Well, sort of....... I've posted on this place when it was just Chin's on Convoy. I actually had dinner here after the name change which was....well, ok. It was too dark and my photos never came out. A few weeks ago, feeling the need for some Niu Rou Mian, I decided on revisiting.
Even though it was pretty hot out, I just needed some NRM.
I don't know if it was bad timing, or if it was the "b" team in action, but this wasn't even close to what I had here before. Sorely lacking beef flavor, this was very salty, missing the nice kick I had in previous versions. The beef was fine, moist and tender, but those noodles were terrible. I was never the biggest fan of the noodles here, which are passable when prepared well, but when overcooked and mushy......
I ordered the fried pork chop, which was even worse than the NRM.
Greasy, soggy, and too salty....I think I'll leave it at that.
After this visit, I wondered if it had just been a bad day. I'd been craving Shanghai style cold dishes and with all the hot weather, it just seemed like the right time to try again....this time with my buddy "R" along for the ride.
We started with the Wined Chicken, which was pretty good.
The texture was spot on, the mildly cured texture, not too salty, and without the overly boozy, sometimes bitter flavor of too much Shaoxing, this was a decent rendition of the classic "Su Cai" dish.
The five spice beef was nicely flavored, not too sweet, which this type of cuisine can be.
If it were just a bit more tender I would have enjoyed it more.
The cold roasted duck's flavor was much better than what I've had here in the past. The nice sweet-soy flavor came through nicely.
Nice duck flavor, combined with a toothsome, but not too tough duck, made this the best dish of the day.
I'm glad the duck and chicken came through with flying colors, because the Wuxi Spareribs, a dish that's usually pretty good here was terrible.
Usually, I'm complaining that they make make it much too sweet here. But this time it really lacked flavor....the sauce was very bland. Combine that with gloppy gooeyness, sometimes a mild plus when sauces tend to be heavily flavored just made this a mediocre dish at best. The spareribs really lacked flavor, though they weren't too tough. Bummer, because this was possibly my favorite here.
At least my second meal was better than my first. If it gets terribly hot, I might just head back.....I'm hoping those spareribs are much better. The lunchtime crowd here is quite diverse, mostly made up of folks ordering the "ABC" style dishes, perhaps that's why the NRM wasn't very good?
Just a few months ago, "YummyYummy" mentioned that a new "Chinese Restaurant" was going into the former B H Chung location. When I asked around, no one knew much....though the term "Fast Food" was bandied about, much to my disappointment. Finally, the sign went up, the place was given a name....Yu's Garden, whose location in Irvine Kirbie posted on back in 2009. Looking at her post, I could see that the term "fast foodish" didn't appear to be to far from the truth. A couple of weeks ago, the menu went up, and Yu's Garden, San Diego quietly opened.
After checking around a bit, I kind of knew what to expect. We've got some young folks I know who love the place. Of course these kids aren't too far removed from college and still talk about how much they love Nongshim (though the Missus likes it too) instant noodles, which kind of puts things into perspective.
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I managed to visit twice; once with my good friend Candice, who had met me for an awful lunch at Yes! Pingo. I was hoping that this would be an improvement. One good thing about Yu's is that they open early, remember, this is possibly the worst parking lot in San Diego, at 10am Monday thru Thursdays, 8am Friday to Sunday....although according to the sign, they must have some special calendar with two Sundays on it......having two Sundays a week, wouldn't that be grand?
The use of the plastic sheet sleeve also makes me wonder what on earth they need to protect this piece of 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper from? It's pretty far from the tables in a remote corner. One can only wonder?
As for the interior....well, much like the Irvine location, this place is ready with the quick steam and cold table stuff. Much of which looks rather greasy. So on my visits, I stuck to ordering from the menu. The hot and cold foods were really close together, which didn't quite look up to food handling standards.
This place also wins the award for making a new business look like it's been around for years. There are already stains on the walls, if you take a good look at the steam table, you can quickly see that the plywood paneling looks like it's been hacked, or at least badly cut, perhaps with a steak knife as the edges of the wood are jagged and not flush to the floor. The panel on the left is of a different make as it doesn't really match the rest. also, it has been mounted onto the steam table with a plain untreated piece of plywood that looks totally different. Which makes me think that it's only a matter of time before the tables get that nice "San Gabriel stickiness" to them.
In addition to the ton of prepared items, the menu is huge with a 139 items (I counted) on it, not counting specials. The prices are also inexpensive, with $8.99 being the priciest dish.
I know you've been wanting me to get to the point, so here's what was eaten.......
Sauteed Intestine w/Sour Vegetable ($7.99). I just can't help ordering this......
