New York Chowhounds are having something of a Henan moment. Promising specialists in the cuisine of this central Chinese province have surfaced from Flushing to Manhattan and, most recently, at Uncle Zhou in Elmhurst, Queens.
Most of the talk so far has been about fresh noodles, hand-pulled or knife-shaved, in superior soups. Joe MacBu raves about pleasingly chewy knife-shaved noodles served with tender beef in a bright, balanced, spicy broth that gets a citrusy note from fresh Sichuan pepper; "the má là quality was refined and not something I wanted to ruin by adding anything, including chili oil. It's my new favorite bowl of noodles." Lamb mixed hand-drawn noodles come in a deeply lamby, lightly spiced soup. The same wide, hand-pulled noodles turn up in big tray chicken, a regional specialty popular at the Henan restaurants in Flushing and Manhattan Chinatown.
A few doors down from Uncle Zhou is Lao Bei Fang, a longtime dumpling destination that moved last year from smaller quarters around the corner. Its old digs were soon occupied by new owners who opened a rival shop called Lao Kou Wei. Hounds still love Lao Bei Fang's gracious owners and are glad to see them thriving in their higher-traffic new location on Broadway, where they've expanded the menu with small plates like garlic cucumbers and smoked tofu with celery.
As for the dumplings, however, the scrappy challenger is getting props. tokimoki says Lao Kou Wei's are cheaper and served hot and straight from giant woks, never sitting around under heat lamps as they do at, uh, other places. Joe MacBu, who's recently sampled dumplings from both shops, agrees: "The ones at Lao Kou Wei have a more tender wrapper – Lao Bei Fang's are drier and unpleasantly chewy." "I used to be their biggest fanboy!" confesses diprey11, a longtime fan of the beef noodle soup, who was unpleasantly surprised last time by mushy noodles. "Bad luck, maybe?"
Uncle Zhou [Elmhurst]
83-29 Broadway (near Dongan Avenue), Elmhurst, Queens
Lao Bei Fang [Elmhurst]
83-05 Broadway (near Whitney Avenue), Elmhurst, Queens
Lao Kou Wei [Elmhurst]
86-08 Whitney Avenue (near 43rd Avenue), Elmhurst, Queens