For much of its short history, Mian was amongst the only restaurants in the pocket-sized Barrio Chino to offer a realm of possibilities outside the identical fare that lines Calle Arribeños while remaining a populist choice for the neighborhood’s everyday chum. And then, as quickly as I found myself chomping down on anis glazed chicken feet (not my thing, turns out) and chilled pork stomach with smacks of red chile (surprisingly addictive, I learned), the cult soup shop next to the train tracks shuttered up.
Initial rumors suggested the sisters were just on vacation; months went by and my favorite grocer insisted they were gone for good.
The neighborhood grew in their absence. The city’s greatest fried chicken sandwich at Belike Time, soups of all stripes at Li Chiangming, and twice cooked pork and sautéed snails at Hong Sichuan are all venerable options.
And then, they were back.
Just a block up the road, the long and thin orange tinted dining room has been swapped out for an airy pastel blue restaurant. No longer crammed into a kitchen the size of a small cubicle, the sisters stand like conductors at an open kitchen which faces the dining room—one tosses noodles into fuming broths while the other stacks steamers full of dumplings.
The pair is well-known for their sour soups. Big plastic bowls are carried over, ceremoniously cupped between two hands and leaving behind a steamy chemical trail that fills the room with a woody smell, almost like a freshly shaved bamboo stick. Be careful—the waitress tends to lay the bowl down directly in front of your face—the vapors shoot upwards and cling to your cheeks like a weekend trip to the sauna. The flavor is slightly pungent—pickled bamboo slices and the distant flavor of ginko that balloons with each mouthful. Beef is likely patted down with starch and becomes silky and on the tongue. Another version swaps pickled bamboo shoots for peanuts and cilantro. Here, the broth is deeper, less bitter and more like a thick chile adobe, scooped in with every slurp of noodles.
Peanuts take on another dimension when they are mashed into a paste and tossed with thick, gluttonous, handmade noodles. Pull them up and dip them back into the bowl being sure to mix it all one more time. Don’t leave without ordering pork dumplings, or ravioles chinos, which arrive in teams of eight and are woven together so delicately it is almost a shame to have to devour them so quickly. If you leave them too long, the dough turns tough and the mellow pork and chive filling loses its juice. Dip everything in a mix of soy sauce and a graiony chile oil similar to a Mexican salsa macha—I like it miti-miti.
If you’re frustrated by how quickly the dumplings disappear, order another steamer full.
Address: Mendoza 1629, Barrio Chino
Hours: daily from noon to 9pm
Price per person: $300-400