Though I’ve spent the better part of a year dragging friends and strangers to Chinatown for brunches, lunches and late night dinners, much of the neighborhood east of Bowery remains unexplored… by me, not humans in general – the area has long been settled. So, my room mate and I decided to brave Manhattan bridge’s weekend traffic and head to a spot recommended to me by my friend Connor Magill through his friend Frank Sun, two more lifetime Chinatown enthusiasts: Super Taste.
Nearly hidden on South Eldridge between Canal and Division Street, Super Taste is available to the lucky few who know it exists. It’s tiny – there are just 6 or 7 tables inside, and like most of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, its interior ranks low on the “HGTV-Quality Restaurants” list. And that’s exactly how we like it (so stay out, David Bromstad). Super Taste deals mostly in hand-pulled noodles… Lanzhou-style, of course. They’re pulled right on site in the restaurant’s busy galley kitchen, and will arrive at your table piping hot in just minutes.
Super Taste’s noodles are best when spicy. Luckily, the restaurant’s soups have varying levels of heat depending on how much sweat you want the rest of your group to watch pour down your face mid-meal. If you’re looking for noodles with a slight, pleasant kick, order the #2, Hand Pulled Noodles with Beef in Hot & Spicy Soup ($5.50 for a heaping bowl). You’ll find the noodles (pounds and pounds of them, seemingly) below massive chunks of fatty, floating cuts of beef – seasoned to perfection with salt and spice. The broth, while milder than our next dish, still packs a punch, and boasts much more flavor than the average bowl of soup in Chinatown.
If you’re looking for an “it was definitely worth it” torture session, the Mt. Qi Beef Noodles ($5.75) are your “guy.” Packed with tiny, tough cubes of beef, mushrooms, fried egg, red peppers, peas, and topped with an absolute mountain of cilantro, the dish was a lot more eclectic than our hot and spicy noodles, and better for it. Overall, the bowl packs exponentially more flavor and heat, the kind that immediately burns the back of your mouth – the kind I absolutely love. This is not for the feint of palate, but if you can handle it, Mt. Qi Beef Noodles are among the most rewarding menu items in town.
It’s not all noodles and soup, though. In my never-ending quest to sample every dumpling that exists (or will exist) on our world (and other worlds, should they be found, and should they also make dumplings), I couldn’t avoid Super Taste’s steamed dumplings. You’ll get 10 for $3, one of the better deals we’ve found outside of specialty, dollar dumpling joints. The pork and chive dumplings are truly excellent – soft, simple, and succulent. The real story, however, is the dumpling sauce. Don’t bother with the pre-mixed stuff on your table. You’ll receive a small container of their specialty sauce – the most perfect blend of soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar you’ll ever find – to help wash your dumplings down. Don’t miss it.
Our journey across Bowery seemed to span much more than a single avenue. Super Taste reminded me, in almost every way, of Flushing’s Main Street – cramped, crowded, a bit gritty, and super authentic (pun intended… I don’t usually talk like that). But its menu stands tall with the most elite in the five boroughs. So, buy a bottle of water or two, snatch a seat facing east (the setting sun will literally blind you in here), and enjoy what will be your best meal (under $10, at least) of the week. Welcome to the secret club.
A final note: In case you were curious… no, I did not know who David Bromstad was before I wrote this piece. I don’t have enough time in my day to watch HGTV’s Design Star, though I do watch House Hunters International. Full disclosure. Thanks, Internet.