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East Village Darling Little Tong Is Undergoing an Ambitious Identity Swap

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Chef Simone Tong is changing up the menu with a lot more non-noodle dishes

Little Tong Noodle Shop Nick Solares

East Village rice noodle hot spot Little Tong Noodle Shop will change up its menu this week in a bid to become more than just a noodle shop.

Starting Thursday, the restaurant’s menu will become more about seasonally driven small plates like smoked scallops and duck fried rice than the noodles it’s become known for. Chef Simone Tong and her business partner Emmeline Zhao helped popularized mixian in the neighborhood in 2017, the spaghetti-shaped rice noodle from China’s Yunnan province that quickly became a hit. Little Tong has routinely added new appetizers over the past few years, but Tong says it’s time for a total revamp.

Now, she’ll be making a lot more non-noodle dishes, including seafood such as clams inspired by the night markets of Macau and smoked scallops served with guava tapioca and chili brown butter. As such, the restaurant will soon drop “Noodle Shop” from its name.

Tong says a lot of the menu will be based on seasonal, local ingredients like the “sweet” scallops she gets from New Jersey-based seafood seller Far Hills Seafood and the produce she picks up from local farmers markets. A wagyu beef dish served with a Yunnan-inspired salsa verde is also planned. Still, a few mixian noodle dishes will appear; see the full menu below.

“I want to be more ambitious; I want to be produce-driven,” Tong says. “After three years, we want to do more. We want to actually support the people I feel inspired from: the fishmongers, the meat purveyors, the farmers.”

Prices will be upped accordingly, with a wagyu beef dish costing $28 and chicken dumplings now priced at $14, a $2 increase from the original. Despite the changes, Tong says her cooking style will remain Chinese, both in technique and flavor.

Tong says she originally opened the restaurant to bring elements of Yunnan cuisine to New York City, and now that her noodle shop has grown in popularity, she feels confident enough to offer a more varied menu. The changes are also driven by a desire to differentiate the restaurant from the growing number of Chinese options in the East Village — “I have to ask myself, ‘What kind of Chinese restaurant is Little Tong?’” she says.

Since opening in 2017, Little Tong has become a critical darling, landing a positive review from Eater critic Ryan Sutton and two stars in the Times. Last year, Tong expanded with a second location in Midtown, and now she has plans to open a new Chinese tasting menu restaurant called Silver Apricot in the West Village this summer.

The new menu rolls into Little Tong’s East Village location on Thursday, May 9. Meanwhile, the Midtown outpost will remain the same.

“Small changes are good and keep the regular guests happy and keeps the kitchen happy and makes everybody curious about what we’re doing,” Tong says. “But big changes are a statement, and I think it’s time for this little restaurant of ours to make a big statement.”

Little Tong Noodle Shop

235 East 53rd Street, Manhattan, NY 10022 (929) 383-0465 Visit Website

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