I entered the East Coast Grill in Inman Square last night just as the Phantom Gourmet was leaving (you could tell it was him because a van with his logo was parked at the curb). At the door: a dish holding round candies that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be Tums. The occasion: Hell Night, a night where everything on the menu, including drinks, has a higher capsicum per cc count than should be legal.
The instigator: my friend Niall, who reported he had wanted to go to one of these since we got to grad school four years ago but always managed to miss it. From this morning, I wonder if he still feels the same way this morning.
As things go, you could still have a good, though spicy, meal at this thing. I got the obligatory insane hot thing out of the way early with a “Hurler from Hell” (an oyster shooter made with habanero-infused vodka). The oyster was indistinct after its bath in the vodka, which was unspeakable. While recovering from that and basking in the incredulous stares of my tablemates and the waitress, I silently pledged to take the rest of the evening easy. That was accomplished by sticking to appetizers. My choices: a fairly sublime raw tuna with jicama slaw and a hot pepper marinade, and a decent plate of baked quahogs surrounded by chorizo sausage. I couldn’t finish the quahogs, less because of the heat than because of the uneasy interaction of the chorizo with the rest of my meal.
I regret to say that it wasn’t the hottest meal I’ve ever had—I’ve eaten in some Indian and Thai restaurants that produced the full cold-sweat, white-faced, ear-ringing effect and last night I only got the sweat part. But to be fair I chose three- and four-bomb food (the scale tops out at seven with the famous Pasta from Hell). It was certainly the best-tasting hot-food meal I’ve ever had.