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Jury duty report (NY Noodletown)

  • j

Well, after all that, I was not selected for any of the Grand Jury's they created today. And there I was with all my Chowhound print-outs: Forlini's, NY Noodletown, Kitchenette, Wo Hop and more. I looked around the courtroom for a chowhound-looking face to give them away to but found none. It was 11:30 and I wasn't hungry yet but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try a new place. So I strolled over to NY Noodletown right on the corner of Bowey and Bayard and thanks to Chowhound knew exactly what to order: Lo Mein with ginger and scallion and Salt-Baked squid. The lo mein was great, the ginger in fine julienne and the scallion peeled into wide thin strips. The only thing I didn't like was the taste of the noodle when no ginger or scallion was on it. I dunno it tasted a little funky, I can't describe it. The salt-baked squid was actually lightly fried and came with these little thinly sliced green pepper that added just the right amount of heat. (Anyone know what that pepper is?). The squid was delicious.

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  1. I always ask for salt-baked cuddlefish, which I was nce told is different from the squid. I don't think its on the menu, but they have never said anything (or even blinked twice) when I order it. At NT, I also enjoy the "wide noodles with vegetables and Chinese mushrooms." Sometimes I find it helpful there to sit in such a way that I can't see into the kitchen...if you know what I mean.

    22 Replies
    1. re: Zephyr
      j
      Jessica Shatan

      Thanks! I did see what looked like miniature squid in the window (they were maybe 8 inches long and I thought squid were bigger), maybe that's cuttlefish?
      I saw some bowls of wide noodles go by and they looked really good.
      I'm not too squeamish about those kitchens, it's the smell of some of those chinatown streets . . . but the smell when you walk into NT is really yummy and it was nice and light and airy and clean feeling inside.

      1. re: Jessica Shatan

        Ahhh -- another fellow hound finds noodletown, our fave place in nyc at 3 a.m...
        the green pepper rings are jalapeno, and perfect. their beef with flowering chives is a symphony -- and any of their soups with those ethereal handmade dumplings (dough so translucent you can see what's inside) will make your soar.
        And there's nothing like their congee to warm your soul on a cold, blustery winter's night.

        1. re: lydia

          and there are those lines and that rushed and cramped atmosphere that makes me run the other way, sorry.

          Its always been that way in Chinatown, "we" all crowd into a few places, like Wo Hop, Joes Shanghai and Noodletown. With this army of chowhounds, surely we can identify a bigger variety of choices, suss out and publicize some new gems (Im sure they are there) and avoid the loss of another Tindo.

          1. re: jen kalb

            To Lydia and Jessica - Im thinking my response to your enthusiastic posts was a bit harsh - it seems to me that its worth treading the well trodden paths to get a sense of what's out there,to build our confidence with an unfamiliar cuisine and to have a standard of comparison (good or bad).

            I am positively thrilled that Chowhound is here to broaden our exposure from the generally frequented and critically-anointed restaurants to less obvious choices. Also to help us differentiate between the deservedly-popular spots serving delicious food and the places that serve unexciting fare to crowds of tourists and other anglos.

            May I humbly suggest that "we" get over our instincts to shun places where everyone has black hair and seek them out instead? That's how we've always found and will find the best food in Chinatown.

            1. re: jen kalb

              I'll exacerbate your rant, Jen

              I don't like Noodletown. I think it's been overhyped by lazy food writers (the ones who never find the really good places, the Tindos) because it's on that high-traffic "stop-the-cab" corner of a major avenue. And the service is over-the-top nasty (because the staff has been abraded by decades of imperious stop-the-cab clientele).

              For those of you who like it, I'm not ridiculing your taste. It's better than 99.5% of the chinese food in this country. And the food is decent, you're not foolish at all to like it. So please don't be offended.

              But there's better. There has always been better. There will always be better. Yet Noodletown remains cramped with those diners who are unwilling to go explore....while the good places meanwhile suffer from lack of business.

