Hunan Slurp New Restaurant NYC

Stop in for noodles, stay for the atmosphere

At Hunan Slurp, a new contemporary noodle spot in the East Village, the best meals begin with the skinned cherry tomatoes. The modern space may call for something more glamorous, but the cold starter proves luxury is what you make it.

Each bite-size tomato has its own unique posture—some oblong and others perfectly round, while none are same shade of red. And despite bathing in rock sugar and plum sauce for five hours, they somehow still maintain their bite. In effect, the dish tastes like candy: sweet, supple and tangy.

Photo: Aryelle Siclait

You may have guessed by its name, but this is a Hunan restaurant. And though the dish is far from traditional Hunan fare, it does serve as a superb palate cleanser for chef Chao Wang's signature Chinese noodle soups.  

Wang was born in Hengyang in the Hunan province of China. As a classically trained oil painter, he is first and foremost an artist. But after 25 years working on canvas, Wang has decided to turn his attention to the kitchen. "Rather than a transition from painting to food, the eatery is considered as an extension of my art," Wang explains.

One look around, and you'll notice what he means. Industrial light bulbs hang at various lengths from the ceiling, but the majority of the light is natural, entering from a glass wall at the entrance. With clean sight lines and wood-paneled walls that arch to the ceiling, it's the kind of space you wouldn't expect to serve the kind of food it does.

Photo: Hunan Slurp

If you pay attention to the happenings of New York's food scene, then you already know that Chinese noodle shops are having a moment. And while the recent glut of openings in the category are focused on Yunnan-inspired noodles, the Hunan rice noodle, or mifen, is lesser known. These noodles are shaped from dough made with rice flour before they are rinsed, steamed, pressed and steamed again.

The shop is built to showcase mifen and its glorious versatility. The menu may not sound familiar, but recognizable flavors can be found by ordering the beef or chicken noodles. But an optimal introduction to mifen is Wang's signature fish fillet. The noodles take on the umami of the broth, which is boiled with pork bone overnight then simmered with wok-fried fish until white. When the mifen is finally mixed in, the noodles float delicately in a pot of pickled vegetables, scallops, scallions and pork.

Photo: Hunan Slurp

If you've still got room, a non-soup standout is the chicken stir-fry. In one dive of chopsticks you might come up with a slice of orange bell pepper, a tender chunk of chicken and ginger, all set against a thick, sweet sauce.

Photo: Aryelle Siclait

All in, Hunan Slurp is a welcomed addition to the city's growing noodle scene. And while Wang is making the case for noodles served in the style of his native province, we're helping the cause by eating them.