You can’t take a step in the vicinity of Chinatown in these times without putting your foot in a roiling hot pot, particularly those built around a single whole fish (frequently tilapia), bathing in a murderously spicy, oily brew of chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, and other potent aromatics. Skewers are big too, and with the proliferation of places like Ma Gong La Po, Snack Planet, Bridgeport’s new Home Style Taste (more about that one soon), and Lao Yunnan, this northern Chinese style of eating seems to be in ascendance much in the way of the Hong Kong/Taiwanese cafe wave of a few years back.

You didn’t think this would pass without Tony Hu getting in the game, did you? Actually, the idea behind Lao Ma La, his takeover of Kee Chan’s Lure Izakaya, is less regionally focused than it is flavor-based, or rather, pain-based. “Ma La” corresponds to the pinyin characters 麻, for “numbing,” and 辣, for “spicy,” the addictive buzzing sensation that results from eating a lot of Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. That’s what Lao Ma La is all about.