              So if you frequent Noodletown, let me try to incite some chowhoundish thirst for exploration. Chinatown is not Greenwich Village or the Upper West Side...there is still lots of undiscovered treasure. Start with some of the tips you read on this board, but mostly just go find stuff. And report back. Be chowhounds! Let's blanket this nabe and compare note...there are certainly enough of us here to do a thorough job (we've done it with pork buns last week, lord knows). Let's be more ambitious. Let's find the current Tindo. It's out there, trust me.

              ciao

              1. re: Jim Leff

                I only have been to NY Noodletown once, and that was recently - its location and # of write-ups made me nervous long before I ever heard of Chowhound BUT the day I was there (for a late post-courthouse lunch), 2 out of 3 dishes (can't remember what but one was salt & pepper soft shells and one was yellow chive something) were outstanding.

                But the point of my post is that it wasn't "we" who were packing the place that day - whoever "we" are - I was the only non-Chinese person in the place that day (my dining companion was Chinese-American), and the average age of the customers was 60+. Now, it may be that the "we" of Jen's post was meant to refer to Chinese senior citizens and she was chiding these older local folks for not going to Tindo...but if so Chowhound may not be the way to get the message across!

                1. re: Elaine

                  Ive had good food there too. And been rushed, and jostled by people crowding in the aisles. And I agree, like Chinatown generally it serves mainly a Chinese clientele. I simply think we (Chinese AND non)have other options than being part of crowds, if we extend ourselves a little more.

                  Elaine, 20 years ago I went out in Chinatown 2-3 times per week, knew every falafel stand on McDougal, every Span-Chi joint on the west side, every quality wine store in the city. Had time to check out the holes in the wall because I knew Id be back, again and again. These days, I dont have the time myself, but others of you do, and its a worthwhile effort- there's so much unmined quality out there, so much to learn and to try, especially in an area like Chinatown. Go to Noodletown, but next time, and the time after, try something you havent tried before. Find something wonderful we've never even heard of and share it with us. Cmon.

                  1. re: jen kalb
                    j
                    Jessica Shatan

                    Wow, I never even knew that Noodle Town was so popular to begin with as my only experience was at 11:30 a.m. on a weekday. Service was ok, kind of indifferent, and it was about 80% chinese clientele. I did think it was small and that it would get easily crowded on a Friday night, not to mention that Asians in general tolerate crowds better, or seem to dislike them less than Americans (oh, how I hate those sweeping statements!!)
                    While really, really good I am sure that there are places more transcendant near by. I agree we need more excursions like the pork bun one to really round up places.
                    I also think I know how you feel when yet another 'hound chimes in about the same place . . . are we leaders or followers and aren't 'hounds supposed to be hungry to break new ground? I guess I'm both a leader and follower . . .
                    Thanks for the apology, Jen, that was thoughtful of you.

                    1. re: Jessica Shatan

                      Personally, I don't think a true Chowhound should waste time worrying about whether he/she is a "leader" or a "follower." You should eat where you like to eat and report back if you can. I like NT a lot. I even like the nasty service, because its EXPECTED. I'd probably be disappointed if they were too nice. To me, it's part association (as Lydia mentions) with enjoyable late night meals of past years. But if people keep trodding there (like they do with DiFara's, Pio pio, etc), it doesn't bother me in the least! And FWIW, I would be more inclined to try a Chinatown place with no white people eating there than one with no Chinese people, so the "we" (Chowhounds?) confuses me.

                      1. re: Zephyr

                        Thanks Jess -- you are right -- my husband and I follow no one -- nor do we care if we are followed -- we eat where our souls are satisfied, when we want, how we want, and care not a whit who cares one way or the other. Do we seek to 'trailblaze'? Again, how egotistical of us if we thought people actually cared as much about where and how we eat as we do! I love this board because it represents people who feel the same as we do. It's nice to know there are hounds 'out there' who walk to their own beat and simply wish to share a food experience, past or present, good or bad. Sure, many feel NT isn't as good as we do, but that's just fine -- it thins the crowd at 3 a.m. Does our love for NT mean we shy away from other places? Well, how many are opened at that hour when we look to truly chow down? Wo Hop is not our cup of tea, as it were, as they have separate menus for Caucasians and Chinese -- so NT it remains at the crack of morning...

