Ed. Note: Our new neighborhood is so riddled with crazy inexpensive lunch deals that we've decided to try out as many as we can. Our lunch today could be your lunch tomorrow.
With a massive, 7-page-long menu, it's hard to decide where to start at XO Restaurant on Hester Street. The large vats of boiling water and steamers filled with fresh rice noodles are a good indication: this is a noodle shop. The XO Steamed Rice Noodle ($3.50) is a fat pile of slippery, tender, steamed rice noodles that comes coated in a rich, spicy sauce of minced pork flavored with plenty of whole braised garlic cloves, chilis, and shiitake mushrooms. The flavor of this sauce, popular in the Southern Chinese province of Guangdong and in Hong Kong, comes from the copious use of dried scallops and shrimp. It's intensely savory, but without any overtly seafood characteristics. Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to identify the aroma as fish-based if you weren't already in the know.
And if $3.50 for a hot filling lunch is an indication of the quality of the rest of the 200-item menu, I might have to come back 199 more times.
148 Hester Street, New York NY 10013 (map)