Park Slope

Noodle Lane: Where dreams come true and stereotypes die

February 14, 2024 Andrew Cotto
The storefront of Noodle Lane in Park Slope
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Through a red door at 230 7th Ave. is a modern, narrow interior of stained pine floors with two and four-top tables of wood, their place settings illuminated by miniature lamps. Past the mural of a fat red cat slurping noodles is a wall of white brick, adorned with framed photos, opposite a plaster wall of white, with photos and small shelves that are home to many tiny plants. Recess lighting extends to the end of the room where a bar fills a nook and the modernist aesthetic is belied in back by a steaming kitchen sequestered behind Plexiglass.

From the kitchen of Noodle Lane comes the culinary vision of Lane Li, executive chef, founder, and a woman with a remarkable story. Fleeing abject poverty in China, Li’s family settled in America where seven relatives shared a two-bedroom apartment. Through struggle and perseverance, Li became the first member of her family to graduate college, from where she entered the financial sector. 

Dan Dan Noodles at Noodle Lane.

Her passion, though, was the food of her homeland, and Li spent her off hours perfecting her mastery of Chinese cuisine, while also traveling extensively around Asia, and eventually earning a degree at NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education. In 2011, she landed a stand at Brooklyn’s original Smorgasburg food bazaar where she remained as a popular mainstay until her brick and mortar American dream came true late last year.

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The driving force behind Li’s dream is to debunk the pervasive stereotype in America about Chinese food. “My goal of Noodle Lane is to highlight the complexities of Chinese cuisine and push against the notion that Chinese food should be cheap,” Li said. “By using quality ingredients and time-intensive preparation, I hope to show that Chinese cuisine can stand shoulder to shoulder with other haute cuisines of the world.”

Pickled Fish Sichuan Style and Dry Pot Cauliflower at Noodle Lane.

This effort is advanced by drawing upon the distinct preparations from Cantonese and Sichuan kitchens, where the bold, spicy flavors of the latter are tempered by the more mild approach of the former, both informed by careful sourcing and meticulous preparation. Highlights of the menu at Noodle Lane include house-made dumplings, with sauce or in soups, Dan Dan Noodles (with pork, Sichuan pickles, scallions and chili oil, a Mala Hot Pot (with cauliflower, lotus root, bean sprouts, fried tofu, sesame seeds paired with a choice of marbled beef, pork belly, shrimp or cabbage) and Pickled Fish Sichuan Style (with tilapia, garlic, chili peppers). The menu, complete with cautionary flames, is also dotted with helpful asides, such as “Chef’s Childhood Favorite,” “Smorgasburg Favorite,” and “a little funky but delicious, eat with rice.”

Lane Li, Executive Chef / Founder of Noodle Lane.

The user-friendly approach to the menu reflects the overall experience at Noodle Lane, where the passionate vision of the owner manifests in a welcoming, modern environment with sophisticated food that defies a stereotype and actuates a dream.

Andrew Cotto has been eating his way through Brooklyn for 25 years. As an author, the food of our borough has been featured extensively in his novels and journalism. In his new column for the Daily Eagle, Andrew will tell the tales of Brooklyn eateries, from the people behind the food to the communities which they nourish.

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