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Chinese Greens (formerly NY Noodletown)

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  • Dan Silverman Apr 6, 1999 09:51 AM
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I've just joined the chowhound pack and am a bit
surprised that I don't see any messages, reviews, etc.
about NY Noodle Town, located on the Bowery @ Bayard.
I've been going for years and I believe it's one of
the best cantonese spots on the Bowery, if not in the
whole area. What do you want? Congee, Noodle soup,
Roast meats--Baby pig at Noodle Town rules!! Any of
the specials on the laminated table cards are great--
any dish with flowering chives, any of the dishes with
black pepper sauce, etc. Casseroles too, esp. Roast
pig with oysters. Salt baked items can also be quite
good. Need a salt baked squid fix?? EAT HERE.
Although salt baked shrimp are now served without the
shells (why, I don't know), the salt baked flounder
can be sublime, and quite soon Salt Baked SS Crabs!!!
What do you other dogs thnk?
Oh yeah--the place is also open until 4 or 5AM...

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  1. they had the roast pig with oysters when you where
    there?! no fair, everytime I have tried to order it
    they didn't have it. I thought it was one of those
    things that was on the menu but never available, kind
    of like the sauteed watercress at the restaurant
    formerly known as Shing Kee.
    I have to go back and get that dish...

    22 Replies
    1. re: sarah

      "kind of like the sauteed watercress at the restaurant formerly known as Shing Kee."

      I know what you mean. They call it something else...I think it may be "water spinach". But be sure to order it with (off-menu) foo yee sauce, made from briny fermented bean curd. Their assorted mixed vegetables with foo yee is very good, too

      hey, you're hip enough to know the Shing (and their great watercress), so let me ask you:
      what's the big deal with Noodletown? Am i missing something?

      ciao

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Jim, I agree with you about NY Noodletown.

        I went there especially and tried different noodle
        dishes two times. I couldn't believe how bland, dried
        out and tasteless they were. My local Chinese
        takeout joint was much better. And the attitude of
        the people behind the counter did not help at all!

        Steve

        1. re: Steve

          Wonki, if you are reading this...the snow pea shoots
          at Tindo are excellent.I believe they are 10.95ish.
          Question for Jim or anyone else who frequents
          Tindo...I was there last week and saw someone eating
          what appeared to be a large fried crab. Two people
          were sharing. They did not know what it was? When I
          asked the waiter what it was I had trouble
          understanding him. From my vague description does
          anyone have an idea what that might have been?

          1. re: Jo

            they sell a LOT of lobster there...could that have been it? How myopic are you? (gg)

            1. re: Jim Leff

              Well,it definitely looked like a crab. It was large and
              looked fried. It reminded me of a large fried soft
              shell crab. They are not in season yet are they? Do
              you know the name of any crab dishes or lobster that I
              should order next time. I asked the couple what the
              name of the dish was and they did not know? Thanks for
              the help.By the way Jim, I went to Eva's in the Slope
              and it was delicious...2 for 2...thank you.

              1. re: Jo

                glad you liked Eva's. It's actually not as great as it was, will
                probably be removed from the next edition, but it's still very good

                ANY of the crab or lobster dishes are good. I like crab
                with black bean sauce or with ginger and scallion. For advice,
                only trust the manager, the woman with glasses who hangs downstairs. The other
                waiters will try to sell you whatever's most expensive (unless
                you get to know them....which is a good idea)

