Ever since we had visited Mala Project a couple of years (see my review from the first visit here https://kenscale.com/2017/03/31/mala-project/), my wife Jun and I had eaten the restaurant’s dry pot several times, once at its second location in Bryant Park and multiple times via delivery to our apartment. For lovers of anything spicy like both of us, the dry pot at Mala Project was quite a revelation with a variety of ingredients with the secret hot sauce that was numbing to our tongue but yet so irresistibly addictive. On a recent Friday when we didn’t have much plans, Jun texted me at work to ask if I would be interested in heading over to Mala Project for a quick dinner so met in the original location in East Village for our second visit. After our meal, I decided that it is now a good time to put Mala Project in the KenScale All Star category.
The dry pot is the highlight at Mala Project, but don’t skip the appetizer sections on the menu. While we both wished that the eggplant with roasted garlic came out with spicy flavor (similar to the one we greatly enjoyed at a Sichuan restaurant Birds of a Feather in Williamsburg), the husband and wife lung slices that was uncompromising in the heat actually worked quite beautifully with the non-spicy eggplant. I had to be careful not to fill up my stomach before the dry pot came out but it was quite difficult. For our dry pot, we included most of the same ingredients we had previously tried on our prior visits and deliveries such as pork belly, chicken gizzard, prawn, lotus root (a word of advice: never ever skip the lotus root in the dry pot!) and bok choy. I felt like including beef tenderloin and cauliflower this time, and Jun picked king oyster mushroom. The generous serving of the dry pot was as usual very delicious, and the level of heat (you can adjust the spicy level in four different stages; we ordered Level 3 spicy) was just about right. Add a side of leftover fried rice and we had one heck of a satisfying meal again at Mala Project.
We showed up slightly before 6:30 p.m. without reservations and were told that we needed to finish our meal by 7:30 p.m. It was not an issue as the food came out relatively quickly. The dining space was fully packed with a good mix of Asian and non-Asian diners looking to enjoy the dry pot experience. There is full bar with a mix of beer, wine and cocktail offerings. A can of Allagash White beer adequately helped me wash down all the food. While New York City is slowly getting saturated with hot pot restaurants where you dip food in the boiling water, you don’t see a ton of places like Mala Project that does not use any broth. Whether dining at the restaurant or doing a home delivery, we have consistently had very good meals from Mala Project, and whenever we have a craving for spicy food, it will be one of the first places in the city we will think of.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 122 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (212) 353-8880