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New York Knows its noodles, from the thinnest ramen to the thickest udon and every soba, somen and cellophane strand in between. But mixian—the Yunnan-born rice noodle that goes down like the love child of Chinese vermicelli and Italian spaghetti—has proven more elusive than its starchy brethren, found predominantly in outer-borough holes-in-the-wall like Yun Nan Flavour Garden in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Wd~50 alum Simone Tong zooms in on the Yunnanese specialty in the city’s densest thicket of noodle houses at Little Tong, her blond-wood, 28-seat East Village canteen with restaurateur Simon Xi (SakaMai, Bar Moga).
Tong is of Szechuan descent but largely trades that region’s peppercorn tingle for Yunnan’s fermented tang: The slight acidity of her soft, springy noodles are best showcased in the little pot mixian ($15), a porky potage laced with pickled mustard seeds and chili vinaigrette, and the grandma chicken mixian ($15), which livens up chicken broth and shredded bird with the sharp funk of pickled daikon radish, black sesame garlic oil and a savory tea egg. In comparison, the Banna shrimp mixian ($15) is curiously subdued, a sweet, chilled bowl of tomato-shellfish broth enriched with coconut milk that displays little of the promised smokiness.
Punchier are the menu’s “Little Eats,” spunky small plates like salted cucumber with a nutty tahini-sesame “bang bang” sauce ($4); a tartare of beef and chopped carrot, served with a slick of Szechuan butter and some pulled roti ($13); and a fresh, fragrant ghost chicken salad, tossed with fermented chilies, pickled red onions and herbs by the fistful ($7). Little Tong may be small in stature, but it’s big where it counts.
177 First Ave
|Cross street:||between E 10th and E 11th Sts|
|Price:||Average noodle soup: $15|
|Opening hours:||Tue–Sun 5:30–11pm|
|Do you own this business?|