In terms of cooking technique, this was done well. If you don't enjoy the offal flavor of intestine, you might like this. If you don't enjoy your pickled mustard greens to have any flavor this might be enjoyable. If you love dishes that have way too much sesame oil on them, you will positively adore this. Still, I have no qualms with how this was cooked.
I had a synaptic short circuit and ordered the Pan Fried Pork and Napa Dumplings ($5.99). I should know better.....I mean, I have been indoctrinated...you don't pan fry jiaozi....in guotie, the dough is worked differently. If it's on the menu doing double duty, you should probably not get it......
You know that pretty yellow bag on stuff they sell at Costco with the cute panda on the front? Personally, I'd take that over this....cardboard like wrappers and mushy tasteless filling.
What would a meal here be without Chou Doufu (stinky tofu - $5.99).
You know what the Missus says, right? If I can eat it; it's not any good. This was pretty mild and bland. Nothing even close to, say Dynasty Plaza or even Shau Mei, and thankfully not even remotely close to the stuff I had in Hangzhou which I could barely swallow. I took the leftovers of this home....the Missus thought the version of smacked cucumbers was good, but of course said that the tofu was terribly bland and the sauce lacked any depth and that touch of sweetness She enjoys.
I had to have the Beef Stew Noodle Soup. Which really didn't look like much when it hit the table. In terms of presentation it looked rather plain....no pickled vegetable....
Overall, based on price, $5.99, I'd say this wasn't bad. I wish it was a bit richer, but the beef and anise flavor was there, though things were a bit heavy-handed in terms of MSG. The noodles were routine, which I expected for the price, but at least the beef was tender and flavorful. Plus this was steaming hot.
The best dish I've had at Yu's so far would be the Chicken w/Basil, aka three cup chicken. ($6.99).
Even though this looks like gloppy Chinese "faux-food", I really enjoyed it. The chicken was fried before the stir fry, keeping the skin (yes...skin on, joy of joys) crisp. Sweet, edging on too salty, I really enjoyed this. Candice summed things up when she asked me what time the place closed.......thoughts of having this after a couple of beers at O'Brien's did sound like a good thing. It was a nice parting shot to the meal......which motivated me to return a couple of days later.
I thought I'd try one of the most expensive items on the menu, the Sauteed Lamb with Scallion ($8.99).
This was a fair to middlin' dish. Nice char from the wok, the lamb was very mild in flavor, the dish was a bit too salty overall. For some reason, having the ends of the scallions, roots and all lind of bugged me, not sure why, but it just seemed wrong.
The Eggplant in Garlic Sauce ($6.99) was just a few notches down from being good. The eggplant was nice; crisp on the exterior, but molten and creamy inside.
It just lacked the amount of flavor I'd enjoy on a dish like this. Plus that pool of oil on the bottom of the bowl was a good half inch deep. I also found a piece of chicken mixed in with my eggplant....a bonus????
A note about the starch......get the rice. The free porridge is an absolutely pasty, badly prepared, mess devoid of any flavor at all.
Overall, Yu's wasn't bad, you get what you pay for......I will say, with a bit of humor that the place is the best Chinese food in this strip mall taking into consideration the places I call the the "Bland Brothers". It's great student food....so those Nongshim lover's did have a point. No pretense here, no gimmicks, or catchy name.
The young ladies serving us were polite and pleasant, though still obviously learning the ropes.
So will I return? Honestly, the person working the wok here shows more skill than the folks at say....Dumpling Inn and things aren't gringo-ized. It does have MSG, it can be salty, it can also be bland, it can be greasy, it will be interesting to see how some of the other dishes are.....
As the year started winding down, I've found myself thinking that I needed to circle back at some of those places that, well, really didn't impress me too much over the years, just to see.
This short and sweet post on Liang's is probably a good start since I hadn't been here in a while. Even though it was perfect soup weather, the place seems a bit slower than when I first visited.
I started with the Stewed Bean Curd Skin.
Not the prettiest dish in the world, this really looked like offal, and for some reason the decorative bit of tomato and cilantro leaf really didn't do much for the presentation. The flavor, though mild, had just enough soy sauce flavor to push this up to decent. The yba was kind of hard in some of the thicker pieces, but this wasn't bad at all.
I went with the Beef Tendon Noodle Soup with handmade noodles. The broth was very slightly beefy, better than on previous visits, which really doesn't say much. But what this terrible was that there was a pervading taste bleach. I tried to explain to the Server who nodded, walked away and never returned. Then I tried to explain to the young lady who brought me my check, but no go...... I just cut my losses. I don't think they rinsed this off after sanitizing, or something of the sort.
