Upper East Side, NYC — For a short while there the Upper East Side dining scene, in an effort to at least appear more pan-cultural, suffered from an onslaught of new Asian spots with menus overloaded with the cuisines of too many different eastern ideologies. Restaurants were offering Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian — and more — all from the same kitchen. And of course not executing any of those dish with a modicum of authenticity, often seeing soba noodles used lo mein and chicken karage tossed in sauce to emulate General Tso's.
Thankfully, though, the last year or so has seen the return to the one-culture cuisine, most recently with the Thai "hawker" food restaurant Pye Boat Noodle, and now with strictly Chinese Peng's Noodle Folk.
I love to learn when I eat, and a quick scan of the simple yet impressive menu introduced me to banmen (sometimes spell banmian), a popular noodle dish in China and Singapore.
After splitting an excellent plate of panfried pork dumplings with my lunch companion, I ordered the dish with seemingly the most flair", the Beijing-style dalumen, which came with pork, black fungus, lily flower, and garlic bolt, a rich, lovingly layered and balanced dish that boasted some very tender and juicy cubes of pork whose fat layer evaporate aromatically from just the heat of my tongue and mouth. My friend went for the "hot and tingly" minced beef, spiked with cumin but not over-countered with too much sugar, which often happens. Cooling cucumber, bright radish, and earthy, firm green soy beans nicely rounded out the dish.
All three dishes impressed, letting the fresh ingredients — via some obviously skilled prep — speak for themselves, without being overshadowed or overwhelmed by sugar, salt, garlic, or even soy sauce, flavors that usually overwhelmed most food at (Pan-)Asian restaurants.
Sticking to the basics and a simply-ideated menu of a singularly-minded restaurant will hopefully help folks who want more than pedestrian Asian food, come to Peng's Noodle Folk to find happiness.
Peng's Noodle Folk | 1659 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10028 | (212) 348-2878 | www.pengsnoodlefolk.com