I can think of no better introduction to my Foodie adventures than with a declaration of what I believe to be the single greatest restaurant in the United States; the Great NY Noodle Town. This Cantonese gem of Chinatown was once one of New York’s best kept secrets. But being the Mecca of Chinese restaurants for self-proclaimed Foodies, government elite, glitzy celebrities, and snooty locals alike, the wonders of the Great NY Noodle Town are quickly becoming more widely known. Unfortunately, this means you will typically have to wait in line. But no worries, the queue moves quickly and it is certainly worth the wait. It is also important to note that this is real Chinese food... Chinese food like you (probably) have never experienced before. They do not serve Mongolian Beef or Kung Pao Chicken, so spare yourself the embarrassment and don’t ask…
With the gusto of a lion examining his pride, I enter the neon-lighted doorway of my favorite eatery and scan the dining room in hopes of making eye contact with a waiter. Once our eyes meet, the connection is made. I raise my hand, four fingers extended: the Ross Family has arrived. As we sit down, we fool ourselves by scrutinizing the menu; what a silly charade. We have no need for a menu. The four of us have a standing order at Noodle Town that encompasses a spectacularly balanced variety of the most mouth-watering offerings of this renowned Foodie paradise.
Winter, spring, summer, and fall; regardless of the temperature or the season, the meal must always begin with a piping hot bowl of roast pork wonton soup. The handmade wontons are tenderly stuffed with plump shrimp and perfectly complimented with a hint of ginger. The broth is rich and flavorful with a taste that is evident of hours of work and decades of experience. The bowl is crowned with a generous portion of decadently succulent char sui that is, of course, expertly roasted in house and chopped to order. The vegetable dishes are next: sautéed pea shoots with garlic, steamed Chinese broccoli stems and leaves with pungent oyster sauce, and Chinese eggplant in a savory (NOT sweet!) garlic sauce. I cannot possibly explain the flavors occurring in these oriental treats other than to say that you will never be able to eat a humble vegetable in your life without going back in time and savoring this moment. Next comes the subject of salt-bakes. The question is not whether to order the perfectly fried seafood morsels; rather it is a debate between Mom and Dad’s choice, salt-baked shrimp, versus my personal favorite, salt-baked squid. Alex loves them both and has been known to stealthily eat the last shrimp/squid slice on the plate without asking permission, so you would be well advised to forget your good-manners in addition to any regard for pain and consume as many sizzling pieces as possible while you have the chance. All of NY Noodle Town’s salt-bakes are flawlessly fried and served with thinly sliced hot peppers. The heat from the peppers melds with the saltiness of the fish to provide a deep-fried experience so rich and rewarding that you’ll consider it sinful. If soft-shell crabs are in season, go with them and forget the shrimp/squid, it is a sacrifice worth making for this rare treat. By this time, Alex is enjoying the most brilliant Sweet and Sour Chicken known to mankind. Noodle Town prepares this dish using a homemade sauce that packs a vinegary punch with a nursing sweetness that makes eating more than one of the crispy, sheet-like pieces of white meat chicken an irresistible temptation. Pace yourself because the climax of the meal is imminently approaching. Every single offering served up at NY Noodle Town will make your toes curl with pleasure, but nothing brings me closer to tears than their famous Ginger and Scallion Lobster. Noodle Town’s master chefs utilize a seemingly illicit medley of wok-sorcery paired with an ancient Chinese understanding of flavor combinations to take a simple crustacean and transform it into an intoxicatingly scrumptious shellfish banquet. The entrée casts a spell that will mesmerize you even after the last chunk of glorious lobster is long gone. What may seem like an institutionalized man’s way of combating separation anxiety, I end the meal by chewing on the empty lobster shell fragments to fully savor the dish’s magnificent sauce. It only gets worse when the waiter removes the plates from the table, returning with ice cold orange slices to cleanse the palate. They are refreshing, but by no means adequate substitutes for the copious amounts of Chinese soul food in which you just indulged. With this, the symphony that is dining at the Great NY Noodle Town is complete. I’d like to be cliché and say that you will have sweet dreams later in the evening but the truth is you will probably be lying in bed later; fervently craving one last wonton or a fragment of salt-baked squid. I’m just warning you in advance.
The Great NY Noodle Town is located at 28½ Bowery Street between Canal and Bayard, across from the Manhattan Bridge. They serve up the best Chinese food outside of China from 9 AM to 4 AM (yes, that's eighteen hours a day, seven days a week~) and can be reached at (212) 349-0923. Our favorite server is Bonzai, but once you get to know the waiters, they are all pleasant. Prices are extremely reasonable, so go hungry! It's a meal worth the life-long addiction...
*A version of this article was published on worldlyeats.blogspot.com on November 1, 2008
Great Ny Noodle Town
28 Bowery, New York, NY 10013