Anyway, the tendon was plus/minus, some tough pieces, some pretty good. The pieces of beef were dry. I like the pickeld mustard greens and the noodles, though still too gummy and over-worked for my taste, were actually an improvement over previous visits.
I left and went and had some ramen........
Liang’s Kitchen 4681 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
It's been almost four years since I did a round up post of places to add to my Niu Rou Mian collection. Personally, I feel things have been pretty depressing for NRM in recent years, but thought I'd give it a shot anyway. We've been going through waves of warm almost late spring-like weather followed by blustery storms passing through, so it was really hard to plan things out. But I managed to squeeze in three bowls recently.
This restaurant took the place of 168 Restaurant in the 99 Ranch Market shopping plaza.
As a whole, I usually avoid the place during rush hours, and even when I dropped by during an odd lunch or dinner time, I don't recall seeing people eating here. In fact, on my visit, during a late week dinner, I was the only customer during my entire meal!
It must get pretty boring for the folks here, that's probably why they were practicing their Karaoke skills on the television....of course they weren't using a microphone, just quietly singing along.....
So at least I had a bit of entertainment during my meal. Personally, I thought this was kind of cute in a way, though I would probably have a different opinion if they used microphones.
The House Special Beef Noodle Soup ($7.49), which is listed as this on the check-off menu:
Arrived steaming hot, a good sign, though I've got to say it was probably the darkest looking broth I've seen in a while:
I really missed the zha cai - pickled vegetable that 168 used to top off thier NRM with, and fragrance of the broth wasn't particularly beefy. The noodles were decent, not overcooked, the broth wasn't as sweet as others, but in spite of the dark color, really lacked any depth with regards to flavor.
The beef was fairly tender and had decent flavor, but there were only four real pieces and some crumbs.......
Man, that was some dark broth!
I know I still gotta meet "MrZ" here for lunch one day...... so I'll report back then with more. Though based on the lack of customers, I think I'd better get my act together because I'm not quite sure how long this place will be around.
Savory Garden 7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
On my post on Liang's someone mentioned that Mr Dumpling made a pretty good NRM. I kinda hesitated in checking the place out, since the food on my previous visits had not been particularly stellar. Still, Niu Rou Mian? I really had to go and check the place out. The place was totally empty when I arrived....... I actually had to call out several times...Ni Hao.....
While waiting for signs of life, I noticed that they'd put pool tables in on the other side of the wall......I guess they need to bring in customers somehow. This just didn't strike me as a particularly good sign.
A couple of minutes later a live person appeared and I was seated. Of course I order the Niu Rou Mian and was surprised at what I got:
Well technically there's beef, noodle, and soup......but this ain't the Niu Rou Mian I know. It was terrible, the broth lacked nay flavor but salt and the beef was tough and dry. I keep thinking this was some horrible mistake.
While another part of me wonders, "what if it isn't a mistake and this is their version of Niu Rou Mian?" Egads!
Mr Dumpling 7250 Convoy Ct San Diego, CA 92111
I'm not sure why I decided on Niu Rou Mian at Chin's on Convoy, but that's what I ordered. It was the most expensive ($8.50) of the three. To my surprise it wasn't too bad.
While the broth could have been richer, it did have a mild beef and star anise flavor, along with a slight "kick". Based on previous experiences here, I expected the soup to be on the sweet side, but it wasn't. The meat could have been more tender, but it was by no means terrible. The noodles and there was a lot of noodles, weren't anything special, but at least they were al dente and nice and slippery.
Though I don't overly focus on price, if quality is good, I'm not quite sure this is worth $8.50.
Chin's 4433 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
I guess I'll have drive up to Temple City again soon and deal with the service at Dai Ho to get a decent bowl......
There was a bit of a buzz when Liang's Kitchen first opened during the fall of last year. Not so much for us though, since a couple of years back we had a most horrendous meal and service at Liang's in Irvine...so bad that I wouldn't do a post on it. So even if I'd be willing to visit Liang's here in San Diego, the Missus will not.
Actually, the Chinese name of the restaurant, translated as something like "Mama Liang's home style military dependant village kitchen, is perhaps a more apt description of what Liang's serves. Now before you go off and think this will be something reminiscent of mess line slop, stop for a moment. When the KMT retreated to Taiwan, housing had to be built for those fleeing. Settlements were funded by the military and built with the intent of being temporary housing. It was believed that people would only have to live in these villages for a short time until the ROC defeated the Communists and folks would move back to their homeland. This of course, never happened. Over time these villages comprised of people from all over China developed social networks and a sense of community. A nice article on these villages can be found here, I particularly enjoyed the story of "Ho" from Shandong:
"After Ho retired from the military, he opened a breakfast store in the village selling traditional Shandong dishes like steamed buns, fried dough sticks and salty soybean milk which became quite popular among villagers and even nearby Taiwanese residents."
