“It’s the same thing as New World Mall Food Court,” a local restaurant owner said of downtown Flushing’s latest entrant in the Queens Chinatown food court game. Indeed the first thing one sees when entering the month-old New York Food Court is Tokyo Express, a fake Japanese chicken teriyaki joint that looks suspiciously like the one in New World Mall. And, yes just like at New World Mall Food Court, there’s yet another branch of Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles as well as several spicy stir fry by the pound places, including the ridiculously named Incredibowl. Nonetheless I’ve been able to ferret out some good stuff. Let’s start with Szechuan Taste, No. 25, which lies just beyond the jivey Japanese.
Framed photos of delectable specialties and an array of cold dishes drew me to New York Food Court’s sole Sichuan stall. And then I noticed the cold noodle and bean jelly station line with several bowls of sauces, different jellies and some really good looking noodles. I immediately ordered a bowl of spicy cold noodles (ma la liang mian). It might be the best $3.75 I’ve ever spent in Flushing.
A tangle of cooked noodles is placed in a pot and various sauces and other goodies from the liang mian mise en place are tossed in. The result is fiery, sweet, and nutty with just enough Sichuan peppercorn. Fu qi fei pian ($8)—the cool mélange of ox tongue and tripe bathed in chili oil shot through with peanuts and herbs—is excellent as well. The ladies who run what is fast becoming my favorite Sichuan hawker stand hail from Chengdu and told me that their outfit’s Chinese name is Tian Fu Zhi Guo, or Country of Heaven, better known as the Chengdu Plain, or Land of Abundance. I can’t wait to through the rest of their abundant menu.
New World Mall Food Court’s Chinese name Mei Shi Guang Chang, or Beautiful Food Court is sort of poetic. I sent my ace Mandarin specialist Colin Goh of Dim Sum Warriors a photo of the front of New York Food Court. “Niu Yue Mei Shi Guang,” is the name of the copycat food court. If that looks they just tacked New York in front of the name, you are correct.
Another standout in this seeming sea of mediocrity is Guchun Private Kitchen, or Gu Chung Xiao Zao, which translates to Old City Little Kitchen. As best as I can tell the folks who run it are from Northern China. One thing’s for sure they are very organized, all decked out in snazzy blue polo shirts. The core of the menu revolves around northern style bing, a not quite paper thin Chinese pancake.
Guchun’s one of the few places in New York City I’ve seen chao bing, that is the pancake cut up into noodle like strips. Hot and spicy beef pancake strips ($6.75), ma la niu rou chao bing, takes these shreds of dough and mixes them with bits of beef, cabbage and other veggies. There’s not too much ma la going on, but the combination of the pancake strips—some thin, some thick and slightly chewier—is a nice change of pace from noodles.
On another visit I tried the hot and spicy beef pancake roll ($6.25), ma la niu rou jia bing. Once again not so much numb hot flavor going, but tasty enough. Unlike some of the other stall though Guchun gets an A+ for originality.
At stall No 10 find Liang Pi Wang, an outfit whose name translates to cold skin noodle king. As the man who turned Anthony Bourdain on to the liang pi at Xi’an Famous Foods, I couldn’t bring myself to order it. The 10 item menu also includes another Xi’an staple, simply listed as “burger.” There is also some really good looking da pan ji, or big tray of chicken, listed as braised chicken with potato and green pepper ($12).
Instead of any of those other dishes, my buddy and I went for the No. 10 Sauce Noodle ($6), which I assumed to be a house specialty. The menu listed the options of sauce or dry. “You should get it with soup,” the gal behind the counter said when I asked for dry. “I give you just a little soup,” she said when I insisted.
The resulting bowl of hand-pulled noodles topped with a fragrant mound of stewed pork looked nothing like the picture, but was utterly delicious. The broad noodles were softer than many others and coated in a lovely gravy. “This is amazing,” my pal said as I grunted in agreement through a mouthful of noodles. The dish’s Chinese name shi hao jiang mian, literally translates to No. 10 Sauce Noodle.
I’ve yet to try any of New York Food Court’s dessert and dumpling options. I am hopeful that there is something original and delicious to be had. I’m always happy to see another food court in Flushing, but I can’t help but be discouraged by what seems to be a hastily put together clone of New World Mall. All that said, I have a feeling that deliciousness and originality will prevail. For evidence I need look no further than Helen You of the stellar Dumpling Galaxy, which like X’ian Famous Foods got its start in my beloved Golden Shopping Mall. Have you been to New York Food Court? If so what do you like so far?
N ew York Food Court, 133-35 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing