Don't you just hate it when you drive 80 miles to your destination, and find that the restaurant is unable to serve you because of a water pipe break? Well, it's no one's fault, just one of those things....but here we were in Irvine, trying to think of a plan B. The only place that came to mind was A & J, right off the Jeffrey Road offramp.
I thought it was going to be my lucky day when I immediately found a parking stall in the packed to the gills mall.
When we got to A & J, I knew my luck had run out...there was a wait, which lasted about 20 minutes...
When our number was called we were hustled to our table, and a paper "order sheet" was flung on the table...I guess we weren't that far from San Gabriel after all! The Missus was looking over the sheet, and the Server came by again, and impatiently asked the Missus if she understood Chinese...while the Missus was reading the Chinese order sheet. By this time we'd been waiting for a while, and really didn't feel very hungry any longer, so we just ordered a few things.
We started with the Si Xi Kaufu(aka Szu Hsien Kaw Fu - Four Happiness Wheat Gluten - $1.95)
Unlike a few people we know, we don't mind the spongy texture of wheat gluten, which has the ability to absorb flavor, well, like a sponge. The four items included lily buds, soy beans, tofu, and carrots. We both thought this was fairly good, nice sweet-soy flavor. But I don't think it was much better than this stuff:
The Jiang Niu Rou($3.75):
This wasn't quite as dry as it looked, but fell far short in flavor...except for the over-powering flavor of sesame oil that was drizzled on it.
Deciding to share a noodle soup, we got the combination Beef and Tendon Noodles Soup($5.75):
First the good, the tendon was perfect, soft, and full of flavor. The Beef was okay, soft, but with a bit less flavor. We opted for the thin noodles(you have a choice of the thin or thin noodles), which were pretty good, with a decent pull, and slight chewiness. Where this bowl fell really short was the soup, it was super oily. Now if you've read other posts of mine, you know that I like a decent amount of oil in my broth, but this layer of oil must've been a half inch deep. You can see the sheen of oil covering the noodles in this photo:
The broth lacked depth with only the bit of spiciness, and almost no beef flavor. We finished the meat, tendon, and noodles, and left all of the broth.
I dunno about this place.....check out the crowd as we left.
While writing this, I kept wondering what ChubbyPanda thought about the Beef Noodle Soup at A & J. I didn't recall seeing a post. So I did a quick google search, and found a mention of the NRM at A & J on another post, which you can read here. To quote; "I've eaten niu rou mian at every Chinese place in Irvine that serves it. I know whereof I speak. The only contenders that are close are A&J across the street, their's is too oily and thick...." Good ol' CP got it right....though I didn't think it was that thick. So remember to trust your inner Panda!
A & J Restaurant
14805 Jeffrey Rd Ste D
Irvine, CA 92618