Not so strangely, Ying Du is closed again. This time it’s for renovations. I don’t think it’s DOH-related since they aren’t listed on the main DOH site, but who knows. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. I just hope they aren’t planning another price hike. I don’t need ambiance at a Chinese take-out restaurant.
Fortunately, there are other places to get authentic Chinese in Midtown. My favorite is Hing Won, but recently with the cold weather, I’ve been trying to stay west of Fifth Avenue and south of 42nd Street, which is closer to work. Also, I notice there tends to be less suits south of 42nd St, especially west of 7th Avenue. It’s not exactly downtown, but there’s definitely a different vibe, which is nice. I see enough suits and khakis at work. The two places I’ve been going to a lot recently are Noodles 36 and Big Bowl Noodles.
Pork Stomach w/ Black Bean Sauce @ Noodles 36
Noodles 36 is a cross between Ying Du and Hing Won. They have the steam table, similar to Ying Du, where you can get three items over rice for $4.50, but they also have an extended menu similar to Hing Won. The noodles aren’t as good as Hing Won, but they are still tasty and hit the spot when you need it. This week I decided to get one of the items off the “Chinatown over Rice” menu. I mean Chinatown over Rice, why wouldn’t you get that! I saw Belly with Black Bean Sauce over Rice on the menu and I immediately thought pork belly. There aren’t too many things in the world as good as delicious fatty pork belly. However, when I asked Taiwai, who happened to be with me, he told me that it wasn’t pork belly but pork stomach. Now I’ve had tripe before, but not the actual stomach, so I decided, ‘what the hell, let’s try it.’ And I’m glad I did, because pork stomach is pretty good. As you can see in the photo, pork stomach looks like chicken breast, but it definitely doesn’t taste like it. I would say it is similar to kidney, but less irony and more chewy like intestines. If you don’t like kidney or intestines, don’t order this, more for me. I liked the black bean sauce also, it was salty with just the right amount of sweetness. I only wished there was more of it. In addition, I would have liked if it came with different vegetables instead of green bell peppers. Bell peppers don’t feel very Chinese to me. I’d ask for yu choy or bok choy next time.
Big Bowl Noodles is becoming another Chinese go-to-spot for me. As I understand it, they are owned by the same people as Noodles 36. However, unlike Noodles 36, which has no pretense whatsoever, Big Bowl is cleaner and has a dining area with waiter/waitress service. The first time I went there, I got Beef Stewed with Noodles to go. When I got back to the office, I was pleasantly surprised to find the soup and noodles packed separately. Nice! I hate when noodles get mushy and soak up all the broth. As a result of the packaging, the flour noodles were still firm if a little cold. The beef broth, however, was the best part. Meaty, peppery, and aromatic, it was really satisfying. The beef could have been more tender, but I was happy with it the way it was. By the way, on the menu there is a pepper next to this item, but don’t expect it to be spicy. There wasn’t any heat in the soup until I added some chili oil.
The second time I went to Big Bowl Noodles, I ordered the Wonton and Roast Duck Soup. The wontons were pretty average. They had a lot of filling, but were very plain and more ground up than I prefer. The roast duck was also just OK, not nearly as delicious as the roast duck at Ying Du. As usual though, the soup was good, this time chicken-based. It tasted clean and simple, yet wasn’t bland.
Ultimately, if you are craving roast duck, you are basically screwed in Midtown until Ying Du opens again. I think we need a Ying Du webcam, like the one they have Shake Shack, not to see if there is a line, but to see if they are open. Damn you Ying Du with your delicious meats and your haphazard business practices! However, if you are looking for good Chinese rice and noodle dishes, Big Bowl Noodles and Noodles 36 is ready please in the interim.
UPDATE I – Ying Du is open again, but the ducks are mysteriously gone from the window! ARGH, no more duck!!!! I’ll have to investigate tomorrow. Stay tuned…..
UPDATE II – Ying Du claims the hanging meats will be back on Wednesday. I’ll be crossing my fingers tonight for roast duck and the election.
UPDATE III – Obama won but still no roast duck. I guess you can’t have everything.
UPDATE IV – Noodle 36 is closed and Big Bowl Noodles is now Main Noodle House. Not sure what happened? Fallen on hard times? Tax-Evasion? DOH? If anyone knows, let me know.
Noodle 36 (CLOSED)
305 W 36th St (Betw 8th Ave & 9th Ave)
New York 10018
Big Bowl Noodles Main Noodle House
1011 6th Ave (Betw 37th & 38th)
New York, NY 10018