The Chinese food scene in NYC continues to evolve beyond Sichuan and Cantonese. Now we can add to the mix Yunnan, a region in Southwest China known for its spice and produce. Little Tong Noodle Shop, a new restaurant in the East Village run by Chef Simone Tong, an alum of wd-50, highlights the flavors of this region, showcasing specifically mixian, a savory rice noodle dish.
The rice noodles in mixian are very delicate compared to its sturdier counterparts like pho. The same can be said for the broth, which tends to be on the lighter side. There are a lot of flavors there, but they tend to span wide rather than deep. Robust tonkotsu or bone broth, this is not.
Before you get to the noodles, you can pregame with an assortment of interesting appetizers. The sweated cucumbers in a nutty bang bang sauce and mint are refreshing and surprisingly good, even to those like myself who are normally averse to cucumbers. The pork chao shou won tons are much more savory and have a more vinegary flavor compared to something of the Beijing style.
When it comes to your mixian bowl, if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you should opt for the little pot mixian. There’s a pickled, sour aspect to the broth, and the strong notes of cilantro and pickled mustard stems bring out herbaceous, floral qualities. Chef Tong is also aware that some people are craving something more traditional, a little taste of home, which explains the bowl of grandma chicken mixian that is available on the menu. And thankfully it lives up to its name.
While you might be eating something reminscent of your grandmother’s cooking, the surroundings at Little Tong are anything but old school. With the brick and light wood-paneled walls, it could easily pass for a hip, farm-to-table eatery. And the drinks menu, while limited to beer and sake, consists of some interesting choices like Fat Tire Amber as well as the usual suspects like Tsingtao. It’s Yunnan by way of the modern age, gratuity included, something that will go over well with winning over new fans.
Little Tong Noodle Shop
177 1st Ave (between 10th and 11th St)
New York, NY 10003