                ciao

        2. re: Jim Leff

          I have eaten at NY Noodle Town 2x. I found that the
          roast pork was pretty good, and any more roast pork
          that's not totally grey and dried out is a big find.
          The roast duck had a nice star anise flavor on the
          bones (I know this because I knaw). The portions are
          huge the noodle dishes come in something like a pie
          plate which for many people is the sign of a good
          noodle joint. Perhaps that would be the reason.?
          Like I said earlier they didn't have the supposed
          roast pork with oysters that I wanted and they didn't
          have another casserole dish I thought sounded good, so
          I ordered something at the waiters suggestion a
          casserole also with Chinese sausage I did not think it
          was very good. I never ordered any of those seafood
          dishes described above since I usually go for roast
          meats (even though I was tempted by the pork/oyster
          casserole which I thought might have been made with
          dried oysters, but I never got to find out) at noodle
          shops. So maybe those are really fantastic?
          By the way, about the restaurant formerly known as
          Shing kee...I have always thought the clams casserole
          there was outstanding, however lately I get annoyed at
          them because I try to order watercress (water spinach)
          they inevitably tell me it is out of season,
          watercress ot of season!? they don't have the mustard
          greens either and the last time they did have the
          watercress (post closing and re-opening under new
          name) it was swimming in a pool of grease. So I order
          what they are obviously trying to get me to order
          which is flowering chive shoots and/or baby bok choy
          or something of that ilk, which are great but of
          course twice the price and sometimes you just want
          what you want, if you know what I mean. I still think
          the clams casserole are good there, though last time I
          went not so great (the clams weren't so delicious and
          I was actually able to stop eating the sauce before it
          was completely gone). Are they better next door? Do
          they have them at Tindo, which I was excited to hear
          specializes in all those casseroles of which I am so
          fond.
          Sorry, didn't mean to go on about the whole Shing
          vegetable thing, it has just been annoying me of
          late...

          1. re: sarah

            "Sorry, didn't mean to go on about the whole Shing
            vegetable thing"

            Nah, we LOVE it when people "go on". It's people "going
            on" that make these boards such a riot!

            "Are they better next door?"

            Do ***NOT*** .........repeat........Do ***NOT*** go in
            the restaurant just north of the-former-Shing-Kee
            (which, for the record, is Kam Chueh...woops, I mean
            the GOOD one we're talking about is Kam Chueh).

            I won't get into potentially libelous statements here,
            but just trust me on this one.

            I know what you mean about the watercress. It's really
            hard to order there. I miss the old Shing, where I had
            my cadre of waiters who knew me and would set down
            plates of shrimp in black bean sauce, watercress foo
            yi, and salt and pepper squid without my even needing
            to order them. After Sam died, the whole staff changed.

            Do you have my book, by the way? I do a proper elegy to
            Shing Kee in my review of Kam Chueh.

            Tindo has tons of clam casseroles. As always, do the
            little green menu. In fact, at Tindo, only stray from
            this special menu if you really know what you're doing.
            There is Not-Good Food to be had on the regular menu...

            Ciao

            ps--I gnaw even maw.

            1. re: Jim Leff

              Right it's number 40. The good one. Yes.

              1. re: Jim Leff

                The Rest. Formerly Known as Shing Kee is now known as
                WK seafood Rest. The one next door (south) at 40 is
                Kam Chueh?

                1. re: sarah

                  no, no no!!!

                  Let's settle this EXTREMELY vital point right now.

                  The former Shing Kee started at 42 Bowery. They opened a second location one door south at #40. This branch gradually became the better one. Eventually #42 came under separate ownership (yes, it's called something like WK seafood Rest). I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS PLACE.

                  #40, Kam Chueh, is still pretty darned good...if difficult re: watercress, and is the sole descendent of The Shing.

                  To those of you still eating at #42: GO SOUTH!!

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Right! Wow that was rough. number 40 it is. NOT NUMBER
                    42.
                    Thank God we got that straight.

                2. re: Jim Leff
                  s
                  Suzy Sunshine

                  "In fact, at Tindo, only stray from
                  this special menu if you really know what you're doing.
                  There is Not-Good Food to be had on the regular
                  menu..."

                  You know, they only started giving me the special menu
                  (in English) after I broke down and mentioned I knew
                  you. (I *had* to!) Then all the waiters started
                  treating me nicer, too.

                  So I've ordered several times off the regular menu, and
                  I haven't found anything that isn't delicious.

