Great N.Y. Noodletown
Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Rosie, SteakGril, Diana, Wraith6, Runt, Farklempt, ThePlazaQueen
Yes, it's softshell crab season, and no one does those little critters like Noodletown! They are salt-baked, not deep fried, even thought they come out crunchy and crusty. The legs are like the yummiest crab flavored fries. The cooks served them with thinly sliced green chilis, which cut through the oiliness of the monsters. You pull off the legs and claws, and if you are adventurous, you bite into the bodies and hope not to get hot crab liquid splooged out onto you. The more demure among us will cut them into quarters over rice, the better to catch the tomally and roe! Mmmmm ... at about $7 for a hefty one, you'd think this was pricey, but compare to to the rest of the world for softshell crabs which aren't cooked nearly as well. We're not kidding -- three small ones on a plate for $30? Puh-lease!
And yet this place is called "Noodletown," in case you had doubts about the noodles ... "Great" in the name emphasizes that it's not just noodles! They have a fantastic dish called "Three Jewel" -- a sort of hefty appetizer plate of roasted duck, red barbecue pork, and roasted chicken. It's served with a little teacup of chopped ginger and scallions in oil, and it is the condiment of the gods! Even the picky eaters declared the chicken the best ever, especially combined with the expertly cooked rice.
The duck is like most Chinese-chopped meats -- they cut right through the bones and everything, so you get a juicy piece of fat, the flavorful meat, and you get the suck the sauce off the bones, too. Hey, you're in a noisy Chinese restaurant, live it up! The pork is boneless, but you will end up fighting over the very last bits sitting in the soy sauce-based gravy on the bottom of the plate. No bones doesn't mean it's bad!
We also got several noodle soups and dishes -- this being Noodletown, after all -- and they were good! They were so good that we didn't get a chance to photograph them before they were picked over and eaten ... actally, you'll notice the photos are curiously incomplete. The crab has no legs for example, because that was what was left of the big platter of the critters before we remembered to take photos! The seafood noodles have one shrimp left, we'd already eaten all the veggies and other denizens, etc. Okay, so we pigged out! Hopefully, they won't take us to roast for the next meal, but at least we know we'd taste good if they did.
We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table because this place is so damned popular; that's 20 minutes despite the high table turnover. We even were asked to let a lone diner share our table because there simply wasn't the space for one person -- imagine deactivating a table for four for just one diner? The lines of people spilling out the door might revolt! He didn't bother us, though he didn't respond when we tried to be friendly. Just as well we didn't notice him, except to peer at what he ordered and then ask the waiter for more of the same!
The place is VERY crowded and VERY noisy with the sound of slurping and happy people. The waiters take your order and drop off your food as they run past you, and occasionally you get someone else's food. In our case, our Singapore Maifun went elsewhere, though the waiter realized it and had a fresh plate made for us which arrived later (that's how we managed to get a photo of it at all). (It's GREAT as leftovers, try it as omelette filling for a quasi nasi goreng with noodles instead of rice!) If you're a regular, the waiter will let you know when something is not "right" to order.
They gave us fortune cookies and cold orange wedges with the check and a pile of wetnaps. We argued over the tip -- the out of towners thought the service was good. The rule is Chinatown residents tip 10%. Elsewhere in Manhattan, the tip rate is 17% to 20%; in the outer boroughs, it's 15%. Superlative service can rate 25% anywhere. We didn't want to insult the waiters by offering too little -- or too much. And they wouldn't respect us if we just threw money away; some of us WANT to be regulars! It all turned out to be fairly academic since the bills was so inexpensive ... For all of us, including the relatively expensive crabs, we paid $78 and added $10 for the tip. And we took the leftovers home for another time, of course. The waiter even gave us another tub of the ginger scallion condiment! What a nice place!
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