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$20 Dinner

Super Taste’s Legendary Noodles Breathe Life Into the Upper East Side

The first thing to get at Super Taste remains the same: hot and spicy beef hand-pulled noodle soup.

A view of many menu items at Super Taste laid out on a table, with a pair of chopsticks picking up some noodle soup.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Qixiang Yan, who also goes by Steven Yan, had no intention of creating a family hand-pulled-noodle empire when he first opened Super Taste on Eldridge Street in 2004, a few months before his son Johnson was born.

"My sister and I have always wanted to expand Super Taste, but we were constantly discouraged by our parents," Johnson told Hell Gate last week. "Like, they never really wanted us to pursue the restaurant industry. They told me three years ago that they were planning to close Super Taste down once I graduated college, and I just didn't want that to happen." 

And so Johnson ("As in the president Lyndon B. Johnson," he deadpanned) learned the business, first managing the Eldridge Street original and then, earlier this month, opening a spanking new Super Taste on the Upper East Side. "I think my father's food is some of the best in the world, and everybody should be able to have a taste of it," Johnson said. "I want to keep that legacy alive."

Located amid the retail clutter of First Avenue up here in the 70s and 80s—so many mediocre restaurants and depressing bars in this part of town—Super Taste brings some of that Chinatown vitality to what can be a pretty dreary dining landscape. 

"When I was up here building the interior from scratch I would order some of the Chinese food available in the neighborhood, and I was not impressed," Johnson recalled. "I was like, they need something better. And that's what I'm here for."

Hot and spicy beef noodles, $13.50 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The UES menu is a slightly abbreviated version of the downtown original, and most everything's a dollar or three more expensive. But the first thing to get at Super Taste remains the same: hot and spicy beef noodle soup. The meat is shockingly tender but still fatty and full of flavor, the hand-pulled noodles are wonderfully chewy, the bok choy adds brightness and crunch, and the broth is rich as hell with some serious zing to it. Just a lovely rendition of the classic dish.

There are a half dozen other soup noodle dishes as well. Pork belly and pickled bamboo are the headliners in one; a couple of others—the fiery "Mount Qi" collection—co-star green peas, red pepper, corn, and black fungus. 

Hot sesame noodles, $10.95 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

If you're in the mood for something less splashy (yes, as always, I stained my shirt eating the above) you can also get no-broth dishes like dan-dan noodles with either beef or pork, or the vegetarian shallot oil noodles with cucumber and fried tofu, or Super Taste's very good hot sesame noodles, which combines that thick, nutty paste with ground pork and pickled cabbage.

Stewed pork burger, $5.95 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The snacky stewed pork burger is also a winner—the sesame bun has just the right amount of springiness to it—and the sticky baos, filled with slabs of pork and peanut powder, also do the trick.

Steamed pork and chive dumplings, $7.95 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The best, most easily shareable dish among the appetizers is the heaping platter of old-school pork and chive dumplings, which you can get steamed (my preference, especially when slathered with chili oil) or fried. There are vegetarian shiitake dumplings also available.  

The space is utilitarian—you could call it "clean and sleek" or "un-decorated," depending on your preference for such things, with seating at four four-tops. You can order via touch-screen at the kiosk or via human at the counter. Either way, Johnson Yan is stoked to serve you.

"Super Taste is on the cusp of having legendary status in the city," he proclaimed. "We're not quite there yet, but I do think this is some of the best Chinese food in the world."

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The new UES Super Taste is located at 1502 First Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets, and is currently open from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily (646-388-2999) 

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