Vegetarian Dim Sum Sampler at York Street Noodle House in New Haven

Wok This Way

Not far from the city’s seats of power is a food joint that feels casually anti-establishment, where prices are too low for what you get, pungent smells are the rule, not the exception, and the menus are falling apart but the furniture’s in decent shape—especially the spiffy wood-topped metal tables and chairs that’ve been set up outside of late.

This is York Street Noodle House. The sizzles hissing all day out of the open kitchen upstairs seem to come mostly from woks, handled by a cadre of cooks pumping out pan-Asian goodies on the quick—wonton noodles and fried rices (China), pho (Vietnam), coconut curries (Thailand), teriyakis (Japan) and kimchi dumplings (Korea).

Also dim sum (Taiwan). My first course during a recent visit was YSNH’s Vegetarian Dim Sum Sampler ($5.25), with steamed, unshelled edamame making a bed for other starring components. Among them were three Kimchi Dumplings, wrapped like super-sized tortellini in dough thin enough to see through but strong enough to weather firm chopstick handling. (Soft and starchy, too, the wrapper stuck to the other contents of the sampler, so you really did have to be a little firm about it.) The kimchi rolled up inside offered good things, like a quick dash of heat and some crunch.

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Next to those was a Steamed Vegetable Mushroom Bun—a plump, white pouch like crustless bread, hollowed out and filled with verdant-tasting diced greens. Overall it was a strong marriage with the house soy sauce, which was sopped up by the bready exterior and added a nice salty, savory edge. Be sure to remove the thin wax paper hugging the bottom of the bun before taking a bite.

Rounding out the sampler were Veggie Dumplings, folded into crimped partial moons and steamed. (You can also get them fried.) Their contents were soft and mild, and a little sweet. More of these arrived as part of my next course, the Dumpling and Tofu Noodle Soup ($6.75), served in a deep, very entree-sized bowl. The clear vegetarian broth, with all-important slicks of oil visible on the surface, might be the most flavorful of its kind among the city’s restaurants, though, sadly, the tofu felt like an afterthought. Served plain, without any technique or seasoning applied, it delivered plenty of protein but little taste.

Redemption took the form of a generous amount of greenery steeping in the soup—weighty dark-green leaves like collard tops, plus bean sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and chives, the last sprinkled over the top as a finishing garnish. Substituting very thin rice noodles for the wider egg noodle that usually comes with the dish, the strands bundled together in the bottom of my bowl were about a millimeter thick. Like capellini, they were plentiful and sensational, and I mean that literally. The individual strands were so thin that they could pack together very densely in a single bite, creating a sensation like eating solid food whose structural bonds had become unwound. It was a good kind of surprise, the kind I want to order again.

That goes double for the Spicy Glass Noodle with vegetables entree ($6.50), a hot, steaming, rustic tangle of clear springy noodles turned orange-red from being tossed around in a wok with lots of chili pepper. Hottest when you catch a seed or two, with some sweetness to offset, it packs a fun level of heat for people who really like spicy food. Flash-cooked pieces of crisp broccoli and cabbage—including the shriveled fringes that I like best—provided cool and crunchy moments while plunging through the plate.

It’s the sort of dish you don’t want to stop eating, and at less than $7—like most items on the menu—you can probably afford not to.

York Street Noodle House
166 York St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Thurs, Sun 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm
(203) 776-9675

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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