Since opening in 2014, a long line of customers had been the norm at its Center Street location. Now, Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. is flexing its muscles and moving to join the booming restaurant and arts scene at 611 Main St. in downtown Little Rock.
For owner Lisa Zhang, the move not only remedies a lack of seating, but allows the elbow room to prepare and serve dishes in the traditional Eastern methods that best accentuate each item.
Along with the existing menu and signature clean and classic aesthetic, Zhang dishes on what to expect in Three Fold’s new home on Main.
Around the Block
Simply put, there were two reasons why I felt compelled to make this move
Firstly, it was because I’ve always wanted to bring out the best in the noodles and dumplings that we currently offer. When we first leased the Center Street location three years ago, the space was already designed for a cafeteria-style restaurant. In order to merge this Western workflow with Eastern cooking, I had to alter my cooking to be made using Western equipment.
As far as service goes, timing is very critical in Chinese cooking. Although we cook in small batches and our turnaround is quick, this service style is still not the best form to use when serving noodles and dumplings, and I’ve always wanted to serve them in their best form to return the love that our customers have for our food. It’s for this reason that we’ve put every penny we have into this investment.
Secondly, it was because of seating limitations. On several occasions, our customers have not been able to find seats after buying their meals. It always saddens me to see this because it means that these customers are unable to enjoy their food right then and there. That’s why we increased our seating capacity by 50 percent at the new place.
As part of our efforts to add to the beauty of downtown Main Street and to contribute to the Main Street revival, we’ve constructed a classic restaurant environment to match historical Main Street, where we’ll serve traditional Chinese food that dates back thousands of years. With help from the Little Rock community, we feel we've succeeded in our efforts.
We’re introducing a traditional Chinese pastry called “baozi,” a kind of filled, steamed bun that is a common breakfast street food in Shanghai. Customers will choose between three fillings: pork, sweet red bean and scrambled egg. We invented the scrambled egg baozi as a way to incorporate the traditional American breakfast concept with Chinese seasonings.
As another take on American breakfast, we’re also introducing tea-scented eggs as a side item and breakfast beverages like our freshly brewed soy milk. In China, we drink soy milk much like Americans drink milk. Freshly brewed soy milk tastes completely different from packaged soy milk, and we’ll brew it every morning, along with freshly brewed coffee and bottled juices.
Noodle soup is at its best when served straight from the wok, and our new kitchen offers the right kind of environment for serving it just so.
In China, 80 percent of all noodles consumed are served in soups that come in many varieties – ramen being one – and we’re happy to have the chance to demonstrate these varieties in our new setting.
We know our menu pairs well with beer – our pan-fried dumplings especially — and we’re proud to make craft beer part of our new operation.
Lastly and most importantly, we’ve changed to a runner-style service instead of cafeteria-style, meaning our service will operate faster than before. We’ve also taken our beverage station out from behind the counter and opted for a self-service station. With our new workflow, we definitely suggest that you put your order number on your table before getting your drink, otherwise we’re certain to have your food ready before you even sit down!
We added a window at the front of our building where customers will place breakfast orders and pick up to-go lunch orders, along with an outdoor patio for cool days and warm nights. Inside, we added more bar stool seating, and half of our seating will be banquettes made by a local craftsman. Our dining room is divided into two sections, one of which can be sectioned off for private events hosting 20-50 guests, about double the capacity of the party room at our former location.
As everyone knows, our color of choice is white and our branding is clean and classic. This philosophy will carry over into our new space – both inside and out. For example, we incorporated enamelware bowls and plates into our operation as an added classic element.
We emphasize "classic" in our design because our downtown location represents the history of Little Rock, while our food represents the history and wisdoms of Chinese cooking. To continue with this theme, we’ve introduced a new architectural element into our design: brass and metal. Upon entering our new space, you’ll see that we’ve incorporated brass into our floor and lighting fixtures.