                  1. re: Suzy Sunshine

                    "I broke down and mentioned I knew you"

                    uh....DO I? Know you?

              2. re: Jim Leff

                Not to shoot a dead horse...Jim How do you get them to
                give you the watercress at all let alone with the fab
                sce?

                1. re: sarah

                  Just don't take "no" for an answer. Start by asking for
                  watercress. When they respond with feigned non-
                  comprehension (c'mon, they know from watercress...),
                  flip to water spinach. In general, be so insistent and
                  persistent that it's easier for them to simply bring
                  you the stuff than to waste any more time with you.

                  My model in such things is Bugs Bunny. "A ride?? I'd
                  love to go for a ride!! Where are we gonna ride to?!?",
                  etc etc. Wear 'em down.

                  The foo yee part is easy (I'm surprised you don't know
                  it...it's a classic serious Shing order), and the mere
                  mention of these magic words brands you as somewhat of
                  a Cantonese insider. It's almost as much of an "inside"
                  order as Horlick's or Ovaltine.

                  Ciao

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Thanks! I can't believe I've never had it either.
                    Where have I been all these years?

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      So are we talking about watercress or water spinach
                      (kam kung?) with the fermented bean curd? Both are
                      great but they are quite different in appearance and
                      texture
                      As I recall, when we fell in love with sauteed
                      watercress it was almost always served with the bean
                      curd. Now, its more usually offered simply sauteed
                      with garlic. Is this an example of dumbing down the
                      cooking for westerners?
                      In the same vein, It used to be that when we had salt
                      baked squid it was routinely served with a dish of
                      some sort of spicy, funky fermented fish paste dipping
                      sauce. Perfect. As the dish has become ubiquitous,
                      the sauce disappeared. Any clue on the insider's term
                      for this condiment?? thanks!!

                      1. re: jen kalb
                        t
                        Tom Armitage

                        There seems to be a simple solution for ordering
                        watercress at Cantonese restaurants. Order it by its
                        Cantonese name, not its American name. Which raises
                        the question: what is the Cantonese name for
                        watercress?

                        1. re: Tom Armitage

                          It still seems that that won't solve the problem of
                          the waiters telling you that it is OUT OF SEASON. I
                          mean really. We all know it isn't. Right?

                        2. re: jen kalb

                          "So are we talking about watercress or water spinach
                          (kam kung?) with the fermented bean curd? "

                          We're talking relative expression, not absolute, Jen.
                          What Kam Chueh calls water spinach amounts to
                          watercress, if I'm not mistaken (obviously, the
                          vegetable is sorta elusive so it's hard to say anything
                          fer sure).

                          In any case, almost ANY vegetable is good with foo yee
                          (which is, as I think you realize, simply a sauce, not
                          cubes of fermented "stinky" tofu) except real delicate-
                          flavored ones like flowering chives, snow pea leaves
                          and the various baby vegetables. And you're right; this
                          sauce is seldom served to outsiders...it's rare to even
                          find it on a menu. Nonetheless, it's definitely just an
                          option; it's perfectly non-gringo to sautee veg's just
                          with garlic, too.

                          "a dish of some sort of spicy, funky fermented fish
                          paste dipping sauce. Perfect. As the dish has become
                          ubiquitous, the sauce disappeared. Any clue on the
                          insider's term for this condiment?? "

                          I believe the technical term is "spicy, funky fermented
                          fish paste dipping
                          sauce"

                          Hey, you getting my emails, Jen?
                          Ciao

                    2. re: Jim Leff
                      f
                      Frank Language

                      Re: "what's the big deal with Noodletown? Am i missing
                      something?"

                      Blame it on Bob Fass' girlfriend; apparently she went
                      to China and on her return reported that Noodletown
                      (pre-renovation, and no "NY") had *the* most authentic
                      Chinese food she'd ever tasted. This I heard from Linda
                      Twigg (friends with both Bob Fass - WBAI radio
                      personality - and his girlfriend; Linda would go there
                      and always order the same thing - which she never
                      disclosed to me. Then she died (of causes not related
                      to Noodletown), carrying the name of the secret dish to
                      her grave. C'est la vie.

