Christmas must be coming pretty early this year as I had the wonderful idea to beat the Christmas rush and buy some stuff for our employees in Divisoria. After all the people and crowds of bargainers, Mig and I decided to go and try something new at Chinatown by taking a short pedicab ride from 168 to Ongpin. There, the driver told us, there were lots of places to eat (Wai-Ying, I’ve already eaten there before and it was totally packed). A few steps away from that place was Lan Zhou La Mien, also full, but the waiter smiled at us and said there was a table available.

Full house. We had to share a table with 2 people, who we later found out were sitting in front of each other, but completely did not know each other…this place was pretty hard core in terms of people trying to get in for a table! And so we sat down, I wasn’t sure what to order so we just got whatever the waiter said was “usual”. We had a wonderful array of condiments – chili powder, chili in oil, 2 types of chili sauce, soy sauce, black vinegar, a large bowl of coriander, a large bowl of spring onions! It was pretty noisy and cramped, but this is my usual gauge for a good Chinese resto…noise, full tables, people sharing tables to get seats, waiters running around…best of all, most were Chinese.

Spareribs la mien – the stock was very tasty and there was a strong beef flavor. But the spareribs marinade gave a slight peppery and rounder taste to the broth. We then added our condiments like coriander, spring onion an whatever looked great on the condiment list. Looks like their specialty here is Cha la mien which we didn’t order, but anyway this was pretty good as is. But this noodle was hand made. Chewy and firm at the same time. The condiments also made the broth taste better especially when I added this dried pepper mix on the condiment station.

We also ordered a plate of steamed dumplings. It was delicious! The filling had a pork and spring onion filling which had a very herby note, not sure if it was some sort of wine mixed into the filling. The wrapper was delicious was soft and slippery, the portions were extremely large for something that costs P80 (i think there were about 14 pieces in that plate!). No wonder this place was full, you can stuff yourself on that alone! This was delightful — warm, soft, slippery and at the same time herby, a little sour with pork!

Beef la mien – The broth was very strong on the beef (I think they use 1 broth for everything) and it was just as you would expect a properly executed beef la mien would be — tasty, tender beef and handmade noodles…how can you go wrong. In the end, Mig and I actually became sluggish. The portions were huge (especially the noodles)…I guess we just had too much carbs!

Plus 3 cokes in can…and a doggie bag of 8 dumplings we were surprised that we only paid P380 for everything. The trip back to 168 was horrible. We chanced upon a pedicab that had a motor with wheels as hard as rocks!

Lan Zhou La Mien is in 819 Benavidez Street, Binondo Manila