Year of the Takeout: Day 16
Lobster Chow Fun and Hot and Sour Soup from China Star (145 First Avenue, 212-777-3888)
There were many off-putting things about China Star -- the 1970s porn-star nomenclature, the B safety grade tacked in the window, and the fact that all the diners present Tuesday afternoon appeared to be eating Puerto Rican plates rather than Chinese food.
Expectation-wise, the bar had fallen on the low side -- especially when it came to ordering something as boastful as a full-on lobster dish.
Perplexingly, the $5.50 lobster chow fun -- think lo mein vibe but with wide, flat rice noodles, and you get the right idea -- contained lots of real chunks of the shellfish delicacy. The sweet, plentiful meat was simply redolent with moisture. Meanwhile, the starchy principal -- with just the right level of sesame-oil-based grease and garlicky soy sauce -- achieved a rare, filling stickiness.
Had other vegetables other than green onions and mushrooms -- as well as the odd pea pod and carrot -- been present (and had there been slightly more nuance to the seasoning), this pick could easily compete with some of the dishes at Williamsburg stalwart M Noodle Shop (549 Metropolitan Avenue, 718-384-8008).
What really astounds -- Star's hot and sour soup.
Typically, this stew totally tanks in most restaurants -- especially takeout establishments -- which rely on canned ingredients and don't care much for quality or creativity in the kitchen. Replete with sharply spicy chilies; powerful, oniony heat; firm tofu rectangles; black and white mushrooms; and bamboo shoot shards, the $2.15 pint here just amazed.
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