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It's strange to find the sort of authentic Sichuan restaurant that usually requires trekking toQueens (or at least the right block of midtown) in the student-friendly East Village.Yet here's Hot Kitchen, bright and clean, with cordial-enough (if rather slow)service, jammed with Chinese families digging into communal chile-laced dishesthat make liberal use of tingly Sichuanpeppercorn. Start with preserved meat dumplings, which are juicy and pack amore nuanced meaty flavor than the usual steamed dumpling. Hot and sour sweetpotato noodles are a must-order: glassy vermicelli in a mouth-numbing, deeplysavory broth that seems to brim with curative properties. While chicken wingswon't be the best you've ever tasted, they're worth trying for the elaborate(Hunan-leaning) bed of potatoes, mushrooms, lotus, and chopped chiles they'rearrayed on, like some sort of spice fiend's Thanksgiving redux. Dry-fried andcrunchy Mei Shan beef, with its sweet-and-spicy notes, should appeal toAmerican-Chinese aficionados and hard-core regional-cuisine nerds alike. Skipthe village spicy chicken, which, if ordered boneless, arrives chopped andflavorless on a bed of bell peppers. Prices are a bit higher than what you findin Flushing, but the shorter subway trip makesup for it.