When New World Mall opened in the heart of downtown Flushing some eight years ago, it set out to be the biggest Asian indoor mall not only in New York, but also in the Northeast. As in comparable structures such as the Time Warner Center, dining has become a huge way to draw crowds. Then and today, the sprawling basement food court is one of the famous dining destinations in the neighborhood — known for its diversity of Chinese and other Asian cuisines, its affordability, and its heft.
Though New World Mall has already cemented its status as a must-go in the neighborhood, it’s also a bit overwhelming. The food court’s website isn’t always updated, and many of the stalls have frequent turnover. Plus, entering the crowded expanse is daunting: With so many options, it’s hard to know where to start.
So in February, Eater staffers and some trusted confidants set out to try all 26 food stalls in the property, picking signature dishes from each one and rating them on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best. Many noodle soups were slurped, dumplings sampled, and dry pots sweated over. Some bites were revelatory; others were, uh, not.
We came away with some realizations, which boil down to this: Even though Flushing has changed in the last eight years, with increased competition, New World Mall is still an exciting place to eat, attracting hordes of families, teens, and other people in the neighborhood for food.
Here are the top-10 ranked stalls and what we ordered, from two ideally spiced dry pots to an uber-soft fish dumpling. Note: We skipped the bubble tea places. They’re all pretty good.
1. Tian Fu Cuisine
Toward the end of a multiple-hour endeavor of trying all the stalls, somehow the dry pots at Tian Fu still captured Eater’s group of diners. The dish — a mixture of custom-picked ingredients tossed together in a Sichuan spice blend — was a little sweet, very fragrant, and an ideal level of spice that let the ingredients shine. Thin slices of beef had a lovely soft, chewy texture, full of juice, but any of the ingredients would work well. “How are we all eating this thing aggressively at this stage?” one taster wondered. Definitely go with a group to eat a huge bowl of this, or pick your favorites and take the rest home.
2. Chong Qing Xiao Mian
This stall specializes in Chongqing xiao mian, or “little noodles.” The spicy noodle soup is a street food originating from the city in the southwest of China, one that used to be part of Sichuan. New World Mall is flush with spicy noodle soup options, but this one was by far the best. The straightforward, thin wheat noodles had an al dente-style bite, and they sat in a giant bowl of mala soup, bearing a pleasing level of numbing and spice. The stall offers less than a dozen options; in the braised rib option, the pork was tender while retaining some chew. Dig into a bowl alone, or if you’re grabbing stuff from a bunch of stalls with a group, definitely get at least one of these to share.
3. Lanzhou Handmade Noodle
On weekends, expect to find a line of people at Lanzhou, which has a long menu of noodle soups from the city in northwest China. Both the beef thin hand-pulled noodles and the lamb knife-cut noodles were solid picks. Of the two styles of noodles, Eater’s group favored the knife-cut ones, which had a consistent springy, chewy texture — “like a good boiled dumpling skin,” as one taster wrote. Lamb lovers will also dig the broth for that soup, a light yet densely flavored soup that highlighted the gamey-ness of the meat. But the beef broth came with humongous chunks of brisket that were a big hit with the crew. They were uber-tender, though still with enough structural integrity to support the overall bowl. Plus, each bowl comes with spicy chile oil, black vinegar, and pickled green vegetables.
4. Zheng Zhou Noodles
Zheng Zhou Noodles, named for the capital city of the Henan province, has been in the New World Mall food court for a while, and for good reason. It’s still consistently serving up lots of dishes centered around stand-out hand-pulled, wide wheat flour-based noodles. For this experiment, we went for the dapanji, the big tray of spicy chicken. Here, it comes in a giant aluminum tray that you’ll need many people to share. It comes with tender bone-in chicken, potatoes, green peppers, and hand-pulled noodles, plus a comforting stew. Not everyone loved it though — critics of it said the potatoes could have been more flavorful and the sauce less oily.
5. Sichuan Fish
The literal translation of this stall is “water-boiled fish,” a reference to the boiled fish dish in Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan Fish serves a few versions of it alongside a hodgepodge of other dishes like dumplings in hot chile oil, dan dan noodles, and a homey tomato and egg. Fish in red chile-oil and fish in a pickled cabbage fare well — with soft, flaky fish that absorbed their respective broths well without going into mushy territory. Nothing’s overly spicy, but if seeking a more mellow experience, go with the cabbage one.
6. Conway Bistro
Conway Bistro’s menu doesn’t quite stick to one thread; it has noodle soups, buffalo chicken wings, teriyaki chicken, garlic bread, and lots of stuff with a Thai bent. That can make it difficult to pick what to order, but the fish and noodle soup impressed everyone who tried it. Though the noodles were a bit overdone, the broth was bright, refreshing, and balanced — with a slight citrus-based tartness and a round coconut flavor. The fish, too, was fluffy. “It was a great contrast to the rest of the spicy chile oil dishes we had,” a taster wrote.
7. Laoma Malatang
This dry-pot stall is a stalwart of New World Mall, offering a wide-ranging selection of ingredients that get tossed in a spicy Sichuan seasoning. Laoma Malatang serves fresh ingredients in a big, beautiful bamboo bowl with rice, and it’s a great option for a big crew. Depending on chosen ingredients, this will be one of the slightly pricier options to go for in the food court — crab and other seafood will drive up the cost — though it’s still easy to spend under $30 for a huge, shareable portion. And though many Eater staffers dug the option, it was a tad sweet, ultimately ranking it lower than fellow food court dry pot stall Tian Fu.
8. Fresh Mojoilla
This bright yellow vendor — around since the food court opened — serves pan-Asian street food like Japanese takoyaki, Hong Kong-style egg puffs, and Beijing-style jianbing, the savory egg pancake or crepe-style food filled with ingredients shrimp or dried pork. Milkshakes are also available. The ham-and-egg cheese jianbing had a soft, fluffy crepe-like texture, plus crispy edges, and the filling “was abundant but not overbearing,” a taster wrote, as well as “a great balance of flavors and textures.” It’s a fun, satisfying treat that makes for a light-hearted addition to a food hall feast.
9. E Noodle House
E Noodle, serving Cantonese staples, has locations across the city, including another Flushing outpost, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and in Bay Ridge. Soup dumplings, pan-fried dumplings, and of course, noodles are on deck, as is a long menu of congees. For $6.45, E Noodle offers a large bowl of mustard green and pumpkin congee — a pleasantly bland rice porridge that wasn’t too watery and not too thick. If going for a chile marathon in the food court, a comforting and creamy bowl of congee from E Noodle as an addition will hit the spot as a balance. On a cold day, it would also be good just on its own.
10. Fish Dumpling
For a town that loves dumplings as much as New York, the fillings game has mostly been confined to pork and shrimp — until recently. Fish Dumpling wasn’t a universal buy, but those who did exulted the eponymous option. The fish dumplings, $6 for eight pieces, were plump, soft, and flakey, with a slightly thick but enjoyable wrapper. The pork and shrimp dumpling, on the other hand, is skippable. For more classic pork dumplings, go to stall 30, Joong Hang Boon Sik Dumplings and Noodles.