I have always known that Chinese people are some of the most food-crazed people on Earth, willing to try their hands on anything that tastes good. Such enthusiasm is what makes Chinese cuisine so dynamic and enjoyable. But who would’ve thought that crayfish (or crawfish), that little crustacean that has become a staple of Southern/Cajun cooking thanks to the influence of New Orleans, is actually one of the biggest food items that Chinese enjoy? According to NY Times, the entire Chinese crayfish industry was worth $27 billion when measured a couple of years ago! And in East Village, where a number of new Chinese restaurants with exciting ideas (from dry hot pot at Mala Project to the mixian rice noodle at Little Tong Noodle Shop) have opened up, another restaurant opened up not too long ago as a “Chinese Cajun seafood” place but with spicy sauce. Since my wife Jun and I do not ever shy away from spicy food, we were very eager to check out Le Sia, and had a very satisfying meal there on a recent Saturday evening.
The menu at Le Sia is rather large, and it isn’t just about the crayfish and other seafood offerings in the pot for the main dish (more on that later). If you pick well, you may be rewarded some delicious skewers, such as pork belly and king of kings hot dog (chicken gizzard was not crisp enough for me). Among the other small dishes, skip the enoki mushroom, but make sure you get garlic scallop with glass noodle. Compared to the other dishes, it is rather expensive (at $8 per person compared to $3-5 range for most of the other starters), but I am glad that we ordered one each so I don’t need to share with Jun. Now onto the main dish. You can either choose a single catch or mix up crayfish and another seafood such as head-on shrimp, snow crab legs, lobster or Dungeness crab. If you do the combo option, you also get potato and lotus root in the pot as well and get order additional sides.
We went with one piece of lobster and one pound of crayfish (at $45), and also added fried Chinese breadsticks. For sauce, we went with hot and spicy (what else?) at the spicy level (level-three among four different levels). First of all, we are very glad we mixed up crayfish with lobster. Each crayfish was not big enough to fully enjoy (as all crayfish are), but lobster offered plenty of flesh that was juicy. The sauce was fairly spicy but in a very good, addictive way, and we gladly dipped the seafood and the other sides onto it. Our consensus favorite side was lotus root (Jun regretted that we didn’t order more of these separately on top of what were already provided in the combo option), and while the fried breadsticks piqued our interest at first, they were more or less forgettable. You will be given several pairs of plastic gloves to cover your hands with. I highly suggest you wear them unless you want to leave spicy scent all over your hands. By the time Jun and I were finished, our faces were both red from all the spicy sensation we took, but we were both grinning with satisfaction.
The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations during the peak dinner hours but we didn’t wait more than 30 minutes even though the dining space was absolutely packed. Le Sia’s lively and casual atmosphere, along with its food menu that makes it ideal for sharing, will make for an ideal place for a low-key dinner with a large group of friends (although you might need to sit on the long communal table). As Jun said, though, don’t take your first date to this place; it might be too loud to carry on conversation and frankly the whole eating experience, as much as we both enjoyed it, could turn out a little messy. There are some sake, wine and beer options that complement the food. It is very exciting to see all these new Chinese restaurants offer concepts that have not previously been tested in New York City; to that end, Le Sia is one of the more important newcomers in the Chinese dining scene that should not be missed.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 11 East 7th St, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (646) 370-6423