Spicy Hop – Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series
Pepper ratings that mean everything to some, nothing to others…
Spicy Hop is an up and coming restaurant with Authentic Asian cuisine made entirely from scratch. It’s not your typical General Tso’s or Orange Chicken, it’s Szechuan cuisine which is generally spicier. Serving 10+ dishes a day, there are usually a few specials and then some staples as well. We’d driven past a few times and when a location has the word “spicy” in the name, you know we have to try it.
Open for about a month now, we rolled to their location on Bethel Road one Friday evening. We were the only folks in the restaurant and it took a few minutes for someone to realize we were there, but once they noticed, ordering was a breeze. Before us lay many options. Spicy Hop offers 2 dishes for $9.49 or 3 dishes for $12.99.
Three options is most helpful if you’re having a tough time narrowing down what you’d like. I opted for three dishes: Spicy Hop Chicken (1-pepper rating), Szechuan Minced Chicken (3-pepper rating) and the Garlic Broccoli. The lady of the farm went for two: Spicy Sour Potato and Red Braised Pork. We tried getting brown rice, but they were out.
The only problem we’ve noticed with “from scratch” restaurants is when they’re out of something for the day they are out, but that’s the price you pay for freshness and we’re okay with it. Observe my box of three!
The first thing to notice is the little aluminum trays that these come in. All of it is packed neatly into a pizza box and handed to you for easy carryout (we’re not sure if it’s still in a box if you dine in). Packaging-wise this is super helpful if you end up not finishing all of your food in one sitting. No need to look for Tupperware, you’re covered. Just don’t put it in the microwave.
In the above image, the Spicy Hop Chicken is the bottom right, which I decided to start with and then work my way up to the 3-pepper Szechuan Minced Chicken.
Grouped among the chunks of chicken are some vegetables and fresh chile peppers. The homemade red oil combined with the Szechuan Douban sauce doesn’t fully coat the chicken, but the heat (what little there is) coats the entirety of your mouth. The Spicy Hop Chicken had an explosion of flavor, but the heat was luke-warm, a decent spiciness level from the 1-pepper rating. The chunks of chicken were slightly overdone, but not chewy, so no major complaints there.
As a palate cleanser I dug into the Garlic Broccoli. This was potentially my favorite thing from Spicy Hop as the garlicky goodness sits well in your mouth, dissipating any of the heat from the other dishes. It’s soft, but has the slight crunch that I love in broccoli, indicating a good cook. The lady of the farm and I ended up fighting over the last few pieces, a sign that we’ll end up getting two orders of Garlic Broccoli when we go back.
The moment you’ve been waiting for, the 3-pepper Szechuan Minced Chicken! Getting its heat from Szechuan peppercorns and fresh chiles, the lady of the farm kept getting into this dish. Her nose was sweating, but there was something about the chicken that got her to continually come back to it. A few bites in, I wasn’t completely sure what she was talking about. For me the Minced Chicken was about as spicy as the Spicy Hop Chicken if not less.
You get an initial punch of Szechuan peppercorn flavor with this chicken, but it just wasn’t doing much for me spiciness-wise. The biggest eye-opening moment for me was when I chomped into most of a whole Szechuan peppercorn. If you haven’t done this before, the Szechuan peppercorn is bitter, causes some mouth numbness and eventually ends on a citrusy note. The numbness I expected was there, but overall this dish was lacking on the spiciness scale. The chicken itself (as is the case with most minced chicken) lacks moistness. No sniffles or sweat, but I’d get this dish again. Honestly, I had a hard time believing the Szechuan Minced Chicken was spicier than the Spicy Hop Chicken, but it’s possible my TRPV1 receptors are borked when it comes to lower levels of heat.
For low-level spice seekers, this is a great spicy dish, but for people seeking out the spiciest dish in Columbus, this ranks toward the bottom of our list. It’s spicier than Firdou’s Express Tunisian Chicken, but it’s around the same level.
There’s a look at the Red Braised Pork, a dish we can’t recommend enough. The sweetness and the savory back-end make the well-cooked pork addictive. The Spicy Sour Potato, while not all that spicy, had a similar addictive quality, forcing us to continually stab at it as we tried to figure out what flavors we were picking up on.
With weekly, sometimes daily specials, Spicy Hop is a great break from your standard Chinese fare. The food is flavorful and with all of the options to choose from you’ll have no trouble finding something you like. It’s a bit more adventurous than Fortune Chinese or Helen’s Asian Kitchen, but it easily lands in our rotation of Sunday afternoon/Friday evening takeouts.
You can find Spicy Hop off of Bethel Road in the building where Aoi Sushi used to sit.
Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!
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