I realize that Chinatown Express has been reported upon extensively in this forum, but I thought I would post my own experience anyway:
I observed the noodle chef practice his craft for about twenty minutes, and my puny brain still cant quite fathom how hes able to coax a dozen noodles into formation just by slinging a thick rope of dough around.
Although, Chinatown Express offers an extensive menu of largely typical Chinese restaurant fare, they helpfully list their specialties on a separate page posted near each table.
We started off with the Steamed Pork Bun ($4.50), which is actually a steamer of eight Shanghai soup dumplings, pinched doughy purses hiding a ball of leek with pork and a sip of soup broth. The dumpling skin was as thick, fresh, and doughy as it appeared, and the pork inside was tasty. However, the soup broth was, at least in a majority of the dumplings, barely in evidence. We had previously tried soup dumplings in New York at Joes Shanghai, and we literally had to eat each dumpling in one bite to avoid broth run-off. But, this was hardly a problem at Chinatown Express. They were delicious nonetheless, and my favorite sweater probably benefited from not having to contend with hot broth flying all over the place. Incidentally, New York magazine offers the following explanation as to how soup dumpling purveyors get the soup inside the dumpling:
They thicken it with gelatin and put it in solid. Then, when the dumplings are steamed, voila: soup!
We also ordered the Fresh Noodle Made on the Spot fried with slices of beef ($4.95). Unfortunately, the beef was not all that appealing, and we realized that we should have simply ordered the noodles with vegetables. I imagine that some diners might pair a sampler plate of roast meats with the noodles instead. Still, it was easy enough to put the slices of beef aside and concentrate on the thick, doughy noodles mixed with bean sprouts and slivers of carrot. The best part about these house-made noodles is the inconsistency of noodle thickness- some noodles were relatively slender and dainty, while others were wonderfully malformed, thick and bumpy at one end and thin at the other.
Of course, we had to have some vegetables, and the Sauteed Green Leaf with Garlic ($9.95) sated our jones for greens. Rather than deploying thin slivers of garlic, Chinatown Express has simply mashed whole cloves of garlic into halves and thirds and interspersed them amongst the greens. Be sure to pour the garlicky liquor from the greens over the rice.
And special mention must be made of the two house-made tableside condiments. One jar contains a fragrant oil and vinegary mince of ginger and scallions, which I practically ate in straight doses, while the other offered pickled slivers of garlic, which should be used sparingly.
Next time, I hope to try the Pigs Belly with Preserved Mustard Green Casserole ($10.95), but Im probably too timid to ever have a go at the Eggplant with Salt Fish Casserole ($11.95).
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