                        1. re: lydia

                          "Does our love for NT mean we shy away from other places? "

                          Hey, if not, I don't think Jen or I have any problem. If you're just using NT as one choice in your arsenal of Chinatown options, that's something I can certainly relate to, and then it's a matter strictly of taste (in which case, vive la difference, totally).

                          But I think a lot of people go there because it's famous, and they DON'T explore other places. And that's a shame, and pretty much the central thing this site is designed to discourage.

                          Wo Hop, FWIW, is hardly the undiscovered great eats we're trying to spur people toward, however. It's another Zagatish choice; going there is by no means "exploring", it's just ticking another box on the limited, stale Zagat scavenger hunt list. Tindo never made it to Zagat. Zagat doesn't tell you the undiscovered places where greatness is being achieved right this second. We've got to find these ourselves, because nobody else will do it for us.

                          Once again, there ARE other Tindos out there (Tindo was an incredible, wonderful restaurant that recently closed, and it never got the notoriety it deserved). And the Tindos of this moment are probably also languishing from lack of business, while diners (of all races! this isn't a racial issue!) eat in the same old places everybody talks about.

                          If you're chowhounding around Chinatown, checking otherwise anonymous places for greatness as well as eating at Noodletown, that's fine by me. But if you're staying on the beaten path, it's my crusade (and that of most of the others who hang out here) to try to inspire you to explore. That's the very essence of what this site is about, for better or worse. Please don't be offended either way.

                          ciao

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            I agree, Jim, and don't mean to infer that NT is the only place - or even the best - in Chinatown. My post (wich actually isn't the one you were responding to...) was more a reaction to some references in other posts. The use of "we" and "follower"/"leader" makes me think that all Chowhounds should think the same way - or seek the same things. I don't buy that. I agree, though, with the value of exploration and finding off the beaten track gems. I like street stalls in Chinatown, though my favorite pork bun lady seems to have disappeared recently...she used to be on Grand Street anywhere from Centre to Chrystie.

                            1. re: Zephyr

                              I don't think ANYONE is saying that to be a chowhound you MUST not eat in Noodletown. Or anything remotely like that. We are all of us iconoclasts, so we respect varying opinions, especially when they're personal (and don't simply parrot conventional opinion).

                              Of course, it's tricky with places like Noodletown that are conventional choices yet also (in some opinions) good. Yes, there are serious chowhounds who eat all over Chinatown, track all the best places, and still eat in Noodletown out of conscious choice. NOBODY on this site (even those who dislike the place) would have anything but total respect for that sort of choice. But if we get the drift that this is not the case for a given poster, chowhounds like Jen and I will tend to urge them to be more chowhoundish.

                              Which is appropriate, IMO, because being a chowhound does mean something: to not complacently eat where you're told. To disregard hype and conventional opinion and intrepidly explore and find the great people cooking great food in the shadows (and also to devise strategies for extracting maximal deliciousness from better-known places).

                              If you don't have that attitude, you may be a good person, a passionate eater, etc. But you're not being chowhoundish. And if the regulars here get that impression, they'll try to inspire you to have a more chowhound attitude. Because this is Chowhound.com, not Zagat.com.

                              ciao

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                I don't think we disagree on this, Jim.

                            2. re: Jim Leff

                              I agree totally -- we have always avoided the 'in' places, simply because someone, somewhere, labeled them as such. A million years ago (at least), when we started talking about NT, our friends looked down their noses and visibly shuddered -- oh the lighting, oh the noise, oh yada yada --- we simply smiled and thought, good -- stay away. While we're sure Zagat's might enjoy the places we might, really, who cares in the long run? We learned long ago to be wary of who we share our houndish adventures with -- some people just don't understand...

