Lucky Strike

There are a few things in life I just can’t seem to get enough of (or, you know, any of)—George Clooney, mini-bulldogs, beautiful cookbooks I will never actually use, and molten lava-esque Hot Pepper Chicken Baths.

There are a few things in life I just can’t seem to get enough of (or, you know, any of)—George Clooney, mini-bulldogs, beautiful cookbooks I will never actually use, and molten lava-esque Hot Pepper Chicken Baths.

The former never acknowledges the heartfelt Chianti-grams I send to his Italian villa, the roomie is allergic to living creatures that must be cared for, I’ve started making furniture out of the cookbooks, and as for the Hot Pepper Chicken Baths, well, thank goodness for Lucky Strike.

Lucky Strike’s secret-ish little corner of the torch-flanked Hawthorne Theater is a world away from the surrounding patchouli-soaked Hawthorne ‘hood—the high gilded ceilings, red and black walls, suede banquettes, and sparkling red chandeliers dripping from the ceiling feel more bordello than bohemian.

Once inside, order a Basil Cucumber Cooler from the bar, or a pot of restorative chrysanthemum tea, then plunge headlong into some of the city’s finest Sichuan fare, a cuisine known for its wholehearted embrace of garlic, chili, ginger, star anise, and the mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper. Self-taught Chef Stefan Leopold, who developed the menu with his girlfriend/partner, Chinese-native Rita Jia You, cooks up everything from tender Guinness pork ribs and Twice-Cooked Pork Belly to the crunchily gelatinous Spicy Jelly Fish Salad and Spicy Pig Intestine.

And then there’s the Hot Pepper Chicken Bath—the fiercely fiery, hurts-so-good star of the menu—bite-sized bits of chicken fried with loads of garlic and Sichuan pepper, then tossed with chopped scallions and dozens of glistening blood-red dried chiles. It’s tongue-paralyzing, dangerously spicy and almost too good-looking to eat, kind of like that elusive Mr. Clooney.

Details

Cuisine: Chinese

Executive Chef: Stefan Leopold

Atmosphere: Bohemian-meets-bordello with an eclectic clientele and food that will make your mouth and eyes water

Outdoor seating: Yes, a lovely shaded patio along SE Hawthorne

Best Seat: A half booth beneath a glittery red chandelier

Dress Code: Casual

Bring the Kids: Yes, especially if they like jellyfish, pork ears, pig intestine, and lots of chiles

Parking: Street parking is free and can be very difficult to find

Cocktails: Yes

Beer: 10 Asian, Indian, and Thai beers ($3.95), 5 domestic beers ($3-$3.50)

Wine: House Chardonnay and House Merlot, $5/glass

Sake: House sake (warm/cold) $6, unfiltered sake $7

Teetotalers: Mango/Roasted Coconut/Lychee juice, soy milk, chrysanthemum iced tea, fountain sodas

Tea: Oolong, Chrysanthemum, Iron Buddha, Pu'er, Jasmine, Silver Needle

Ideal Meal: Hot Pepper Chicken Bath and a TsingTao

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes

Vegan Friendly: Not particularly

Good for the following occasions: Casual Sichuan Dinner While Watching News, People-Watching, Dining Adventure, Impress Your Adventurous-Eater Foodie Friends

Group/Private Party Details: Large groups can be accommodated, call for more info

Reservations: For parties of six or more

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No