Hot Joy's Twice-Fried Chicken Wings with Crab Fat Caramel — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta
The newest addition to the Southtown culinary scene in San Antonio is aptly named Hot Joy, and it's brought to us by the restaurateurs who also run The Monterey and Barbaro. Get ready for extreme sensory overload, from the explosion of color in the decor to the explosion of flavor in every dish! Hot Joy is not for the faint of heart but for the daring palate.
Hot Joy actually started out as a pop-up restaurant on Monday nights when The Monterey was closed. Their Twice-Fried Chicken Wings made with Crab Fat Caramel is now the stuff of legends, and it's partly responsible for why they so quickly gained a loyal following. The next logical step was to find a permanent home, which they finally did. Now they've set up shop in what was once a Chinese restaurant oddly named China Latina.
Inside Hot Joy — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta
Hot Joy has managed to accomplish what China Latina never did, that is, provide this delightfully artsy and eclectic neighborhood with a fantastic Asian restaurant.
Chef Quealy Watson has an obsession with Asian food and a talent for combining ingredients in a surprisingly delicious way. "I would have never thought of that, but it really works," can often be heard around the tables at their restaurants.
"I like to have fun with [food] instead of keeping it real traditional. We like to play around a lot," explains Watson, whose love for and experimentation with Asian ingredients provided him with an exceptional palate for determining which flavors worked and which ones didn't.
Wok Fried Lamb Breast — Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta
The Crispy Pork Belly Tacos - made with a Malaysian flatbread, mole ssamjang, Kewpie and herbs - work. The Hot Fried Chicken made with chili oil, Szechuan peppercorn, sour chilies and oyster sauce works. Quite frankly, it all works.
There's not one dish on this menu that isn't worth trying, so let your own adventurous tastes decide. Watson's current favorite is the Wok Fried Lamb Breast with chilies and hummus.
Locals also love that Hot Joy stays open late. Not only do they have a little in-house bar, but a limited late-night menu, so it's the perfect place to grab a bite to eat after a bar hop or live performance at one of the neighborhood theaters, such as Jump-Start or Urban 15.
They offer, surprisingly, an extensive Riesling menu, which they claim goes exceptionally well with their "funky, hot, rowdy" food. Riesling or not, you must try one of their mixologist-designed cocktails, which are beautiful, scrumptious and outlandishly creative.
The "Night Call" comes with Blanco tequila, red bell pepper shrub, grapefruit and green Chartreuse. You might shrug at the shrub, thinking this is not gonna work, but again, it somehow does. The "Sure, Bert!" made with gin, orange sherbet, soda, citrus and Thai basil is an alcoholic dessert in a glass.
What else is there to say but "You're welcome!"?