pan mee noodles at Kopitiam
151 east broadway
The beloved Malaysian snack counter recently reopened/relocated from its postage stamp-sized digs around the block. So cozy was the previous iteration that even a half-minute stop over for my ritual pre-Metrograph caffeine pick-me-up (penang white coffee, or teh tarik, both of which come deliciously supplemented with condensed milk) left me doused in the smell of peanuts frying in oil. Thankfully the new space is more accommodating—tables aplenty and a long counter along a picturesque window overlooking East Broadway.
The first thing I ordered: hand torn noodles in soup, because flour noodles are always worthy and I was struck by the similarity to the meatless Korean version of soojaebi made by grandma, also with anchovy broth due to her late-aged vegetarianism. Here, at Kopitiam, a noble mound of fried anchovies—the salty crunch of which becomes tempered, but not ruined by broth the longer you idle—bury juicy wood ear mushrooms, intermixed with what I thought were strands of kelp, though it's not listed on the menu. Sift even further through the noodles, delightfully misshapen packets of springiness, to find a smattering of minced pork scattered on the anchovy broth floor. Spinach adds both color and nutrition, an excuse for those who need to justify the carbs. All this, but $10.
Desserts at The Little One
150 east broadway
The platonic ideal of an ice cream sandwich comes by way of a Japanese confection called monaka. Thin, crips wafers are traditionally smeared with azuki bean paste, but at this lower lower east side shop, they are the vessel for ice cream of uncommon flavors—an admirable feat in a city amok with dessert parlors. The buckwheat flavor, subtle, comes rolled in crunchy groats and the insides hide a bitter chocolate, delectably fudgy. With its rounded edges, the rectangular monaka present a supremely functional design, one that best encases the filling and prevents any of the inevitable protrusion of its creamy contents, as occurs with the involuntary press-down on the sandwich as you guide it toward your maw. Bearing a droll-kawaii resemblance to a burger, this is perhaps how all pastry chefs should address the classic summer treat.
An attempt to elevate and showcase another Japanese confection happens with the doryaki, flat castella-based cakes. They were the sublime subject of Naomi Kawase's 2016 film Sweet Bean, and as such has since left me curious to try one. So I was a bit disappointed that the shop did not make them to order (they're made every morning), but the execution of a peerless specimen—perfect circles, impressively smooth without a single pock— was not lost on me. They do arrive slathered with cream or sticky sweet milk jam. The sweetness and heft are substantial. Think of them as pancakes dressed as dessert, unapologetically so.
Next time: kakigori, japanese-style.