                  2. I keep trying and trying, and I can't for the life of me understand what all the fuss is about this place. It smells bad, the people are awful, and the food (though I haven't tried much of it) seems low average. But lots of otherwise smart people like it, so either it's mass dementia (like the tulip frenzy) or I'm missing something...maybe I'll give 'em one last chance.

                    Also, which other chinatown places have you tried?

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      jim and sarah,

                      read all your posts about the water spinach,
                      watercress, etc. so i just had to respond. if you guys
                      like that stuff, have you ever had sauteed snow pea
                      greens, aka snow pea shoots, aka snow pea stems, and
                      who knows what else? that stuff is awesome! and imho
                      much better than watercress, water spinach, etc.
                      (although i must admit i've never had it with that fee
                      fi fo fum sauce or whatever it was i can't really
                      remember ;-)). anyways, snow pea shoots aren't quite
                      as bitter as watercress or as tough, they're a bit
                      sweeter but still subtly bitter, kind of like a cross
                      between watercress and regular spinach, although it
                      doesn't leave that feeling in your mouth after eating
                      spinach like you just got sandpapered in your mouth
                      (know what i'm talking about?) i simply love that
                      stuff and it goes so well with other chinese food that
                      you have to get it with every meal (when you can). the
                      preparation is simple, sauteed in lots of garlic and
                      oil (or perhaps chicken broth). the problem, and i
                      guess it's the same as the water spinach, is getting
                      it. you can try first by saying all of the
                      aforementioned versions of stems, shoots, greens etc.
                      attached to snow peas, and if that invariably fails,
                      you can fake the cantonese like i do, and say "dooohmg
                      yao" (in the first word, it's a long "o" as in "oreo"
                      and put lots of emphasis on the first word.) i guess
                      it'd be easier if you heard it but that's just about
                      the best I can do unless you want to call me, or
                      better yet, ask a friend who speaks cantonese.
                      unfortunately i believe it's a seasonal item and when
                      available can be quite expensive, about $13 in
                      chinatown probably and speculatively $36 at joe's
                      shanghai midtown (sorry about that, couldn't resist
                      :-) ). another thing is i haven't had really good snow
                      pea greens in manhattan yet and would love to hear if
                      anyone knows of places that do it right. take care
                      all.

                      wonki

                      1. re: wonki

                        You're preaching to the converted, Wonki...this has long been my
                        favorite vegetable. It used to be an off-menu insider order, but
                        the secret's out. Ollie's Noodle Shop has 'em prominently
                        on the menu, and even Ruth Reichl mentioned them a couple of
                        weeks ago.

                        You'd NEVER order 'em with foo yee, the fermented bean curd
                        sauce, however. They're far too delicate a flavor. Just
                        garlic and oil and nothing more.
                        Didn't know you were trendy, DID you? : )

                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          The dish I will return over and over again to Fuleen
                          Seafood Rest (Division Street) for is the pea leaves
                          with, I think, three egg sauce on their special menu.
                          Its a soupy, absolutely luscious dish, if you like the
                          preserved eggs. Since the pea greens are so fragile &
                          seasonal, they serve other greens in the sauce as
                          well. Perhaps this is similar to Ping's offering.

                        2. re: wonki

                          oh, forgot...it's best to order these things by name (same for watercress,
                          as someone piped up, but I don't know how to say it in cantonese).

                          Snow pea pod leaves are "dow myoo". Or something close (perhaps
                          someone can correct me if I'm slightly off).

                          They're great at kam chueh, also tindo. The version at Ping's
                          on queens blvd uses egg, which is interesting. They don't
                          make a great version with just garlic and oil, however.
                          ciao

                          1. re: jim leff
                            c
                            Christine Bridges

                            Haven't checked in lately, but saw the many comments
                            and questions about some of the wonderful Chinese
                            greens that are such a complement to any meal in
                            Chinatown. In case anyone still is interested:

                            "Watercress" is sai yun choy (don't know if that's the
                            right Anglicized spelling, but that's close to the
                            Cantonese pronunciation--this goes for the following
                            too) It's really nice in a soup, too-- sai yun choy
                            tong.

