Spicy Lanka Cranks the Heat in Jamaica, Queens

After a couple years' absence, the fiery, tropical cooking of Sri Lanka has returned to Queens. At Spicy Lanka in Jamaica, a chef from the homeland is rocking island standards like string hopper kothu with beef (pictured): lacy rice noodles, steamed, chopped, and tossed with meat, vegetables, and a fistful of herbs and spices. "I'm in love all over again," declares Polecat, a Chowhound who first fell for this dish at the 'hound-endorsed Bownie in Flushing, the borough's only Sri Lankan restaurant for years until it closed around 2012.

Other good bets at Spicy Lanka, which opened three months ago in a space that housed a short-lived Sri Lankan place called Araliya, include an incendiary red mutton curry, fish with pepper and tamarind, fish and vegetable croquettes, and a vegetarian thali combination of beets, string beans, eggplant, okra, and dal, garnished with dried salted chiles. "Everything was delicious, fresh, interesting, vivid, and to the limit of my experience authentic," says another 'hound, swannee. For dessert, he adds, try a custard of coconut, cashews, and jaggery—refreshing and just sweet enough.

Spicy Lanka [Jamaica]
159-23 Hillside Avenue (near 160th Street), Jamaica, Queens
718-487-4499

Photo by Polecat