My first visit to this place last Saturday was met with a packed house and several parties waiting in the entryway. I had expected traffic and parking hassles in Chinatown on the weekend but not a packed house at this brand new place that has had virtually no publicity. I wonder if we have an under the radar ex-pat community or if they just benefitted from all the traffic in Chinatown? There were only two 2-tops and the couple seated at one apparently hadn’t even gotten a menu yet so I decided to come back during the week. The place was busy when I stopped in on Friday afternoon, but not packed. There were more 2-tops; they had been pushed together to accommodate large parties on my first visit.
There’s a big sign on the exterior advertising ‘Big Plate Chicken’ but I wanted to try the hand-pulled noodles in conjunction with our DOTM for this month so I went with Classic Laghman. There are six varieties of laghman on the menu and all are made with the house-made hand-pulled/stretched noodles. Other than the laghman dishes, however, you have to specify you want the hand-made noodles and there is an upcharge, if I understand the menu correctly.
I started with Uyghur Yogurt, listed on the Drinks menu right above Ayran. I was expecting something like the dough of an Afghan or Persian restaurant but got a tub of yogurt dressed with raisins and I think kalonji. It came out first, quite a while before the noodles.
I observed other diners as I waited - the soups and kabobs are very popular. From what I could tell, the meat in the kabobs is served very well done. One group of four was tearing into what I presumed to be the Rib Kabob - a whole rib (beef or lamb?) on a plate - from which they split off bites and turned into make-shift nachos with pieces of the nan. It looked good although, again, the meat looked very well-done.
The noodles more than made up for my slight disappointment with the yogurt. This is stir fried lamb, bell peppers (green and red), red onion, napa cabbage and tomatoes served on top of the noodles with a sauce made with tomato paste, chili sauce and spices. My second bite included something incendiary and I thought I had been served the Spicy Laghman version by mistake but that was the only bite that provided anything more than a pleasant heat until I got down to the bottom of the bowl. The noodles are type 3a in hyperbowler’s thread which includes a link to a video showing the stretching of the noodles and the plating of the dish in a Chicago restaurant. The noodles are firm and slightly chewy. I finished the whole bowl, probably about 5-6 cups worth, and was absolutely stuffed and very happy but I wish the making of the noodles was visible from the dining room.
As I got to the bottom of the bowl there was a lot of sauce left-over. I should have stirred the noodles more as I went along. The sauce included some chopped nuts, whole spices and other bits I couldn’t identify plus Sichuan peppercorns. I got as much as I could with the spoon.
Service was okay. I didn’t have any language problems but I didn’t ask any questions. Most people were getting up to get their own cups of water and napkins. I asked for ‘just water’ and a cup was brought to me and refilled several times. I grabbed some napkins from a neighboring table that had been vacated. I’d guess they’ve done very little to the decor that was there from the previous restaurant which I think was a Sichuan place years ago when I went there.
This is a very good (and timely) addition to Chinatown. I’m going to try to get back over there and try the Uyghur Fried Noodles for this DOTM.