                            "Water Spinach" is ong choy. It is not watercress.
                            This vegetable has arrowhead-shaped green leaves and a
                            tender hollow stem. One of my very
                            favorites...especially with foo yee, the fermented bean
                            curd sauce. I believe it's some relative of the
                            morning glory plant.

                            "Snow Pea Shoots" are, as someone correctly stated,
                            pronounced dow myooh.

                            I have never had a problem being served any of these,
                            as long as I ordered them using the Cantonese names.

                            Chris

                            1. re: Christine Bridges

                              thanks so much for the awesome message, christine!!
                              Any fave places for ordering this stuff?

                              I was just thinking...isn't it weird that Chinatown
                              waiters suddenly get much more English-fluent when you
                              order expensive stuff? There's rarely a problem with
                              ordering, say "flowering chives with crab", and I've
                              never once met a Chinatown waiter who furrowed his brow
                              at the word "lobster"!

                              ciao

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                c
                                Christine Bridges

                                Oh yeah, and I forgot someone also had wanted to know
                                the name of that funky, pungent, fishy condiment
                                sometimes served on the side of certain seafood
                                dishes. I think they were thinking of "hom har" or
                                salted shrimp paste. I used to have that served to me
                                with stir-fried conch.

                                >Any fave places for ordering this stuff?

                                My problem is that my Chinatown heyday was about 20
                                years ago, and all my favorite places are gone or
                                changed. I fondly remember Mon Sing, Sun Hop Kee, and
                                Canton Restaurant. Canton is still there, but I
                                understand from knowledgeable friends that it is
                                overpriced now and lacking in variety--it seems to be
                                catering to the semi-sophisticated Caucasian taste.
                                In its day, Canton was, I think, the best there was.
                                But that was then, and this is now....

                                Hop Shing (is it Bowery or East Broadway--it's in that
                                "five corners" area) is a grungy kind of place you
                                probably wouldn't take your mother to, but it has been
                                serving reliably good Cantonese food for a long time.

                                I have also had very good Cantonese food at Tai Hung
                                Lau on Mott Street, but I don't know how it is on
                                consistency.

                                Everybody is into the Shanghai places now, and that
                                food is good, but in my book you can't beat excellent
                                Cantonese cooking.

                                Chris

                                1. re: Christine Bridges

                                  thanks for giving me a name for the fishy sauce - I
                                  will try asking for it next time I order salt baked
                                  squid or sauteed conch at Fuleen Seafood Rest., Sun
                                  Golden Island, Tindo, First Taste, etc.

                                2. re: Jim Leff

                                  Thank you one and all for introducing me to a
                                  wonderful new dish. Last night we went for major
                                  feasting at our favorite Chinese, the Siam Cafe, (yes,
                                  I know the name isn't Chinese; they also have Thai and
                                  Vietnamese but their Cantonese is the best), in
                                  Cleveland. We almost always order pea leaves or choy
                                  sum with garlic, but last night I tried the ong choi
                                  foo yee style. We loved it, especially nice were the
                                  fine shredlings of ginger for punctuation. Another new
                                  addition to our repetoire was short ribs with black
                                  pepper sauce. Outstanding meltingly tender peppered
                                  slices of shortribs. This was my first foray into the
                                  mysterious,("What's in that pot?"), casserole
                                  category; plan to try many more. Also had familiar
                                  dishes such as shrimp won ton-noodle soup, Lobster
                                  with ginger-scallion. Observed some families trying an
                                  unfamiliar (to me), noodle dish and discovered it is a
                                  traditional home style preparation listed on the menu
                                  as noodle with bean sprout. Will have to give it a go
                                  next time. Thanks again for the tremendous tip.
                                  Heidi

                                  1. re: Heidi

                                    Heidi, delighted that your orders worked out for you. That's what we're all here for...to try to eat better. Find the good stuff, etc.

