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WD-50 Alum Opening Rice Noodle Eatery in the East Village

By Allegra Hobbs | February 10, 2017 4:19pm | Updated on February 14, 2017 5:57pm
 Simone Tong plans to open Little Tong Noodle Shop in the East Village in early March.
Simone Tong plans to open Little Tong Noodle Shop in the East Village in early March.
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Courtesy of Little Tong Noodle Shop

EAST VILLAGE — An alumnus of a famously innovative Lower East Side eatery will soon debut her flavorful rice noodle bowls in a series of pop-ups to preview the March launch of her East Village restaurant.

Simone Tong was watching a TV show about the iconic restaurant, WD-50 — widely known before its 2014 closure for chef Wylie Dufresne's inventive and upscale dishes — when she realized the culinary arts were for her.

"While I was watching the Food Network I found out about this restaurant called WD-50," recalled Tong, who on Sunday will host the first of four pop-up shops previewing the Little Tong Noodle Shop.

"I thought, 'This is a crazy restaurant! It's a combination of science and art! I want to be a chef!'"

Tong enrolled in downtown's Institute of Culinary Education, and soon afterward found herself in the kitchen of WD-50, where she worked as a cook for four years.

Now, she is combining the creative approach to cooking she picked up in Dufresne's kitchen with her own roots in Chinese cuisine — and her desire to create "flavor bombs" with her dishes — in the Little Tong Noodle Shop.

"Even though I learned the science part of food and the French part of food from WD-50, I'm Chinese, I'm Asian — I wanted to introduce big, bold flavors," she said. 

Tong's shop, slated tentatively for an early March opening at 177 First Ave., will serve up a variety of rice noodle bowls with broths, pickled vegetables and chili-based condiments for bold flavor. 

The dishes will premiere at two back-to-back pop-up dinners at local bar Jimmy's No. 43 at 43 E. Seventh St. on Feb. 12 and 13.

The third pop-up will be held on Feb. 19 at Japanese eatery Asazu at 49 Clinton St. — right across the street from what once was WD-50, which is now being replaced by a luxury condo development at 50 Clinton St.

"I would not want to go back because I cannot bear to see the condo right now, but it's a sentimental, nostalgic reason I wanted to do the pop-up," Tong said.

The final pop-up will be at Gotan in Williamsburg on Feb. 22.

Visitors to the pop-ups will be able to choose from a small sampling of the full restaurant menu, said Tong, including a Grandma's Chicken Rice Noodles — a noodle bowl with tender chicken confit with black sesame garlic sauce, chilis fermented in garlic and ginger, and house-made pickles.

Tong hopes her venture will help popularize rice noodle dishes — ramen is generally served with wheat noodles, she explained, and the rice noodles of China's Yunnan province haven't yet caught on in the city.

"It's a little bit special because it's rice noodles," she said. "When people think of noodles, it's usually wheat based — it's not so popular in New York yet, but it's old-school and very popular in China."

Tickets for each of the events, running at $20 for a bowl of noodles and an appetizer, can be bought here.