FOOD

Best New Restaurants 2022: ChiliSpot

With flavor-packed dishes like dan dan noodles, spicy fried fish, mapo tofu and braised Shanghai greens with mushrooms, ChiliSpot is easily a new contender for the best Sichuan food in Columbus.

Nicholas Dekker
Dry-fried string beans and mapo tofu

In Columbus we are fortunate to enjoy a wide range of Chinese restaurants, from hand-pulled noodles at Jiu Thai Asian Café to cumin potatoes at N.E. Chinese Restaurant to soup dumplings at Helen’s Asian Kitchen. While many bemoaned the loss of Hong Kong House, a new contender for Sichuan favorites has entered the ring: ChiliSpot.

Sitting in the same plaza as Xi Xia, one of Columbus Monthly’s 2020 Best New Restaurants, ChiliSpot is a brightly lit, two-room eatery that does equally steady carryout and dine-in service. One visit has you craving return trips before you’ve even picked up the check. The menu ranges from Americanized favorites like nicely done General Tso’s to more authentic dishes like sautéed pig kidney. Honestly, it’s best to visit with a group so you can taste as many different items as possible.

Explore more of Columbus' food scene:Subscribe to Monthly's weekly dining newsletter, Copy & Taste

Start with a bowl of Chengdu dan dan noodles, move on to an order (or two or three) of the spicy wonton dumplings and work your way through shredded pork in garlic sauce, spicy fried fish, zesty mapo tofu, and braised Shanghai greens with black mushrooms. It’s simply impossible to over-order at ChiliSpot, because you’ll welcome any and all leftovers the next day.

Side Dishes

Numb is Yum: The cuisine of China’s southwest Sichuan province is defined by its heavy use of peppercorns to achieve what is known as málà, a flavor offering spicy and numbing sensations. ChiliSpot uses these abundantly, from its mapo tofu to its popcorn chicken, wontons and noodles.

Strip-Mall Gems:Finding International Cuisine in the Suburbs

Craveable Dish: ChiliSpot’s Chongqing-style fried chicken is a hands-down favorite that also introduces distinctive Sichuan flavors. The dish is essentially Sichuan popcorn chicken, with tiny pieces of tender chicken stir-fried with peppercorns, peanuts and red chile peppers. It’s best eaten with chopsticks, which forces you to slow down and savor all the spicy numbness.

Sweet Ice Jelly: As much as ChiliSpot’s menu ramps up the spice, its desserts will cool you down with equal complexity. Served in a bowl, the Sichuan-style sweet ice jelly is a lightly sweetened transparent gelatin (think: clear Jell-O cubes) flavored with crushed nuts, raisins and a rich brown sugar sauce.

ChiliSpot

1178 Kenny Centre Mall, Northwest Columbus

614-929-5565

This story is from the February 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.