Boba Pancakes and Japanese Souffles at an East Village Newcomer

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

Brown sugar boba pancakes at Little Uluh.

When restaurateurs Joanne Hong Bao and Richard Lam opened Uluh (“bottleneck gourd”) in the East Village in 2019, it was unique. The stylish bistro offers a menu of Chinese dishes that lean Sichuan but include other regional cuisines, with plenty of delectable tweaks. The playful repertoire includes lobster ma po tofu, scallion pancake with shredded duck, chicken-and-pig-stomach soup, and “psycho spicy pepper beef.”

Lam is also behind the Bao, a dim sum spot on St. Marks. So when it was announced that Lam would be launching another East Village restaurant named Little Uluh, at 218 E. 14th Street, near Third Avenue, I wondered what the menu would be like and if it would be a smaller version of Uluh. I was surprised by the result.

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

Match latte with a (fake) egg on top.

The part of Little Uluh called Uluhuluh Tea & Coffee opened early last summer, a street-facing window that dispenses modish forms of bubble tea and its ilk, including a matcha latte ($8.75) that has what looks like a fried quail egg on top, trompe l’oeil made from a puddle of whipped cream and dab of orange jam. Every time I asked the attendant when the actual restaurant would open, the answer had been, “in a couple of weeks.”

Weeks stretched into months, until Little Uluh finally opened in mid-April, a restaurant serving Asian-leaning breakfast, brunch, and dinner with dishes that reflect “a passion for tea culture.”

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

The spotlit interior of Little Uluh.

The bright and cheery interior boasts a spray of colorful artificial flowers along a back wall and little else by way of decoration. Although the place looks fast casual, it definitely isn’t, with a staff of uniformed waiters taking orders, though a touch-screening at the front of the dining room is also an option. Fellow diners, when I visited, were mainly high schoolers and college students, pulled in by an updated diner menu divided into 10 sections, including bites, burgers, pastas, Japanese pancakes and souffles.

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

The lush burger at Little Uluh includes sauteed mushrooms.

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

The garlic chicken burger has coleslaw underneath the patty.

Among sandwiches, there’s a large and luscious burger ($16), a five-ounce patty seared but not smashed, with caramelized onions, slippery sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and a mayo-based dressing that oozes onto the plate. There’s also a garlic chicken burger on the same toasted and seeded bun, fried and slathered with a sweet garlic glaze and a juicy layer of slaw. Sandwiches come with a smattering of french fries.

Two sections of the menu are devoted to pancakes: sweet and savory, both a stage for some pretty arresting stuff. Prosciutto pancake ($17) sounds interesting but turns out to be rather prosaic, with the cured ham simply placed on top of the stack; while brown sugar boba pancakes ($16) are more interesting, featuring the tapioca pearls in a thick syrup that cascades down the sides.

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

Prosciutto pancake is just ham on top of pancakes.

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

Softshell crab pasta at Little Uluh.

The avocado toast ($12) resembles the one found on half the city’s menus, with the worthwhile addition of a lotus chip. There’s also a roasted vegetable salad among several bowls that seems like a punishment aimed at vegetarians, with a wad of underdressed baby lettuces, a few token cubes of roasted squash, and some crumbles of white cheese: Blah! On the other hand, among the the pastas, spaghetti with mushrooms, arugula, and a softshell crab ($22), is simple and delicious.

Perhaps the biggest draw is the Japanese souffle section — in flavors like honeycomb caramel, matcha and strawberry — which the waiter warns will take 15 minutes to prepare. I went with the Little Uluh souffle, a turban of puffed-up egg, sweet but not too sweet, decorated with cream, a tiny scoop of vanilla, and jam. It’s like something one might have for tea in Alice in Wonderland.

boba pancakes and japanese souffles at an east village newcomer

The Little Uluh souffle.

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