James and Boboy were having lunch with friends in Binondo, at a noodle place called Lan Zhou La Mien. We took advantage of the comparatively light (but not by much, since everyone stayed in town apparently, and Edsa was being reblocked) long weekend traffic to drive to Chinatown.
Even with Ricky’s navigational skills (can moonlight as a taxi driver) and Noel’s GPS-reading abilities, Binondo is a maze and we stopped to ask for directions.
“Deretso, tapos kaliwa sa unang kanto, kaliwa ulit. Yung pula, siguradong makikita nyo.” Straight ahead, then left, then left. It’s red, you can’t miss it.
We had not gone 5 meters when we realized that every sign in Chinatown is red.
“Easier if he’d said yung hindi pula,” Noel pointed out.
So we asked another guy who was watching cars.
“Deretso lang, yung pula na sikat.”
By this time we were close to a hysterical giggling fit.
“What does Lan Zhou La Mien mean?” Ricky asked.
“Yung pula na sikat,” Noel translated.
Luckily we were spotted by James.
La Mien is deservedly famous for its hand-pulled noodles, which have the best texture of any noodles we’ve tried lately. Along with the Beef La Mien and the excellent steamed kuchay dumplings, the waiter brought a pair of scissors in a bowl of hot water. These scissors are not for warding off diners hovering by your table urging you to leave (It’s a small place). They are for cutting the noodles, which are very long. We stabbed at our bowls a few times, and were ready to eat.
The Beef La Mien is wonderful: delicately-flavored yet filling. We could only finish half the bowl before throwing down our chopsticks in surrender. Ricky recommends eating the la mien as quickly as possible because the noodles absorb the broth and expand.
Subtle Chinese, and only Php120.
Of course no trip to Binondo is complete without a visit to the Temple of Hopia, Salazar, winner of our Hopia Challenge.
Lan Zhou La Mien is on 818 Benavidez Street in Binondo, Manila.