photo by Robert Menzer
Packed during lunch and then again for dinner, Spicy Village, an unglamorous speck of a restaurant on Forsyth, is best visited during that sleepy dining twilight between 2:30 and 6 p.m., when you have a chance at avoiding a wait. Danny Bowien and Mark Bittman both love it, and both have publicly admitted to repeat visits and having shaken down the owners — husband-and-wife team Ren Fu Li and Wendy Lian — for recipes. Bowien put what he learned into rotation at his temporarily closed Mission Chinese, and Bittman uses the research for his New York Times Magazine column. This is one of the only Henan spots in the city, and the entire menu is reliably good, though the place is renowned for its big tray of spicy chicken, a large-format beast of a dish with beer-soaked, twice-fried, stewed-in-brown-chile sauce chicken, vegetables, and potatoes (order it with noodle or rice to add balance). The noodles are also notable: hand-pulled, rough-hewn, firm, and wide, they’re served in soup or dry; we like the dry version with lamb, tossed in a spicy brown broth with bok choy.