The name of the restaurant is Maxi Lau, 33, born in Hong Kong. In 1997, shortly before the territory was handed over from the United Kingdom to China, her family immigrated to the United States. They settled on Long Island, in the eastern suburbs of New York City, but the family did most of their shopping in Flushing—home to New York’s largest Chinatown—and often dined there as well. Maxi says it was a “second home”.
At 19, Maxi left school to join the working world, starting as a cashier and then moving up the ranks at a local branch of a nationwide household goods retailer. Maxi tells us that she has “always loved food”, “cooks a lot” and has started saving money to open a restaurant.
So did her mother. Maxie’s parents owned a computer company; Eventually it expanded to provide security services and karaoke systems as well. But when family friends in Toronto offered to share their own recipes, Maxie’s mom was ready for a career change. Maxie’s parents resided up north, in Canada, while her mother mastered “the art of making wontons,” as Maxie called it.
But those career plans changed after Maxie’s parents moved back to New York and her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
After her death, five years ago, “I mentally signed off on quitting,” says Maxi. Adrift, she receives an offer from the same family friends in Toronto: come live with them and learn how to hand-make wontons, just as her mother did. She remembers those friends suggesting to Maxie that even if she didn’t open a place of her own, making wonton would be a skill she “would have.” [her] back pocket. ”
Maxi trained in Toronto for six months. She returns to New York, confident she is ready to work for herself – but her father is “out of business”. Before going “bricks and mortar”, he suggested to Maxi, maybe they should start with a popup. His sister owns Queen’s Little Bakery, which opens early in the morning and closes at 5 p.m. By evening, Maxi’s talents can be put to the test.
Needless to say, the popups simply don’t appear. Maxie would arrive at 1:00 in the afternoon, six days a week, to make the filling, roll the wonton by the hundreds and get ready to serve. At 5 p.m., when the bakery café morphed into a macaroni and wonton house, her father presided over a small dining area, while Maxi ran a one-woman kitchen until closing time, 10:00. Naturally, she then had to leave the kitchen hot and run until the bakery opened early the next morning.
Outside of those hours, “I had to do my homework,” Maxie continues, sourcing ingredients of the same quality she trained in, especially the egg noodles that are essential to a wonton-centric restaurant. Her maxi is made from a custom recipe, developed with the help of her Toronto friends, that relies on duck eggs instead of chicken eggs.
Maxi’s food won accolades from local hounds, and then received good notice in the New York Times. Soon, even her dad was willing to say, “I think it’s time we found our own shop,” Maxie tells us. He had indeed located a convenient location a few blocks from the busiest lane in downtown Flushing, on a relatively quiet side street that featured an unusually wide sidewalk for the neighborhood. Maxi’s Noodle opened in September 2019.
Six months later, Covid-19 has reached Queens. After closing her restaurant for a week — “I was bored out of my mind,” Maxie recalls — she began preparing meals to donate to the overburdened staff at nearby New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital, where her mother’s oncologist was affiliated. Maxi also launched a side business that continues today, offering both raw and frozen products: wontons, dumplings, fish paste, noodles and homemade chili oil.
During the pandemic, this unusually wide sidewalk and quiet side street proved to be a boon. In the months when indoor dining was banned across New York City, and even later, when many customers were still uncomfortable with unmasking indoors, most Flushing restaurants offered takeout and delivery only. Maxi Noodle, however, could have placed plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk; This is where we enjoyed our first taste of Maxi cooking.
Since then, Maxi’s Noodle has added an extension, sheltered from the elements, to the front of the restaurant. We sat there recently for a full accounting of the food menu. As much as we appreciate the maxi beef soup, the sweet and spicy pork and the fried fish skin – puffy and crispy, and the taste of the sea – we adore the noodle soup mix of meat dumplings, fish balls, and handmade dumplings. The duck egg noodles are great. So is the pork bone broth.
Today, Maxi no longer needs to roll hundreds and hundreds of pasties herself; She has coached a small team to the “very high standards” that family friends in Toronto pass on. Maxie’s father – “my rock” she calls him – runs the restaurant on Mondays, Maxie’s day off. He joins her at work on Saturday, the busiest day of the week.
Maxi also keeps a framed photo of her mom in the restaurant, and she has her picture tattooed on one arm. Maxi’s mother never had time to open a place of her own, but now, in the spirit of spirit, whenever Maxi is in her restaurant, her mother is right by her side.
Posted on November 25, 2022