check out the lunch special (as well as a possible Friday lunch). I decided on the Ginger, Green Onion Fried Beef & Rice.
When the plate arrived, I was taken aback by the portion. It was quite large. Quite a bit more than most places offer for a lunch special. This a heckuva lot of food. The only problem was, there wasn’t a heckuva a lot of flavor. The ginger was non-existent. The scallions and green onions over-fried as was the beef. There’s not a whole lot to get excited about. Not a great first impression. That being said, my experience at Alvin Garden taught me to give this place another shot.
So, after seeing a droolable picture-post from Fmed, I dropped by and pre-ordered lunch for the gang. Sadly, wontons and dumplings weren’t available on that day but there was so much more to feast on. Check out their colorful and varied menu here.
Deep Fried Salty Chicken w/ Peppercorn. At $12.95, these aren’t exactly a bargain. Luckily, the hefty price is somewhat made up for with quality and flavor. Tidbits of garlic and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn surround nicely fried chunks of crispy chicken. Fortunately, the second plate we ordered was substantially larger.
As the Hunan Style Braised Pork was my favorite at Alvin, I made sure to check it out at Hotluck. Almost, but not quite; good, but nowhere near the quality of Alvin. Although braised to a nice tenderness, it seemed to lack the hoped-for, predominant flavor elements…star anise, ginger & whole garlic, for instance. If I’d had this one first, Alvin’s would’ve blown my mind.
The Seasonal Vegetable w/ Garlic today was Gai Choy (Chinese Mustard Green). Nicely done…crunchy, juicy, tender and packed with a good amount of garlic. A nice & refreshing accompaniment. Although, at $10, it’s about a buck or three too much.
The Steam Ranch Chicken w/ Hot Pepper was very reminiscent of the Steamed Ling Cod Head at Alvin…right down to the sour, pickled red peppers and excessive boniness. Tasty but quite difficult to eat.
The highlight today was the hotpot. If anything, it is a stunning feast for the eyes.
Hotluck Fish w/ Pepper. Many, many chunks of oh-so tender whitefish swimming amongst a massive onslaught of dried red chilies and a witches’ brew teeming with a hundred or so tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorns covering a bed of crunchy bean sprouts. Oh, joy.
If one were to avoid the dried chili, this wouldn’t be as over the top as it looks. If one were, however, a slightly masochistic chilihead, one could pleasure oneself immensely. Amongst a table of chili fiends, there is one who is a couple of heat-seeking notches above the norm. The pure expression of joy on that man’s face said it all. Mon ami, vous êtes un chilihead fou!
Admittedly, I may have made too many references to Alvin Garden here. It is only because there are so many relevant comparisons and similarities. I must say, I am a bit confused about the regional distinctions. Hotluck is, supposedly, a Sichuan restaurant while Alvin is unabashedly Hunan. As the cuisines are geographical neighbours, I suppose the similarities are a natural phenomenon and/or overlap. Nevertheless, it is a welcomed and wonderful confusion. More, please.