Written by: Ben Phelps
Spotted! Egg noodle soup at Grand Bo Ky
Caroline and I suit up for meals out that require a little flash. You can’t roll up to Eleven Madison Park or Jean Georges in jeans and a Mastodon t-shirt. Oh non mon frère. And while those meals are so good they warrant the necktie and uncomfortable shoes, there’s something liberating about eating good food at a place where the only preparation required from you beforehand is to make sure your shorts are buttoned, and your slip on Adidas are actually from the same pair. One such place is Grand Bo Ky in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Toss the nose-in-the-air pretense out the window and prepare to slurp noodles loudly and appreciatively. The only fanfare at this simple eatery is deciding whether to dip your sautéed mustard greens in the ramekin with the dark and smoky chili oil or the one with bright, acidic pickled bird chilies in vinegar.
Fact: Each time I walk in to Grand Bo Ky, I know I’m getting soup with egg noodles. The only unknown is what I’m going to add to the concoction. Wontons with pork and shrimp? Beef round with tripe? Fish balls have long been a favorite addition to noodle soup for me. I love the chewy and rubbery texture – the almost fake consistency they have. They’re like the canned Spam of the sea. And while there’s little resemblance to actual food, these spring loaded fish balls always do a great job of perfuming the savory and homey chicken and pork based broth with the slight essence of the ocean. The noodles themselves are al dente, toothy perfection. I’m a real Dickensian schoolmaster when it comes to noodles. I’ll break a ruler over some knuckles if mushy, insipid carbs start to break down in my soup! Luckily, I get to be the fat, purring house cat I really am when I order my fish ball noodle soup at Grand Bo Ky because they are always on point. Add a little white pepper to your soup and you’ve got a fragrant, earthy bowl of perfectly executed, simple goodness.
The menu at Grand Bo Ky is a mix of Chinese and Vietnamese – so their plate of cold country chicken has the herbaceous properties you’d find in the Mekong Delta, but manages to retain the supple and moist texture you would find in a traditional plate of Hianese chicken rice.
And while you’re at it, forget that silly diet for a second and order the amazing house shrimp rolls, wrapped in tofu skin and deep fried. OH EM GEE.
Honorable mention goes to the beef belly flat noodle soup that Caroline orders when we go…it tastes like a roast beef dinner and a bowl of Chinese noodle soup had a baby. No matter what you order, I’ll be the guy in the table by the window with the (hopefully) matching shoes, slurping noodles as if his life depends on it. Say hi.
Grand Bo Ky is located at 216 Grand Street, New York City