Restaurant: The Handpulled Noodle
Location: Harlem/Hamilton Heights
Cuisine: Northwest Chinese Soul Food
As Andrew Ding, a former Musician turned restaurant owner, told us, The Handpulled Noodle’s menu was developed “from recipes that I grew up with from the Northwest region of China I am from.” While he used to spend his days practicing music, he realized “I didn’t want to pursue music as a career path ” which was “a pretty scary process” to realize that you spent your entire life and hours every single day on something you are no longer interested in. After starting a nearby coffee shop, Andrew spent a lot of time preparing to open this store. During our conversation, he discussed being an apprentice at a restaurant in Sydney, Australia, where he learned about how to cook these dishes quickly and at the scale needed for a restaurant. He also incorporated the feedback of his friends and family to make sure the menu stayed to the authentic, original Northwestern Chinese roots while also adapting to local palettes.
The entrance to The Handpulled Noodle appears very standard along the rows of stores along 148th street. As our team entered the restaurant, we saw other patrons slurping their noodles outside and relaxing. Inside, the restaurant feels quite quaint and cozy. One can hear the sizzling in the kitchen as the small team cooks up new dishes to serve to customers. The warm smells waft through the room as people order up at the front. The storefront itself is quite small and the interior decor is also plain. The wall has a large version of logo proudly reminding people of the store’s main entrees: it’s handmade handpulled noodles.
Stretched to order in the kitchen, these noodles are not your run-of-the-mill, standard-cut fare. Handpulled noodles, known as 拉面, have long played an important role as a staple in Chinese cuisine, but now that most restaurants buy pre-made machine-cranked noodles, the hand-made variety is a delicacy. The texture of handpulled noodles is an experience in and of itself — the slight irregularity adds both chew and charm. The shape of the noodles varies depending on your order; The Handpulled Noodle offers round and thick “Lagman” noodles, belt-wide “ribbon noodles,” flat and bite-sized “chopped ribbon noodles,” and pea-sized “Ding Ding” dough balls. Pro tip: go with friends and share multiple types to experience the versatility of hand pulled noodles.
First we tried their Pork and Chive and Lamb and Carrot Dumplings. Seated in a black plastic container, don’t let their modest presentation deceive you: these dumplings pack a ton of flavor in a small pouch. We had the pleasure of trying the lamb and carrot dumplings, as well as the pork and chive. Each was well seasoned and melted in our mouths. The saltiness of the pork brought out the flavor of the chives, making for a delicious combination that is sure to impress. The tenderness of the lamb coupled with the bite of the carrot made for an amazing and complex dish. Pairing each kind of dumpling with the soy sauce was a great contrast to the meatiness of the dumplings. While I did prefer the pork and chive dumplings over the lamb and carrot, both are sure to be crowd pleasers.
Next we tried their Dapan Niu. It is described on The Handpulled Noodle’s menu as spicy beef stew in ribbon noodles. However, this dish is much more than its humble description implies. The texture of the noodles complemented the blend of spices in the stew seamlessly. Each bite was slightly different and unique as the noodles were handmade and “characterized by variations in thickness and uniformity.” The noodles soaked up the spices as they mixed with the juice of the beef, which was so tender that it fell apart as we picked it up with our chopsticks. The medley of vegetables added nuance to the flavor of the stew and variety to each bite of the dish. The restaurant offers the option to have this meal with no, low, medium, or high spice. We personally had the medium spice option and did not regret the decision at all. The spice enriched the taste of the Dapan Niu while only leaving a slight tingly sensation behind, something that is rare among spicy dishes. This dish definitely makes an impression, but don’t take our word at face value. Go and try it for yourself!
Afterwards, we tried their traditional Stir-fry. The “Traditional Stir Fry w/ Veggies, Hand-pulled Lagman Noodles, and Chicken” was deceptively simple. Although the thick, slightly saucy noodle, wok-fried vegetables, and tender pieces of chicken initially appeared quite standard, the magic of the dish came out in details.
The noodles themselves were perfectly al dente, with just enough spring and chew to properly contrast with the juicy and tender chicken. The stir-fried onions, peppers, and celery provided a surprising amount of crunch — a welcome change from the soggy, oil-drenched veggies that cheap, unauthentic Chinese food often contains. The sauce thinly coated each component, delivering the perfect amount of umami and spice so as to not overwhelm the entire flavor profile. Finally, the generous heap of chopped cilantro leaves on top enveloped the whole dish with a fresh, herbaceous fragrance, while the stems of the cilantro added another element of exciting crunch. As a whole, the stir-fried noodles were both homey and addictive, with plenty of textual variety and zing.
Lastly, we tried the Spicy Cumin Lamb. This was definitely a good go-to dish for anyone unsure of what to try. It comes with nice, crisp vegetables and your choice of noodles. From our conversation with the head chef, he recommended we pair it with their Ding Ding noodles and it was definitely a great combination. The noodles were smooth and blended in perfectly with the tender meat and vegetables. The dish was lightly seasoned. Coming paired with juicy pieces of lamb, this dish was absolutely delicious.
DIRECTIONS: Jump on the uptown 1 train and go to 145th street. Get off and walk north for about 5 minutes to 3600 Broadway. What’s great about The Handpulled Noodle experience is that you can sit down and eat with your friends, or you can take the food to go and find a nice spot outside in the warmer months to sit and chat with friends. While the dishes are not as practical for people on the go, the dishes are irresistible and delighting for sitting down with some peers to get work done or just chat.
Also—the average price for a dish is $10! That’s about the same price as a Sweetgreen salad!
Our team definitely fell in love with this restaurant. The dishes have so much flavor, and there’s something for everyone regardless of your spice tolerance and taste preferences. Getting to see your noodles pulled in front of you is also an interesting experience, and it’s fascinating to see every single set of noodles being made to order for each person. Overall, our team loved this store and has already gone back multiple times. One thing Andrew reminded us is that The Handpulled Noodle is not a fast food restaurant. This means that if you’re ordering during their peak hours, you might have to wait a bit. But trust us, the wait is worth it.
If you want to order something from the store, but don’t want to make the trek uptown, you can use Postmates to have your order delivered right to your residence hall. Sign up for Postmates and use code w8ygi5 to get your first meal delivered to you free.*
This review is a part of The Lion’s new off-campus section. If you are interested in joing the team to help do everything from reviewing restaurants to Broadway shows and all other types of events off-campus, email firstname.lastname@example.org