                              1. re: lydia

                                The really important thing to realize is that the places you are enjoying today are the places that the critics will "discover" in a year or two. And that may find their way into Zagat in 5 or 6 years. By which point they'll likely be in decline.

                                It's not that "people just don't understand", it's that this whole process is glacially slow, and you are at the bleeding-edge forefront (whether you realize it or not!).

                                And it's LONELY at the forefront. So I built this site to give chowhounds a gathering place to swap notes and commiserate so that we no longer have to feel like eaters from some other planet! That we also happen to offer the best, most dependable, in-depth, and current eating advice available in any media is, from my perspective, a mere side-effect!

                                ciao

                      2. re: jen kalb

                        Jen - I feel your pain about not having time to investigate; sadly, when I did have time to investigate, unlike you I didn't have a dime to drop in quality wine shops or even Chinatown holes-in-the-wall.

                        But NYC is full of 20 somethings with more time than $$ (I was one not too long ago) - couldn't we sponsor promising young hounds on pork-bun like quests? Sort of like the Fresh Air Fund but more fattening?

                    2. re: Jim Leff

                      Finally! Someone admits that NY Noodletown isn't all that. I was beginning to think all of Manhatten was full of raving lunatics who think that the stark, downright ugly decor of NY Noodletown is what makes it an authentic Chinese establishment. Believe me, when I say that Chinese people like decor just as much as the next person. For something different and adventerous, go for the bamboo pith, frogs leg, and dried scallop congee at Sweet-N-Tart which also has "salt-baked" items of their own. Those beloved "salt-baked" dishes that everyone raves about can be found at any Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown...

                      1. re: Fred

                        NY Noodle Town makes dependably good food cheaply, and it's good comfort food. Yes, Sweet N' Tart is tasty. I like it, and look forward to going back more often, and to trying other Chinatown and Flushing restaurants. But some of NY Noodle Town's dishes are great comfort food for me that I look forward to in somewhat the same way as others might enjoy an outstanding local diner. I know some of you can't stand to eat in restaurants that are simply dependably very good and want to find all the out-of-the-way places only. Fine. I went to Tindo twice and didn't find it unbelievable either time - good, but not amazing (and, yes, I ordered specials. To be exact, the first time was great and the second time was just OK). The fact that a place is popular - and popular with Chinese people from thousands of miles away who know of its reputation - does not prove that it's somehow "uncool" to go to such a restaurant and like it, and if some of you want to make this board a clique and exclude people who actually _LIKE_ some very popular restaurants from it, I won't play along. And I am not ready to simply _assume_ that NY Noodletown's popularity is excessive.

                        1. re: Michael

                          I completely agree Fred.
                          That's all I was trying to say.

                          1. re: Michael

                            I don't think anyone is saying that NY Noodletown has BAD food. I think it's exactly what you liken it to--a dependable diner-type restaurant that serves very good food. But to call it the "Best Chinese" would be like elevating a theater district french bistro to the level of Daniel or Le Bernardin. I think that's the main issue that I have. Calling the food comforting is very different from calling the food exquisite and unparalleled.

                            Also, I had no idea that "Chinese people from thousands of miles away" knew of NY Noodletown...

                            1. re: Fred

                              Yes, Chinese people from thousands of miles away know of NY Noodle Town's reputation. I've sat at tables with Chinese-Americans from LA, for example, who knew the restaurant only by reputation.

                              But I think that NY Noodle Town is better than a dependable diner. I liken it to an outstanding diner of a level of quality I've never yet experienced in a diner.

                              But no, I wouldn't argue that it is the "best" Chinese restaurant in Manhattan; I've eaten in others as good or better, and I haven't yet sampled most Chinese restaurants even in Chinatown.

            2. The salt baked squid that you describe is a fairly common dim-sum dish, shrimp is also prepared that way. I like to rip the heads off and eat the rest with the tail, but I see a lot of people that eat em whole.

              The thinly sliced pepper is beleive it or not, Jalapeno.