                                    ciao

                            2. re: wonki

                              I know all about the snow pea shoots too. Aren't they
                              great? They seem to have them a lot when they are in
                              season and I have always had them simply sauteed with
                              garlic and oil and stock as you mentioned...YUM. We
                              love them...

                              1. re: sarah

                                "They seem to have them a lot when they are in season"

                                ...and they're in season most of the time nowadays, doubtless to meet mushrooming demand. I can't remember where, but I actually saw 'em on a non-Sino menu recently.

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  Wow. Really, like Wonki, I didn't know that people
                                  were hip to the whole snow pea greens thing. OK. Let
                                  me toss in an additional question: in the past there
                                  have been those times when we'd go to a Chinese
                                  restaurant and upon learning that the snow pea greens
                                  were out of season, we would order something called
                                  "Hong Chai." Like Wonki, I'm Korean so I know that
                                  "Hong" is Mandarin for red. I'm not sure what the
                                  "chai" means. But in any case, both Hong Chai and
                                  Snow Pea greens are prepared the same way: ultra high
                                  heat, garlic, oil and stock. Does anyone tell me what
                                  hong chai is? I am pretty sure they are not
                                  watercress or waterspinach or water--anything. They
                                  were about the same color as the snow pea greens but
                                  the stems of each leaf were very thin-- the whole leaf
                                  was very tender, and pleasant to the taste even for
                                  carnivores like me (see related follow-up in defense
                                  of Spam).

                                  Michael Yu

                                2. re: sarah
                                  j
                                  Judy Fireman

                                  When did Noodletown change its name? I was there last
                                  week and I think the sign still said Noodletown.

                                3. re: wonki

                                  I had great!! snow pea greens at Goody's at 1 East
                                  Broadway last night. Only $11.95 and stir fried in
                                  garlic sauce. They also have their famous soup
                                  dumplings for only $2.00 through the end of April.

                              2. Hey Steve what the hell are you talking about. Have
                                you ever been there. Hey try the soft shell crabs
                                when they are in season they are the best. I don't
                                know where you have been but it can't be as good as NY
                                Noodle Town. Those other Sing Kee or what over are
                                nothing compared to Noodletown. Get the HELL out of
                                here. Hey go listen to linda she says thatit is the
                                best and it is the best. Hey let me ask you a
                                question are you a food critique. How would you know
                                about food. Did you know that the New York times.
                                that right the New York Times gave them 2 stars. The
                                other rest. can step aside. Only 2 other rest. have
                                stars. Do yours have it. NO. Hey i'm not saying that
                                the other sucks but you have to try the food. It is
                                real 100% authentic Chinese cruisen. It is not
                                Chicken with Broocoli buddy it is like pea shoot with
                                shredded ducks. Now thats a dish i always eat (if it
                                is in season of course) Hey try that next time and
                                tell me how you still think OK.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Joe

                                  Hey Joe - while we encourage difference of opinions,
                                  there is no need to personally attack people who have
                                  different viewpoints than yours.

                                  What gives you the right to tell them to " get the
                                  HELL out of here"? And I would ask you the same
                                  question - are you a food critic, and what do YOU
                                  know about food? I would venture to guess the answer
                                  is negative on both counts, since you seem to rely on
                                  whether a place gets stars from the NY Times to be
                                  considered good. The Times is NOT the only arbiter of
                                  good food around here. Some of the stuff discussed
                                  around here are below the radar of the NY Times, but
                                  these places have as much legitimacy as those featured
                                  by the Times.

                                  This has always been (with a few exceptions) a very
                                  civilized and generous community of posters. Your
                                  boorish attitude is not welcome here.

                                  1. re: Joe

                                    Another happy Noodletown devotee. I rest my case.