From the outside looking in, Niu feels more like a pub than a Chinese noodle house with its full-size bar, plank floors and wooden ceiling beams. There's also a funky mural of the Washington Square Arch leading to the kitchen. The first stop should be the bar where Niu is serving up inventive cocktails. During our visit the drink of the day was a Moscow Mule made with vodka, lime and a splash of ginger beer.
But it's the food that really shines. Large bowls of steamy noodle soup are hustled to tables chock full of seafood, duck and pork belly. The restaurant offers Ramen noodles along with its own Niu noodles. All are made fresh daily.
There are some of the usual suspects on the menu like steamed pork and chive dumplings while others are stuffed with watercress. And then there are the flank steak and provolone cheese dumplings. You can get them steamed or fried. Think Philly cheesesteak in a dumpling. This one is definitely aimed at the college crowd with NYU just steps away.
Our meal began with some plump soup dumpling (4/$6) that provided a burst of flavor with every bite. The chicken lollipops (3/$5) are so tasty you may want to order two batches for the table. They come with a light sweet-and-sour sauce allowing the chicken, seasoned with a spicy salt and pepper mix, to remain the star. There are a number of different soup options with six choices of noodle; thin, thick, egg, udon, rice and buckwheat. Our order consisted of a rich beef broth with thin egg noodles and large slices of the most tender, succulent duck breast I have ever tasted ($13). It is a dish you could enjoy every day and never tire of it. Another excellent choice is the Niu Sizzling Noodle Steak ($14) with black pepper. The thick noodles have the perfect texture and the sliced flank steak will melt in your mouth.
It's rare to enjoy everything on your plate. But as my wife put it, "This is real food."