Simplicity is Key at Sing's Hand-Pulled Noodles in Chinatown
This is old news by now, but for those of you who haven't heard, Liu Chang Ming of Hing Kee has recently moved his inimitable hand-pulled noodle stylings a few doors down to Sing's Noodle. I realize that outside our delicious-seeking subculture, the phrase "hand-pulled noodle" may be cause for giggles and guffaws (I may have laughed at first, too), but that's just because those philistines don't know what they're missing.
Watching the hand-pulling process is fascinating. The dough, as far as I know, is made from wheat flour, water, and impossibility: it's silky smooth while still being tender, soft without becoming sticky, and pliable while maintaining its shape. By the time the cook is done with the dough, he can run his fingers through it, but not before he's played it like an accordion, twisted it like a jump rope, and swung it like a sword.
Showmanship sells tickets to be sure, but taste and texture keeps the seats warm. These noodles have plenty of each. However, while the menu is pretty much just noodles and a few appetizers, there's a dizzying number options to choose from. Souped or stir fried? Thin, thick, or shaved? And that's not even getting into toppings. Turns out the less you put between you and your noodle, the better.
The sounds of slurping echo through the restaurant, and you'll be in good company if you choose from one of several noodle soups. The Beef Stew Hand-Pulled Noodles ($8.25) is beautiful to behold, but the beef is stringy and mushy. It's certainly reminiscent of beef stew (though not in a good way). I rather enjoyed the subtle broth, though, and fortified with a few spoonfuls of chili oil, it's a worthy ally against the icy cold outside.
I liked the Stir Fried Noodles ($9.25) even more. Built with the same long, thick noodles found in the soup, these take on an appealingly chewy texture in the pan. Once again, though, the beef is a bust: this time, the thin strips are more akin to soggy Salisbury steak than anything else.
My favorite are the Pan Fried Shaved Noodles ($9.25). Somewhere between spaetzle and homemade egg noodles, these guys are begging for a liberal dousing of chili oil and soy sauce to cling to their rough, jagged edges. But I messed up again by ordering Seafood: after pushing aside tire rubber slabs of squid and mushy imitation crab, there were only a few overcooked shrimp and scallop pieces to speak of. Regardless of how I get the noodles next time, I'm going simple and ordering them with vegetables only.
How about the appetizers? Despite a hearty endorsement by not one, but three, separate servers, I found the Pan Fried Onion Cake ($5.95) dry and overcooked and more reminiscent of a Chinese quesadilla than anything else. Maybe it's me: I had my heart set on flaky, tender dough, so perhaps it's the Pancake Northern Style I should ask for next time.
This is my first experience with Steamed Soup Buns ($5.95 for six), and I feel ill-equipped to comment much on a dish we obviously care very deeply about. I will say that if you order these smaller than most XLBs, you'll want to concentrate on them first: the broth cools and the pork centers seize up fairly quickly.
But who cares how the other appetizers taste when there are Fried Pork & Chive Dumplings ($5.75 for six) for the ordering? The thin dumpling skins give the same toothsome resistance as the hand-pulled noodles, and the tender porky filling is herbaceous and just the right amount of bouncy.
It's hard to argue with dinner and a show, especially one as tasty as what they're slinging at Sing's Noodle. Skip the meat, bogart the chili and soy sauces, and try not to let too many people in on our hand-pulled noodle secret.