- Restaurant Niu Noodle House
- Cuisine Chinese
- Location 15 Greenwich Avenue (between Christopher & W. 10th Streets), Manhattan
- Phone 212-488-9888
- Directions Hopstop
- Atmosphere warm, comfortable, energetic
- Attire casual
- Ideal for 1x1, small groups,
- Price moderate
Although I had not seen Kate in years, we recently reconnected via Facebook over all of my puppy-centric status updates and questions. I guess I never realized what a great forum it was for real-life advice. As a dog owner, herself, Kate sent me a "direct message" asking where she could find a decent, pet-friendly restaurant that didn't suck. Before I sent her my short list, I invited her to join me for a restaurant tasting at Niu Noodle House. Obviously, a catch-up session was long overdue...
I arrived at Niu with plenty of time to spare for a cocktail. Or two. Because I checked in with the hostess prior to making a bee-line for the bar, the employees were well aware of my presence. "There are like six other restaurant reviewers coming in tonight, too," she advised, in her thick Australian accent.
Having studied the cocktail menu prior to my arrival, I knew that I wanted to whet my palette with the "Clever Margarita," which was composed of Avion Reposado, roasted lime juice, and simple syrup. Sounds delicious, right? The friendly bartender informed me that, despite the fact that it was no longer on the menu (the "Clever Margarita" had since been replaced by a lavender margarita), he would make me one, anyways. As he concocted my beverage, I took a moment to analyze the restaurant's interior space:
- My first observation? For a Monday evening, I was surprised by how full the bar was, although it appeared that many of the imbibers were close friends of the handsome manager.
- Upon entering Niu, guests walk through an enclosed patio furnished with a handful of tables.
- The main dining room, while relatively spacious, managed to maintain a sense of intimacy/warmth. Walls were plastered with NYC-motif paper, depicting some of the Big Apple's most famous landmarks (i.e. the arch at Washington Square Park), in addition to patches of faux exposed brick. It all kind of reminded me of the interior of New York, New York in Las Vegas. Tacky? Awesome? The jury is still out...
The "margarita" I received was nothing even remotely close to what I had envisioned. There was not a salted rim and, instead of being garnished with a lime slice/quarter, it was crowned with a thick lemon peel. After my first sip, my fears were confirmed: The base screamed 'lemonade,' and the alcohol hinted at vodka. Not tequila. Sigh. Believe it or not though, I ended up finishing the whole goddamn thing, anyways, despite how bad it sucked. Man, I'm such a lush...
Kate arrived shortly before I begrudgingly killed my lemonade-margarita. We were seated at a table towards the back of the dining room, in front of a deafeningly-loud and rowdy group. So loud, in fact, that not even the best acoustics in the world could have shut them up. Seriously. That being said, Kate and I actually found them to be pretty funny and entertaining, so we just decided to stay put (instead of switching tables).
After catching up for a bit, Kate and I decided to toast to our reunion with a round of identical gin-based cocktails. Now, while I couldn't tell you what else was in our beverages besides gin and St. Germain, I can say that it tasted light years better than that "margarita" I began with...
Kate and I took our time perusing the dinner menu and, ultimately, chose to split a bevy of dishes.
Niu Special Steam Buns with Char Siu Pork Char siu pork, julienned green onion, and sliced cucumbers were cradled within a folded, steamed bun.
While I'm a sucker for steamed pork buns, Kate and I both agreed that the actual buns (not their components) were cooler than room temperature, which was a bit off-putting. To make matters worse, the char siu pork was virtually fat/marble-free (as in, free of fat), thus rendering dry/er slices of meat. Fat = moisture, folks.
Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumplings) The dumplings' dough/encasement was a bit thicker than I like, and the pork meatball was slightly overcooked; however, the actual soup broth was very well seasoned and flavorful.
Shrimp & Seaweed Spring Rolls A jumbo, tail-on shrimp was enveloped by a thin sheet of seaweed and a wonton wrapper before being plunged in to the deep fryer. The result? A luscious, savory golden trinket bursting with flavor and an undeniably crisp texture. The earthy seaweed added a mysteriously compatible balance to the tame shrimp.
What an explosively delicious dish!
'White Jade Bunny' Shrimp Dumplings Served atop thin slices of cucumber were four dumplings, each filled with an ample chunk of fresh, steamed shrimp. Not ground shrimp - not some congealed mystery seafood/filler mix - but real, legit pieces of shrimp.
Simple and delightful, Kate and I gobbled these morsels in seconds.
Specialty Dish: Walnut Shrimp Plated beside a bed of steamed broccoli were whole, plump, batter-fried jumbo shrimp tossed in a sweet, creamy, mayonnaise-based sauce. Crunchy, candied walnuts and green onion tendrils completed the presentation.
"I seriously think this stuff is made with crack," I squealed, as I took another forkful of the shrimp. "It is so fcuking good!" With her mouth-full, Kate just nodded and smiled in agreement.
This dish, in all of its Americanized Chinese food glory, is worthy of a return visit. Buzz kill alert: Too bad it's only a limited-time "special!" Get to Niu now before it's snatched off the menu!!!
Niu Beef Trifecta We were presented with a large, black caldron that was nearly filled to the brim with an abundance of savory delights; some hiding just beneath the surface: House-made ramen noodles, flank steak, short ribs, beef steak, tempura seaweed, scallions, and asparagus. Sweet corn kernels accompanied.
While I didn't find the trifecta of beef cuts very exciting (actually, they were overcooked), I could not stop slurping the incredibly flavorful broth and homemade ramen noodles. Neither component required so much as a drop of soy sauce/salt. Now *that's* a good sign, and I'm sure that my fellow seasoning whores would concur.
Green Tea Shaved Ice What appeared to be pistachio kulfi was actually a mound of shaved ice that had been doused with some sort of creamy, green tea concoction. Plus an overkill of uber-fragrant rose water. Tapioca pearls and jellied fruits crowned the top.
While I think that Kate really enjoyed the dessert, I did not. I would have much rather had bubble tea, which is actually offered at Niu or that handsome manager! Next time......
Kate and I enjoyed our experience at Niu. While there were a couple of misses, there were plenty of hits. Plus, pricing is legit, the service was friendly and knowledgeable, and the location is hard to beat.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle