Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to one of the best new Asian restaurants to open in the East Village over the last few years.

THE VIBE
In recent years, the East Village has seen an astonishing wave of first-rate (and, to be honest, sometimes second-rate) dumpling, ramen, crawfish, hot pot, and rice noodle spots opening in the neighborhood. And possibly the best of all the recent arrivals? Hunan Slurp Shop, a straight-up stunner on First Avenue.

The interior of Hunan Slurp is aesthetically pleasing, with a showstopper of an archway up front, made from thin wooden slats, lit from behind and below. It runs the length of the communal tables. There's also plenty of Edison-bulbs in the lamps that hang at varying heights all the way to the back. There's luxuriously comfortable nest-like molded chairs, lovely table settings (the lotus root chopstick pads are particularly appealing), and the expensive-smelling hand soap in the lavatories. It all of makes you feel good, just being there. And that makes sense, as Hunan Slurp is something of a passion project for visual-artist-turned-chef Chao Wang.

Wang grew up in the city of Hengyang and became a restauranteur as a way to deal with his homesickness for Hunan. Given his previous career, the attention to aesthetics at Slurp doesn't come as a surprise, nor does the care given to the plating of each dish (there are a lot of flowers involved). Less inevitable—and even more welcome and exciting—is how great all the food is here.

THE BITES
At the core of the Slurp Shop menu sits Wang's wide array of mifen, hearty bowls of Hunan rice noodles crowded with all sorts of veggies, fish, and meat. I ate three varieties last weekend and they were all fantastic, the noodles themselves consistently firm and slick. The lightest dish was the Three Delicacies, with its bed of oyster mushrooms, lean bits of pork, and a fat, sloppy egg all joining the mifen in a peppery broth. The Hometown Lu Fen provides the most variety, with thin slices of beef, fatty chunks of pork char siu, creamy bean curd, crunchy soy beans, runny egg... a total feast floating atop a thick tangle of noodles.

But the surprise winner (so far!) in the mifen category was the String Bean dish, the headliner pickled, chopped into tiny pieces, and stir fried to a crisp, with spicy ground pork and a fried egg rounding things off nicely. This will be tough not to order next time. All of the above can be made even more lively by spooning in some of Wang's homemade red chili sauce. Another, even better way to bring a flavor bomb to your table: the overflowing bowl of gelatinous offal that Wang calls Hunan Charcuterie, with beef tripe and shank, pig's ear and tongue brightened with cilantro and just slightly greasy with chili oil.

Other shareable delights on the Slurp menu include the sweet and sour Spare Rib, served in a large pile of bite-sized, bone-in bits that are both delicious and an animalistic joy to eat. And the mound of chewy Smoked Pork, stir-fried with equally chewy smoked bean curd, deserves a place at your table as well. There are a few high-priced platters on the menu ($32 for Frog Legs, for example, which I may have to splurge on next time), but order prudently and your dinner will cost less than other, much trendier rice noodle spots right nearby. Especially since right now Hunan Slurp Shop is BYOB.

THE VERDICT
This a great restaurant, with variety on the menu and a lovely, lively setting in which to enjoy it. Go soon though! You can still get prime time reservations or a walk-in spot at the communal tables without a wait, though I can't imagine that'll be true for long.

Hunan Slurp Shop is located at 112 First Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets
and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. for lunch, and from 5:00 until 10:00 for dinner. Closed Mondays. (649-791-5440; hunanslurp.com)