There's something about coming across a small, nondescript restaurant in a somewhat grody part of East Chinatown that makes my heart go all a-flutter. With happiness—not cardiovascular disease. It's that burst of wonder mixed with excitement, like when a five-year old meets Mickey Mouse for the first time, unless he's scared of people in ginormous costumes, in which case he'll probably cry and make a scene. Those are the kinds of kids who should just stay home.
Nam Zhou is one of those small, somewhat nondescript restaurants. Although the street may look grody, the restaurant is less so. It may not sparkle, but it's clean enough, brightly lit, and lacks the tacky decorations that plague many Chinese restaurants. Nick and I came for two things: hand-pulled noodles and handmade dumplings. Not that we had other choices—that's pretty much all they make.
You can order hand-pulled noodles in soup with beef, beef brisket, beef trip, lamb, pork chop, or dry noodles with minced pork sauce. Dumplings only come in the classic pork and chives (my favorite), boiled or fried. There was also an entirely Chinese menu, probably with more choices than what was on the English version. If only I could read Chinese; then I'd be able to read those elusive secret Chinese menus. That, and communicate with millions more people around the world. (I bet a lot of those people know English though. I'll keep to my useless monolingual path.)
Nick and I each got our own bowl of beef brisket noodle soup, which came with huge chunks of tender stewed beef, bok choy leaves, and chopped green onions in a spicy, meaty, aromatic broth.
AND NOODLES! DUH! Check out those noods. Super long, round, slightly chewy, medium-thick strands of wheat noodles. They sometimes varied in thickness—unavoidable when created by the dough-slapping power of one trained noodle-making man—but were mostly uniform. Although I prefer springier or more al dente noodles/pastas than these handmade noodles, I would count this as one of my favorite Chinese noodle dishes (most of which are rice noodle-based).
Fried pork and chive dumplings were thin skinned, crispy on the bottom, and well stuffed with juicy porkness. Can't go wrong there. It also comes in a nifty wine grape-themed plate.
Final damage for each of us: $7 (with tip). $4.50 for each bowl of noodles, $2.50 for the plate of dumplings. There are no losers here—only winners. I'll definitely be back.
While walking back to the subway station, the sign for Hon Cafe caught my eye. On the left was Kathy's review for their tiger roll! Sweeet!
I did end up trying a tiger roll at Kathy's recommendation, but also a taro cake since it looked appealing. Sadly, it was a big fat fail, possibly because the cake had gone semi-stale at that point, or maybe it would've sucked from the first place. What looked like a light mousse had congealed into something kind of marshmallow-y and jello-y and developed an outer shield of elastic skin. What...the...no.
On my previous visit to Hon Cafe (the one where Kathy tries her tiger roll), I had another bad experience with their pudding cake, which barely fulfilled either part of its name. The cake was dry, seemingly halfway to being cookie matter, and the "pudding" was just the smallest dab of a semi-solid whipped cream-like substance. As far as I could tell, there was no pudding nor cake in that pudding cake. 'Twas a "pudding" "cake."
But the tiger roll is fine. I think I just have bad luck when I go there.
144 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
70 Mott St
New York, NY 10013