26 Carmine St between Bedford and Bleecker Sts (212-524-6800). Subway: A, C, E, B, D, F, V to W 4th St. Daily noon--11pm. Average main course: $11. Cash only.
At this brightly lit space unveiled last month by Quentin Dante—the owner who dramatically closed Yumcha last year after a very brief launch—the action happens in the open kitchen. Chef Zakiah Aziz, a petite Malaysian woman wearing a blue baseball cap, fries pork dumplings over a furious flame mere feet from the 14-seat bar (and there are just five other chairs in the whole restaurant). The best dishes, not surprisingly, employ noodles. The wok-fried varieties taste rather bland, but the ones in broth are excellent: One standout pairs tender duck with Chinese broccoli and delicate egg noodles in a complex soup. The menu doesn’t start and end with strips of pasta: There are generously sized appetizers, such as sticky sesame wings, and oddities like fried squid with a tangy dipping sauce made of reduced lime juice and maple syrup. Dessert arrives in cups—a choice of spoonable five-spiced cheesecake or cool almond “tofu,” a panna cotta--like mixture of cream, gelatin and almond flavor. Why call it tofu if that’s not what it is? It was a typo, Aziz explains, and was supposed to read “dofu,” a reference to a Chinese treat.—TONY