Fiery Chinese served comfortably numb
Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" may not seem like a good way to describe Sichuan and Shandong cuisine, but that's exactly the feeling you get from the Chinese regional offerings at One of the Kind: a satisfying numbing of the tongue and lips.
The sensation comes from hua jiao, or Sichuan pepper, whose tiny black seeds give the restaurant's signature dish, "Chong-qing Chicken" ($7/small; $10/large), its signature flavor. Some call it "five spice," but the more precise phrase is ma la, which translates to "numbing spicy." The sauce is draped thickly over the boney chicken chunks and garnished with red pepper and star anise. The "Ma Po Tofu" ($7/small; $8/large) — yep, that same Floydian ma — and the Sichuan double-cooked pork belly ($7/small, $10/large) also use Sichuan pepper with authentic extravagance. Buy a gallon of green tea at the Hong Kong Supermarket next door before tackling these dishes. You'll need it.
One of the Kind, a food stall at the Super 88 food court in Allston, has earned a devoted Chinese clientele since opening in January. While its pan-Asian neighbors pander to the collegiate masses with bubble tea and bibimbap, this restaurant strives to emulate food vendors in the Sichuan night market. The name even sounds fresh off the boat — did they mean "One of a Kind"? As further proof this is real-deal homespun Chinese fare, English was probably the third most spoken language at the crowded corner on a Friday night, right after Mandarin and Cantonese.
The "All Day Combo" is a better deal than most lunch combos in Chinatown. For $20, you get a choice of three house specials (out of 38) served with white rice. It's enough food for a party of four. The choices are mostly spicy, oily meat dishes, but you wouldn't be here if that wasn't how you liked it. For the adventurous, the stir-fried kidney and liver ($7/small; $10/large) is exotic yet homey. For the less daring, the pineapple fish fillet ($7/small; $11/large) beautifully renders something usually found in a take-out menu. We saw the chef fearlessly toss and turn the fish as the wok's fire rose to eye level. Burnt eyebrows aside, the pineapple and sweet orange honey glaze helps offset all that mouth-numbing ma la.
ONE OF THE KIND, located at 1095 Comm Ave, is open Sunday–Thursday, 11 am–10 pm, and Friday–Saturday, 11 am–11 pm. Call 617.254.5111.
: On The Cheap
, Chinese cuisine, Super 88, Super 88, More