Friday, February 27, 2009

Lan Zhou Noodles + North Dumplings (Chinatown megapost)

Lam zhou menu

Second Friday in a row I had to go to Brooklyn, not by choice of course, but because the first time I went, the FDNY refused to give me my certification of fitness (something about being an undergraduate student... pssh). So I went back, passed the certification exam, and got my card, which lets me stay in the lab by myself... unsupervised haha, worried yet? Of course it would be a complete waste of a trip if that was all I did...

Prior to going, I had planned out a meetup in Chinatown with Chris, Wayne, and Han... (some guy named Rich was noticably absent, claiming he needed to be in lab). So after my exam, I started my run from downtown Brooklyn to Chinatown. I don't want to dwell on the this topic, since it has nothing to do with food, but it was mid 50's weather, and the run across the Manhattan Bridge was actually ridiculously pleasant. Anyway, got to Chinatown way early, since the others couldn't leave until around noon, and just wandered around in circles, exploring the random streets for shops. I stopped by one of the many "Hong Kong Supermarkets" and picked up napa cabbage (7 pounds of it lol) and some tea leaves. To my surprise, upon checkout, I found a bottle of premium dark soy sauce and a small bag of cured tofu (豆腐趕) that I hadn't been charged for... another day, another 'friend.'

Come 12:30, I finally meet up with the guys and we head over to Lan Zhou Noodles, which has been receiving raves from pretty much every food blogger in NYC for the past month. Entering the restaurant, it has the same homely feel as Super Taste did, a couple benches on either side, and 3 or so tables... the bare minimum, check on the authenticity so far. In the far back, you could see the head chef going nuts on a piece of dough... twisting and beating it down on the metal counter top repeatedly (it's ridiculous that this was soon to become our noodles), and a couple women furiously filling dumplings with their pork and chive mix (they gotta work fast since as you can see from the menu... 50/$8... what a freakin' steal!). Being able to see the people who make your food... another plus one on the legitness scale. If you haven't noticed yet, I give big points not only on the quality of the food, but also how well it stacks up with true the true Asian way of serving said food, maybe this isn't fair, but hey... I want the real experience!

Duck noodle soup

Han, being an idiot, wants something that they're not even famous for... soup noodle with duck (鴨肉墨魚麵)

Beef tendon noodle soup

I never actually go traditional beef noodle soup unless the price for beef tendon is unreasonable (牛筋拉麵).

Beef noodle soup

Traditional beef noodle soup (牛肉麵)! The standby dish if you have no clue what to get in a noodle shop.

Pot stickers

And of course, the obligatory order of pot stickers (鍋貼) to share. Anyhow, the food was delicious (as expected) and I have to say, those other food bloggers aren't lying when they say it's a really good bowl of hand pulled noodles. Wayne and Chris had no qualms with the traditional bowl of beef soup noodles, in fact, Wayne went 100% authentic and added the pickled mustard greens (酸菜) in the spirit of things... what a trooper. I have no clue how Han's duck was, but since it's not even what they're known for, I won't let that weigh on the review. As for my bowl, even though I had to change my order (grrr... they said they didn't have enough tendon for an entire bowl) to the brisket, a pleasant surprise came to the table when my order was half brisket half tendon (半筋半肉) like they serve it in Taiwan! Yes... another 'friend' on the same day, what are the chances. In any case, the broth was nice and beefy, spicy enough after addition of Sriracha, and good enough for me to drain my entire bowl. The greens were the standard Shanghai greens, enough said there, and the brisket/tendon mixture offered a nice balance of chewy softness to crunchy that was a standout point for me at Super Taste... dare I say, an even more subtle balance? The noodles were indeed the star of the show, al dente in texture, but still soft and chewy enough to play around with in your mouth, which is more or less the qualifications of good hand pulled noodles. Indeed, this was an excellent bowl of noodles, which was on par with those at Super Taste (though Lan Zhou does get bonus points for using real bowls). In any case, this joint is something any noodle lover should check out, with my belief that their bowl is Super Taste's equal... in both value and flavor. Oh, and one last thing, while the noodles are the focal point of Lan Zhou, their fried dumplings are ridiculous... seriously, think juicy like soup dumplings (小龍包), but at the same time crispy... not to be skipped if you go!

North dumpling

After we had paid our bill at Lan Zhou, $21 dollars which left us all stuffed btw, I asked if the rest of the group wanted to get authentic scallion pancakes from a spot I spied during my hour wait (also a promise of minced pork noodles (炸醬麵) to Han). They, of course, said yes and we headed up Essex to North Dumpling, another one of those 5/$1 dumpling places. We weren't there for the dumplings though (not after the ecstasy that we experienced with Lan Zhou's... that would be like cheating), no, we were there for their scallion pancakes, priced at 2/$1, and their beef filled sesame pancake, which was fairly massive in size for $1.75. The rest of their menu is actually more of the same really, you could get any of a variety of dumplings either boiled or fried (with the option of cabbage instead of chives being pretty nice), as well as other noodle dishes priced reasonably similarly (nothing went above $5 here... winner). Did I mention they have hot soy milk (豆漿), another traditional Beijing delicacy? In fact, this is something they did really well, as they offered both the salty and sweet varieties.

炸醬麵 (Bean paste noodles)

We order up Han's noodles, another genuine steal at $2.50 for the massive plate you see in the picture.

assorted carbs

... and our order of assorted pancakes. To be honest, the pancakes weren't very authentic, at least not to what I know them as. In Asia, when I hear scallion pancakes, I think of something thin like a normal pancake, but deep fried to a golden brown, speckled throughout with diced scallions. Their version was a pillowy bun, more akin to a pork bun known as xian bing (餡餅) that was filled with scallions, vermicelli, and egg. It was good... but different. Their beef sesame pancake was more of the same, the pillowy bread, which I guess can be compared to an oily paratha(?), which was filled with thin slices of slow roasted beef (醬肉)... at least the meat was pretty legit I guess. The winner here was the noodles, which was both ridiculously cheap, and also reminiscent of the ones you get a streetside carts in Taipei. I actually think we made a mistake here... going into a place called Northern Dumpling and not getting dumplings, but still, it was cheap and good all the same. I'll recommend it on that basis alone, a Lincoln'll get you mighty far in this hole in the wall joint, but uh... if you go? get the noodles or the dumplings haha.


Post a Comment

oh snap. I can control the text here?