It's funny how you sometimes find out about places. I was chatting to a coworker about Niu Rou Mian. In passing she told me, "there's a place near where you live that has Niu Rou Mian, have you tried it yet?" Which left me somewhat puzzled. She later emailed me a copy of the menu from one of the Chinese message boards...and holy smoke, I knew exactly where this place was......geeez.
Later that evening, I had the Missus take a gander at the menu.......and She thought we should check the place out since the prices were so good. She really didn't recognize the address, but once I pulled into the parking lot She told me "you gotta be kidding...."
Recognize the area....well maybe not since it was quite dark on this evening. It's the strip mall that houses Nazca Grill, Thai Time, El Pollo Loco, among other businesses. I always knew there was a Chinese fast-food shop in the mall, but never really paid attention to it.
And let me put the emphasis on Chinese Fast-Food as you can tell by the look.
There are seven tables in the joint, bare walls, this is no "concept - theme restaurant", one menu has all the standard Chinese fast-food stuff on it, the other is in Chinese. Everything from Shaobing to Niu Rou Juan (beef roll), it's all the of what we call the "Chinese student's favorites". Nothing over $6.99 on the menu. The Missus placed our order and I managed to ask the nice woman working how long they've been here. She told me that they moved down from Rancho Bernardo in March. Rancho Bernardo? Then it hit me, the folks here have, or had some connection with Quik Wok in RB, hence the name. Funny thing is, I've been to Nazca Grill at least four times since March.....slap to the forehead!!!
The Missus isn't really eating much red or even white meat nowadays and asked the woman for a vegetable noodle soup.....the noodles here are Dao Xiao Mian - knife shaved noodles. Dough is rolled out, folded then sliced with a sharp knife. Originally a Shanxi specialty, we saw more than few little shops selling these during our trip to China.
The Missus enjoyed Her soup especially the noodles which weren't cut too thick like many places do. Part of the enjoyment of eating Dao Xiao Mian is the somewhat whimsical aspect of the noodles which are cut into irregular lengths and thicknesses. Most places however, cut it much too thick and even cut them way ahead of time (Dumpling Inn comes to mind) creating a gummy noodle.
Of course I ordered the Niu Rou Mian - the beef noodle soup $6.25.
This was actually much better than I recalled having at Quik Wok, darker with more flavor. It fell short in the richness department and is still not quite there with regards to flavor and spice. The meat was well prepared, soft, but not falling to pieces.
Like Quik Wok's version, this bowl had a ton of noodles in it.
The texture was and nice soft, but still having a bit of pull to them. For six and change in San Diego, this wasn't bad.
I revisited one other time, the Missus told me the Chao Dao Xiao Mian, the fried noodles had looked pretty good, so I thought I'd try them. I was also going to try the Guotie (pot stickers), but some else was eating it when I arrived and it looked terrible, so I decided to pass.
The lack of wok-hay gave this dish a grey pallor and it was missing the slightly sweet-smokey perfume of the wok. The noodles seem to do much better in soup as they had seized up a bit. I'm thinking cooking over too low a heat source might contribute to that as well. The flavor seemed quite bland, though based on my thirst after eating the dish, I'm fairly certain it's been seasoned. The shrimp were cooked nicely, but the lack of flavor in the dish couldn't keep me interested. In terms of portion size and priced at $6.25, it was perfect for a starving student carb load.
After a bit of a slow period, it seems that things are kind of picking up again. Which is nice to see. I know that I was quite surprised to see Dao Xiao Mian at this end of Balboa, so I'm hoping things continue.....
China Quick Wok
4310 Genesee Ave #108
San Diego, CA 92117