Liang's claims to serve the diasporic cuisine of those villages, using the sentimental value to draw folks in.
Since Liang's first opened, I've visited five times with mixed results. In the beginning, the prices seemed to change, always in the "up" direction...perhaps three times on items like the Niu Rou Mian and Niu Rou Chuan. Once I was served by a young lady wearing flip-flop like sandals and grey sweat pants. I will say that my last two visits have been the best, as the prices and service have finally evened out a bit. Not quite sure about the food yet....
The first two times I had the Niu Rou Mian (Beef Noodle Soup), I was less than pleased.
On the first visit, the broth had been flavored by what the Missus calls "the wave method", as in the soup tasted like someone had waved a beef bone over it to flavor it. The beef was fairly tender, but dry and cold in the center. I selected the regular noodles, which were prepared nicely. On the second visit, the broth was better, but too sweet, the beef was still pretty dry, and the "Lapian Handmade Noodles" tough and gummy. The broth also seemed low with regards to anise flavor as well.
However, on my last visit, I ordered the Beef Tendon version and was rewarded with a decent bowl.
Even though the broth still didn't have enough anise or beef flavor for me, it was hot, not too sweet, not overly salty, and most of all, not bland. The beef tendon was very nice, soft and almost buttery. The pieces of beef were still the same, too dry and stringy for me. Ditto for the handmade noodles, too gummy and over-worked.
Still, I felt pretty happy about the whole situation, until FOY (Friend of Yoso) the "Zompus" asked me, "since when is one out of three good, other than in baseball." I'm hoping that I improve on that slow start during future visits.
On one of my visits, I had the Niu Rou Chuan - the Beef Roll, which was then something like $6.50, but the last time I looked at the menu was up to $7.25.
The sesame bread was too dry as was the beef. I did enjoy the addition of what I believe is Ji Cai, pickled mustard greens, which adds a nice palate cleansing salty-sour component to this, but overall, I didn't care much for it.
When I mentioned this to another FOY "Liver", I was instructed to order the Pork version instead. Which is what I did on another visit with my good friend Candice.
The fat and the flavor of the pork added to the dish.
During our visit we tried a couple of other items.
The Special Red Pork Cutlet($5.25) had a nice light-crunchy texture.
Mild sweetness, though not much else that stood out.
The stuffed squid ($6.99) served cold.
Would have been a real winner if they removed the quills from the squid before they stuffed them. Biting into the squid, then being stabbed by the plastic like quills makes for a rather unpleasant experience.
The Stewed Pigs Feet ($6), in my opinion could have been stewed much longer and needed a flavor injection.
It was like eating hard rubber......
And that's kind of how it's gone for my meals at Liang's. I'd try something like the Salty Pork Stuffed Chili ($5 when I tried it, now $5.50).
Which was indeed salty, but in a good way. You'll also play a bit of chili-roulette with this one as some of the peppers were hot, but other not. The roasting of the peppers also adds a bit of sweetness.
Then I'd order something like the Salty Duck ($6.75). If I'd gotten something 1/10th of what I had in Nanjing or even half-way close to what I get in the SGV, I'd have been happy.
But this was very dry, tasted salty, but also a bit "refrigerator-rancid"......I tried to explain to the yong lady working, but she either didn't, or pretended not to understand. I opted to cut my losses and retreat.
If you like variety, you'll get it here. Is the NRM the best in San Diego? In a town of blind men, is the one-eyed man king? Ditto the Beef Roll..... They also say "nothing ventured, nothing gained", here's hoping that your ratio of gains to ventures is a good one. For balance please read Kirbie'sposts and Gastro-bits post on Liang's.
Liang’s Kitchen 4681 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
I first recall hearing about Chef Chen on Elmo Monster's Blog (man, have you really been around for eight years???). After seeing a post on Chef Chen on Eileen's blog, with a pretty decent looking bowl of Niu Rou Mian, I had pretty much made up my mind. Also, we'd already tried out A&J which really didn't suit our tastes and a very, very, bad visit to Liang's in the same strip mall which was so terrible I never even posted about it. So why not make it a tri-fecta and check out Chef Chen's?
