While dining at Mein a few nights ago, one of my companions asked if the homemade noodles were extruded or made by hand. "No one in Houston does that," the young server assured him of the local dearth of hand-pulled noodles. It was my duty, then, to pull out my phone and show him this video.
I captured that chef at work on Sunday night at Strings Noodle, which opened in Dun Huang Plaza last month. Of course, it's not the only place in Chinatown to get hand-pulled noodles—I've personally tried the ones at Uyghur Bistro (in Uyghur, the Chinese word for hand-pulled noodles, lamian, is slightly adulterated to lagman) and have heard tell of a few others—but it's the only restaurant at which it's so central that the kitchen has an observation window. And it reveals that the pasta is not only made in-house, but that it's made to order. The video above was shot immediately after my server handed the chef my ticket.
Not that anyone is ordering anything else. There are only two entrées on the menu: Lanzhou beef noodle soup and "noodle in gravy." I appreciate soup but care more about pasta, so it's my tendency to order the broth-free option when trying a new noodle.
In reality, the "gravy" falls somewhere between thick, silky soup and actual gravy. It lacks character on its own, but that's what the chile paste and black vinegar on the table are for. I added both liberally after my first few bites of the skinny, chewy noodles.
And yes, those are thin slices of beef tenderloin on the side. Even after sitting long minutes in the broth, they tasted like roast beef, which was an unexpected but not unpleasant counterpoint to the wide assortment of tender veggies.
Unconsciously keeping with the "strings" theme, I also ordered "spicy bean curd crust," basically more noodles, this time made from tofu. The dark chile color suggested far more heat than I tasted, but the toothsome strands were a fun bite nonetheless.
So despite a tiny menu, Chinatown's only restaurant representing the northern Gansu region of China is worth a stop for dinner and a show.