I'm so bored by Chinese menus that all look alike--American!! I'm tired of promising skeptical waiters that I'll down each and every drop of the Pork with Thousand Year Egg congee, if only they'll serve it to me! That I KNOW Chinese Bacon is fatty--but--yes--I DO choose to die young!
If you share this food rage, you might want to head directly to the Canal Street end of Baxter Street--where, two weeks ago, my sister and I finally had the chance to try Marco Polo Noodle Shop (94 Baxter, to be exact,) having passed it many times on our way to somewhere else.
This is a non-frantic noodle house with variety that you don't often get. Rather than waffle on about the place in general, I'm first going to list some of the more unusual dishes. Tho' you CAN always choose the "evergreens," if you wish. (Those were good, too.)
"Beef with Salted Turnip Noodle Soup"
"Slice Pork with Salted Fish"
"Slice Pork with Fermented Bean Curd & pepper Sauce"
"Chinese Style Turkey & Duck Liver Sausage"
"Slice Pork with Preserved Mustard Greens"
"Country Style Salted chicken"
"Steamed Minced Pork with Salted Egg"
"Beef and Pork Belly Congee"
"Beef Tripe with Noodles"
"Frog and Chinese Mushroom"
And then, there are also all the old favorites for those who find the above makes them squeamish--which I confess, occasionally, I am! I do not eat Frog for instance--which is strewn around this menu with merry abandon.
For our own meal, we started with the most spectacular steamed mushroon and pork dumpling soup--I've never had better ingredients. Everything was fresh with its own individual flavor--not the typical congealed mushy texture. The dumpling wrapper was silken. Even the broth was unusually tasty.
For our main course, we shared steamed pork (chopped into patties) with salted egg (outstanding-and not TOO salty) and a more mundane order of fresh jumbo prawns in lobster sauce (also outstanding.) I only wish I could have eaten more. Every sizzling order that was brought out to other tables was a dish you'd want to shanghai onto yours. Behind us, a group was about to make a whole sea bass, in garlic and ginger, disappear. Yum....I would have liked to help out that magic act!
The menu gives you a large choice of buns, congee, lanchou style fresh made noodles or flat noodle, mini rice casseroles, cold meat dishes, hot meat dishes, House Specials, cantoneese noodles soups, fresh fish, steamed stuff, roasted stuff, boiled stuff, ad infinitum. You just decide on your basics: rice or noodles--and look for your favorite main toppers. And plenty for vegetarians, too. Chinese vegetables with garlic sauce, oyster sauce, etc.
Prices are low! From $3.00 for the congees, about $4.25 for the cantonese noodle soups, $4.50-5.50 for the noodle plate dishes, etc. A few dollars more for the shrimp and, of course, the fresh fish is the most costly.
Four great condiments are on every table--hot chili paste sauce, a delicious fermented soy-type sauce, red vinegar and white rice vinegar. I kept soaking my rice in all these flavors!
The waiters were sweet. They asked if we knew what the steamed pork dish with egg was--and when we said "yes," they smiled and seemed happy that we were trying something different. They stopped to explain some of the other dishes we queried. We told them we'd be back to try them all.
The quickest subway route to Marco Polo would be to get off at Canal Street (where the N and the R stop. (I'm not a subway expert--I know only my own route.)
Please send any reports you may have on this restaurant--I'm anxious to see if other chowhounds have tried Marco Polo--and liked it! I'm not sure why this little gem has stayed undiscovered--except perhaps for the fact that it's not in "the line of fire" on the usual Mott, Canal, Bayard circuit!!