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July 31, 2007 / Tony

Dinner at Chinatown Express

From the sidewalk, this place looks like a dive.  Shabby exterior, hokey signs, and a sense that the exterior just isn’t that well looked after.  Yet, proudly displayed on a number of sandwich boards, are numerous newspaper reviews singing the praises of this little joint.  One can also see employees busy at work stretching noodles.  Intrigued, my sister Jessy and I adventured there for dinner. 

The inside of the restaurant is about the same as the outside,  a little dirty and a little bit scary.  In the menu is yet another restaurant review explaining how good the noodles and the pork buns are.  As I always want the best a restaurant has to offer, I order fried noodles with beef and an order of pork buns.  Jessy orders one of her favorite dishes, sesame chicken.  Here’s what the food looked like:

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The pork buns were somehow absolutely addicting.  They are little bits of seasoned pork wrapped in a dense, yeast based dough and steamed.  Everything in it seemed, to me, a little bit unseasoned.  The dough seemed bland and the pork could have used a little bit of heat.  They definitely needed to be dipped in the soy and sesame oil sauce that came with it.  But, the dough was dense and chewy and showed just the slightest sign of gluten, all of which gave it a wonderful mouthfeel and some real character.  The pork, while seemingly small in volume compared to the amount of dough, provided just enough savoriness to balance the blandness of the dough.  I found that I couldn’t stop eating them and wanted another order.  Deconstructed they should not have been that delicious but they were.

The noodle dish, on the other hand, was a disappointment.  The noodles themselves were excellent.  They were slightly thick with a beautiful amount of “chew” and a slight (and pleasant) egg flavor.  They were superlatively satisfying.  Already I can think of them as comfort food.  But, the rest of the dish did not do them justice, perhaps because the dish was less than $5.  The beef in the dish was tough, stringy, and tasted more of fat than of beef.  It definitely came from a rather cheap cut.  The sauce was a seemingly simple soy sauce based concotion and after a few bites, it became uninteresting and even a little annoying because of the greasy feel of it in your mouth.  I couldn’t finish it.  Maybe I should have ordered the noodles in broth, which was the other bargain option with the noodles. 

Jessy’s dish, which she was kind enough to share, was great.  The chicken was very crispy and had a wonderful soy-based sauce with hints of citrus, sweetness, and sesame.  It was just wonderfully deep in flavor.  It was simply the best sesame chicken I ever had. 

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