The Time Out New York “100 Best Things We Ate Last Year” issue was a mixed bag for me, but I did notice a couple of interesting Chinatown spots I hadn’t heard of before. I headed way down on East Broadway in search of Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle & Dumpling one afternoon, and was happy to realize it was just a few doors away from my favorite Chinatown bakery. But it turned out it would be hard to leave room for dessert when dining at Lam Zhou. This very unassuming noodle shop is an absolute must-try. Forget about Vanessa’s (and their incessant lines) — the dumplings here are really something special. The prices cannot be beat, but food this good would be worth three or four times the price. Everything is made to order, and amazingly fresh. And the meat filling is extraordinarily good. Really, if you’re a dumpling fanatic, get your butt over to Lam Zhou now. Just keep in mind that this place is about as far from fancy as you can possibly get… you’ve been warned. Don’t let the pretty photo above deceive you.
The noodle soup here came as a major surprise. I ordered it on a whim, but now I’m addicted. The trick is in, as the name of the restaurant implies, the hand-made noodles. In fact, one of the best treats about this place is watching the chefs stretch noodles by hand at the back of the restaurant. He pulls and pounds the fresh dough against the table, and in moments he’s whipped up a batch of noodles, ready to cook. It’s worth a trip to Lam Zhou just to watch him in action. Then prepare yourself for remarkably tender noodles and the meat-stuffed fish balls (something I’ve never seen before).
On the subject of hand-made noodles, there is Food Sing 88. They’ve got quite a few tables here, but you can expect the place to be jam-packed at any given moment. The location is right, smack in the middle of Chinatown, over where Bowery and East Broadway join. The prices are a real bargain. And the presentation is really nice — it reminds me more of Japanese ramen in that way. All they sell here are noodle soups, pork, duck, seafood, fish ball, etc., and the texture of the “han-pulled” noodles is perfect. The only soup noodles I’ve had this good before in Chinatown were over at Lam Zhou, so that’s saying a lot. But the real treat here is the broth. It’s not fatty and rich like the broths at some of my favorite ramen shops, but something about it is perfect. I all but licked my bowl clean, it’s that good. My only possible complaint is that the soup was so good, I wanted more, but at these prices, just order yourself another bowl.