On Sunday, the second day of our Valentine 3-day weekend, we had an active, out-doorsy kind of day. At the center of it was brunch at Lam Zhou Handmade Noodle & Dumpling, a quirky noodle soup-focused restaurant over on East Broadway in the Chinatown section of Manhattan. We also did a good deal of shopping, starting at Century 21 (where I bought two scarves and other goodies to wear during our spring trip to France) and finishing at Sam Flax (where Therese bought me a belated Christmas present, a new Steelcase Leap Chair – in which I am sitting as I write just this moment).
Lam Zhou is in a part of Chinatown that appears to be, if not gentrification-proof, then at least gentrification-resistant. East Broadway is filled with stores that raise run-down to an art form – signs filled with Chinese characters (and little English other than the street address) manage to be both colorful and also look as if they have not been touched up in decades. The storefronts behind those signs appear to be just on this side of being condemned by the Health Department – clean, yes, but dilapidated, held together by string and chewing gum, also yes.
Then there is Lam Zhou. The awning gives no indication of the restaurant’s name. In fact, since the Chinese characters that accompany the restaurant’s name on menus and elsewhere bear no resemblance to the characters on the awning, I would hazard a guess that the awning is left over from a previous business. Thankfully, the address is mentioned – 144 East Broadway – and a small sign in front of the restaurant confirmed that we were in the right place.
The first thing that attracts your attention is the noodle man. In a small room on the way from the dining room to the kitchen, he works with huge thick strands of noodles, stretching them out, twirling them into ropes, and then thwacking them on the counter in front of him, making a thunderous sound like a truck backing up.
Therese and I each ordered a rather rustic soup, Pork Bone Noodle Soup, and shared an order of 11 fried Pork Dumplings. I posited the theory that they serve 11 dumplings because sharing them with any number of people requires cooperation where one person is going to get less than the others – for example, if there were 4 people sharing them, 3 would get 2 dumplings, but one would only get 2. The soup was just as hearty as we imagined, with an unending supply of noodles resting under the pork bones, bok choy and mushrooms, and half a dozen condiments available to add as little or as much heat as one desired. The dumplings were (to me) the star, full of flavor and silky in texture, being only fried on one side.
We loved the soup and dumplings, and immediately planned to come back to get a bag of frozen dumplings to heat in our own kitchen. They sell bags of 50, and we thought, “hmmm, that will be just the right amount to serve the next time we have Therese’s brother Sam and his family over for an evening!” Between the hearty (and nicely priced) food and the bare bones but nevertheless atmospheric setting, Lam Zhou is quite a place.