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$20 Dinner

NYC’s Wonton Queen Maxi Lau Blesses Flushing (Again) With Her Second Noodle Shop 

Make your way to Maxi's Noodle 2 for the best wontons in the city.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Ever since she could remember, Maxi Lau always wanted to open a restaurant. She—and, subsequently, we—have her mom to thank for that. "I started this whole restaurant business because of my mother," Lau told Hell Gate. "We lived in Hong Kong until I was nine, moving to Long Island in 1997, and it was always her dream to open up a wonton noodle shop."

To that end, Lau's mom traveled to Toronto to learn the art of wontons from family friends who own a string of renowned noodle shops in Canada as well as in Hong Kong. After returning to New York, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer before she could see her dream come to fruition. "When my mother passed away, those same family friends reached out and offered to teach me," Lau said. "This was in 2017. It changed my life."  

Lau started with popups, taking over her aunt's Hong Kong-style coffee shop, Kissena Cafe, in the evenings. Then an unexpected Pete Wells rave in the New York Times about her wontons fast-tracked the whole operation, and in September of 2019, she opened her first Maxi's Noodle, snagging a prime location on 38th Avenue in Flushing. 

Lau really wanted to expand into Manhattan for Maxi's Noodle 2, and said she was "so close" to signing for a place on Elizabeth Street. Instead, it's Flushing that gets more Maxi for now, with this spanking new corner spot on Main Street, near Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

For Lau, opening her second Maxi's so close to the first has its advantages. All of her team lives in Flushing, she said, so it makes staffing a lot easier. And the kitchen at the new spot is huge, so she can wrap all of her wontons for both restaurants here, and free up some much-needed space at her original location. 

So why all the fuss about a second noodle joint in Flushing, you say? Aren't there already plenty of places to get wontons around here? Yes—but none like Lau's. 

First off, the Maxi's wontons are enormous—"Americanized and super-sized" is how Lau put it—almost three times as big as you'd find at, say, Chinatown's Wu's Wonton King. Secondly, they're made almost entirely of shrimp. "A lot of wontons have mostly pork and maybe like one shrimp inside," she said. "Mine are 90 percent shrimp and 10 percent pork."  

Six wontons in soup, $10.75. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

More important, the wontons at Maxi's are superb, the wrinkled wrapper nice and thin but still plenty sturdy, the stuffing delivering that sweet snap of perfectly cooked crustacean. Spoon on some of that chili oil and they're probably the best in the city. 

You can get your wontons swimming in a big bowl of lovely broth, which you will definitely want to drink down at the end, or plopped atop your choice of noodle (duck egg, flat rice, vermicelli, or udon) with a cup of broth served on the side. There's no wrong answer here, so just trust your cravings.     

There are seven different topping options as well, including some excellent beef tendon; extremely large fish balls; and the sweet pork and mushroom sauce, zha jiang. Beef stew, made with an uncle's secret recipe, and fried fish skin are also available. There's no booze, but the iced Hong Kong milk tea hits the spot. 

Duck egg noodles with three toppings: dace fish balls, zha jiang, and beef tendon, $15.75. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate) 

"We literally built our business by word of mouth," said Lau. "I don't do any advertising, and only recently did any social media stuff. I don't have time, I'm running the kitchen! I'm running the whole store! But people have been so supportive in Flushing." It's easy to see why.

Maxi's Noodle 2 is located at 59-20 Main Street, on the corner of 60th Avenue, and is currently open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. (917-508-3288)  

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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