When Josh and I lived downtown, we would walk over to Chinatown almost every weekend. It was a bit of a hike but that just gave us an excuse to eat more, since we figured that we’d at least be walking off some of the calories we consumed. Some days we spent trying to find the best soup dumplings and other days we would navigate through the hustle and bustle of the steam carts at dim sum. After our meals, we would always wander through the fruit/vegetable markets and fish stalls and pick up some fresh groceries for the rest of the week. Our treks to Chinatown will always hold a special place in my heart, as it is on the way home from one of these trips that Josh proposed to me, on the steps in front of the Federal court house.
But I digress; this is a food blog after all! So at lunchtime on Saturday, we headed downtown with Claire and Sean, who are staying with us for the weekend, to introduce them to some of our favorite Chinatown foods.
Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles
We started out with hand pulled noodles at Lan Zhou on East Broadway. I know hand pulled noodles have been blogged to death in the last few months, but they are definitely worth talking about. Josh and I have tried Super Taste and Sheng Weng, but we always come back to Lan Zhou because of their tastier broth. We got seats along the wall right next to the noodle maker and proceeded to watch him intently for 10 minutes while we waited for our soups. We’ve seen him make the noodles a hundred times, yet we still can’t grasp how it’s done. It’s simply amazing to see him take a ball of dough, bang it against the table a few times, twist his hands around, and somehow he always winds up with perfectly formed strands of noodles.
Hand pulling noodle man
Claire and Sean shared a bowl of beef noodles, while Josh and I opted for the beef brisket noodles (both $4.50 each). The broths are similar – deep, rich and peppery – but the beef brisket is fattier and chewier, which I like better.
Noodle soup with beef brisket
The noodles here are just perfect – tender yet chewy. They’re thinner than I generally like, but they still have a lot of spring and bite to them.
Yummy yummy noodles
We also shared a large order of pan-fried dumplings (12/$3.00). Thin-skinned, crispy, hot and greasy, topped with soy sauce and Sriracha, these are just perfect. Josh and I currently have several bags of frozen dumplings from Lan Zhou in our freezer. They’re perfect for days when we’re just too lazy to cook. You can just pan fry them or boil them straight from the freezer – no need to defrost.
Yummy yummy dumplings
We love this place because you get to watch the noodles and dumplings made right in front of you, and a few minutes later, you’re digging into a steaming bowl or sizzling plate of that same stuff. It just doesn’t get better than that.
Woman hand making rows upon rows of dumplings
We had planned to stop at Prosperity Dumpling on our way to the more touristy side of Chinatown but decided to bypass it so that we could save room for our next stop, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery. Unfortunately, due to the recent amount of press that banh mis have received, the line was almost out the door of the tiny shop. It’s really quite a change from when we used to go and the place would be empty so you could sit on the boxes along the side wall and eat your banh mi right there. Instead of waiting on the ridiculously long line, we headed across the street and down the block to Paris Sandwich, which was almost barren in comparison.
There was no wait to order two grilled pork ban mis, and we nabbed a table in the back to eat our freshly made sandwiches. The seating area is the only advantage of Paris Sandwich, as you can have your sandwich made to order and eat it right away. The bread, however, while super light and crispy, is pretty tasteless. The grilled pork is tender and the vegetables are fresh but there isn’t enough filling overall. I prefer Banh Mi Saigon Bakery handily over Paris Sandwich, and even if the sandwich is pre-made or if it gets soggy on the way home, I just pop it in the oven for a few minutes and the bread crisps right back up. The filling is ample and the pickled vegetables are perfectly tangy and crunchy. Regardless, the banh mis at Paris Sandwich made for a refreshing “snack,” as we were still pretty full from the hand pulled noodles and dumplings.
Grilled pork banh mi
Di Palo’s Fine Foods
The next stop on our tour was Di Palo’s to pick up some supplies for our planned picnic in Central Park during the afternoon. We got two loaves of excellent Sullivan Street Bakery bread, a one-pound ball of fresh mozzarella ($6.99/lb) and, most exciting of all, a ball of burrata ($7.99). A friend told us about it and we’ve been itching to try it ever since, so this was the perfect time. We picked up some white wine and headed back uptown to meet up with another friend for our picnic.
After debating whether we could get away with drinking the wine in the park, however, we ultimately decided to bring some chairs and a table up to our roof deck and enjoy the outdoors without the hassle. It turned out to be the perfect plan. The weather was just right – warm, not too sunny, with a nice breeze – and the view from our roof is spectacular. It’s basically a 360 degree view of the whole city; we can see all the way down to the Statue of Liberty to the south, the Hudson to the west, all the way up to the GWB to the north, and all of Central Park to the east. Really really stunning.
View of Central Park from our roof deck
Ok back to food. We supplemented our supplies from Di Palo’s with some prosciutto, genoa salami and more fresh mozzarella that our other friend brought in from a deli in Hoboken. We also had some prosciutto and manchego cheese that Josh got from the supermarket nearby, as well as ripe tomatoes on the vine, and some fresh basil from our windowsill planter. It really was quite the spread.
Meats, breads and produce
Selection of cheeses
The highly anticipated burrata did not disappoint. The smooth exterior of the ball was broken open to reveal the creamy innards, which we spread on the bread with a knife, like ricotta.
Creamy and delicious
We tried all the different combinations of the mozzarellas and the prosciuttos, and ate slices of manchego cheese wrapped with salami.
Prosciutto, mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato on Sullivan St. bread
Salami and mozzarella
We ate until we could eat no more, and there were still tons left over. We spent the next few hours eating, drinking and chatting, and only headed back inside when the sun went down and it got too cold up on the roof. Then we proceeded to eat and drink some more, moving on to strawberries and scotch.
Later in the evening, we headed out for a reunion of sorts at Lansdowne Road (Claire and Sean used to live in NYC and still have tons of friends here). Claire had called ahead to reserve several tables in the back room, and we worked our way through several beer bongs of Magic Hat #9 (my favorite beer), Stone IPA and Blue Moon.
Famous 53rd Street Halal Cart
Afterward, Claire and I stumbled our way home (bathroom emergency!) while Sean and Josh headed to 53rd St. and 6th Ave. to get some streetcart food from the Famous Halal cart. The cart, which has a pretty long line during the day, apparently is even more crowded at night, judging from the blurry shots Josh took with his iphone.
The food though is just as good, if not better, after you’ve had a few beer bongs worth of drinks! It was the perfect way to end a perfect day of eating.
Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce
144 East Broadway between Pike and Rutgers St.
New York, NY
113 Mott St. between Hester and Canal St.
New York, NY
Di Palo’s Fine Foods
200 Grand St. between Mulberry and Mott St.
New York, NY
599 10th Ave. between 43rd and 44th St.
New York, NY
Famous Halal Cart
Corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave. (SE Corner during the day, SW Corner at night)
New York, NY