Spicy Moon is a relatively new, vegan Sichuan style Chinese restaurant in New York’s East Village neighborhood, that is sensational. It is a small, ex-ramen joint that has seating for maybe a dozen people and modern interior design sense. You order from Dim Sum style menus that list the menu items with check-boxes next to each item that you mark to indicate your order. While we were there, there was a mix-up in the kitchen and a nearby table received an extra order of Dan Dan Noodles they didn’t want and we were the lucky beneficiaries. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente with a slight chew and were sauced with a smoky, mildly spicy chili oil. But the master stroke was the use of Beyond Meat’s ground “beef” which almost perfectly imitated the texture and flavor of the minced meat commonly served in Dan Dan Noodles. After eating these Dan Dan Noodles I see no reason to go back to eating non-vegan versions of this dish.
The Dumplings: We tried three plates of dumplings and they ranged from great to excellent. The Steamed Vegetable Dumplings once again showed Spicy Moons’s deft handling of noodle dough. The dumpling wrappers were on the slightly thicker side and the dumplings were steamed so the dough was cooked just al dente, giving the wrappers a really enjoyable chew.
We also tried the Rice Shumai, which are a vegan version of traditional Shanghai style Shumai, which are classically filled with dirty rice cooked with pork and Chinese sausage. Somehow Spicy Moon has figured out how to make a vegetable based dirty rice that has the same savory umami flavor as the traditional meat-based dirty rice. The only indication that the filling was vegetable based was the single pea, corn kernel and piece of carrot decorating the top of each shumai.
The Wontons in Chili Oil was our last selection and I really enjoyed them, but their chili oil cold be spicier and the wontons could have used a little larger portion of filling. The chili oil had a deep smoky flavor that was great but overshadowed the tofu, Chinese greens and mushroom that filled the wontons. I think that if there was more filling in the wontons the balance between the sauce and the wontons would have been better.
The Location: Spicy Moon is on 6th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, on a block that used to be known as Manhattan’s Curry Alley. The restaurant scene on sixth street has evolved since it became known for Indian restaurants over 30 years ago and now the block has Japanese, Chinese and Ethiopian restaurants. You will know Spicy Moon from its bright kaleidoscopic window design and a sign requesting that you not wear fur in the restaurant.