Fantastic noodle shops abound across New York City, with a particular concentration of well-loved spots like Little Tong and Momofuku residing in the East Village. They can be difficult for parties of all sizes and ages, however, with narrow, crowded spaces and long wooden benches that aren’t very accommodating for group interaction. Then there’s relative newcomer Hunan Slurp, opened for nearly six months on First Avenue. Here you’ll find chef Chao Wang’s distinct artistic translation of Southern Chinese cuisine served in a comfortably stylish space with a relaxed vibe.
The space is subtly divided, as there’s a long wooden table in the front with backless stools under a paneled canopy of blond wood that recalls the interior of a ship or perhaps of a whale’s ribcage. It’s a good place to perch if you’re grabbing a quick bite alone or for duos in need of a solid base before a night spent in the neighborhood’s bars. In the back are marble-topped tables lined along cushioned bunches built against the walls, and it’s here where dates and large groups can unwind with their B.Y.O.B. purchases over Wang’s expressive and quietly impressive dishes.
One dish showcasing the chef’s gift for creative interpretation is the Hunan salad appetizer. The traditional presentation is Century eggs (preserved eggs, often duck, as is the case here) on a bed of fried peppers, but Wang wraps the eggs in eggplant and tops them with peppers before dressing them with soy sauce and sesame oil, combining the fermented, sweet, and umami tastes into one bite. Have fun picking at the skewed beef that’s served in toothpick-sized bites and seasoned with a smoky, cumin-heavy mixture the Hunan people invented to counter the heavy humidity in the region.
Don’t dare skip the Hometown Lu Fen that has rice noodles dipped in stock, but is the only noodle dish on the menu served without a broth. On top is fanned slices of beef, char su pork, and crispy soy bean that’s all sprinkled with peanut and served alongside julienned cucumber. Mix the whole thing together before serving the table—another chance to interact with the food and your friends.
As my date and I chowed down on the lu fen and sipped from the bottles of Tsingtao we brought, I took in the scene around us. I surveyed the party of six twenty-something professionals on our left giggling as they dug into a mound of the bite-sized ribs before glancing over to the family on our right—a woman of approximately 30 with her parents visiting from out of town were nonchalantly passing around the Three Delicacies plate and a bowl of the braised chicken feet. As I opened my mouth to shout across the table I realized there was no din to overpower, so instead I just ordered more noodles.