Lunch for One: Chinatown Brasserie
If you're a fan of e-fu noodles, you'll know that it is fairly difficult to find a good version of this dish in Manhattan. That's where Chinatown Brasserie comes in. The restaurant is best known for fantastic (if pricey) dim sum and Peking duck, but people rarely speak of their E-Fu Noodles ($11). Come in during lunch, when the cavernous restaurant is quiet, and service tends to be far better than at dinnertime. A prix fixe lunch is offered, but since the noodles aren't an option on that menu, I take the a la carte route.
Steam rises from the noodles as the plate hits the table—noodles stir-fried with seasonal vegetables, which, in this dish, included snow peas along with matchstick cuts of carrots, peppers, and celery. Bean sprouts and shitake mushrooms, too. Most restaurants go wrong with too much oil, presenting a shiny dish in which each noodle is slicked in a thick coat, a grease bomb you'll suffer for hours to come. But here, the dish is light, the noodles tender to the bite. It's delicate, but with plenty of flavor: you can pick out the elements, soy sauce, a bit of garlic, a touch of salt. I tried to eat politely, as this was a nice restaurant and I was dining alone—but when the waiter isn't looking, I put down my chopsticks, picked up the fork, and took one huge mouthful of noodles. Now that was satisfying.
For a little something to round out lunch, consider the Bean Curd Rolls ($6), three to an order, stuffed tight with fresh enoki mushrooms and sliced carrots. Smoky, salty ham, diced red bell peppers, and green onions top the rolls, which are fried then braised, served with a onion-dotted sweet soy sauce on the side.