I sure must have been motivated since this is one of those parking lots I detest. One single exit/entrance, folks without any regard of right of way, people just plain parking in the middle of the aisle, people stealing spaces from folks patiently waiting for folks to leave by going around them and gunning into a spot. Man, this place has it all....they should have a reality show based on parking lots..... I made it a point to arrive a bit early, then stretched my legs by taking a walk and checking out how things have changed since the last time I've been here.
I entered the restaurant a few minutes after they opened and had a seat. The menu is a mix of different dishes, everything from typical Chinese fast food (which didn't look half bad) to Dao Xian Mian and even something that really interested me(more on that later). The prices, especially for the lunch specials and items from the "Northern dishes" menu were very reasonable...as was my bowl of Niu Rou Mian at $5.99:
I liked the color of the broth, which was decent and in my opinion better than Liang's (thin with no beef flavor) or A&J (oily but without flavor). Still not beefy enough, nor without enough five spice flavor, the spice level was nice. Be warned that the meat used is a very traditional beef shank which is a bit on the chewy side, though full of flavor. The noodles are nothing special, but were cooked to a nice chewy texture. This was not bad and actually better than I thought it would be.
I also saw something on the menu that I couldn't resist getting....Dao Ko Shao Ji. When we lived in LA, one of my favorite things was Dao Ko Chicken, from of all places Hong Kong Market. I'd tried Dao Ko Shao Ji from just about every place in the area and still enjoyed the one from Hong Kong Market. Then the market did a renovation and the deli case was gone.....sigh. I really missed my chicken. To the point that my Mother In-Law got in touch with an uncle who is a chef in Henan and he sent us a recipe. Read the post....it's a hoot!
When I arrived home and opened the container, the first thing that struck me was how much this looked like Earthen's Shandong Chicken. However, it lacked the sweetness with a touch of vinegar and in fact was kinda bland other than the super strong pungency from the raw garlic topping the chicken. It was one of those dishes that looked much better than it was.
Still, the prices were reasonable, and I really thought the service was excellent. The woman who served me was quite good, no wasted motion and very aware of her tables. She arrived with extra napkins just when I needed it, as soon as I pushed my bowl back she arrived to ask if all was well, then handed me my check. She then arrived with my chicken as soon as I placed money on the plastic tray. She was also quite friendly and nice and put up with my bogus (non-existent) Mandarin quite well........
Chef Chen's 5408-B Walnut Ave Irvine, CA 92604
One interesting thing I noticed in across the street and maybe if Elmo reads this he can answer it for me.....what's with the line outside Taiko?
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
In my post on Manila Fast Food, "Roland" inquires about a place in Rancho Bernardo serving "Chinese Breakfast". Having seized my attention, I immediately tried to find out where this Quik Wok place was. Once I had the address firmly in hand, all I had to do was wait for the weekend......
And we made our way up the I-15, taking the Bernardo Center Drive exit and driving past Pearl and Hunan we found ourselves at one of those jumbo sized spread out strip malls. After driving around a bit, I found a sign with "Chinese Cuisine" written on it....I guess we were here.
The interior looked just like one of those pseudo fast food wok fresh kinda places that have popped up everywhere, except the crew here spoke Mandarin. You sure won't find that in Hillcrest! Still, there was no "secret menu" in sight. I guess that's why they call it a secret menu????
Actually, what most places call a secret menu, is not really a secret menu... it's not hidden, you don't need a decoder ring, or a special handshake..... you just gotta read the language. And Quik Wok is no different, I finally located a paper menu written in Chinese.
And we were off.... just like your favorite Fast Food Chinese joint, you order at the counter, pay at the register, if you're eating in you take a number and amble over to your table. Eventually food will make its way over to you......
First to arrive was the Spicy Tendon ($4.25):
This was a good amount of sliced tendon for the price, and turned out to be the best dish of the day. A good amount of beef flavor, along with a passable (could have used more) amount of Sichuan Peppercorn made this a decent dish. On the negative side, the tendon was cut very haphazardly, and some pieces weren't prepared well and was very hard. The tendon was topped with scallions, which added some pungency, but it would have been better served with Chinese Celery.
Next up was the "Beef Roll" (Niu Rou Chuan):
The Beef had a decent five spice-soy flavor, but the bread felt, and even worse tasted unpleasantly greasy.
Next up, a huge bowl of "stuff" arrived. The Missus had ordered the Knife Shaved Noodles (Dao Xiao Mian) with Pork and Egg ($4.95).
The photo doesn't do the portion size justice. Overall the dish was bland and oily, and the Knife Shaved Noodles were too hard, not doughy, but hard..... Too bad, good, fresh, knife shaved noodles, where dough is formed into a sort of an oblong-log shape and strip of dough is sheared off by a sharp knife or other cutting implement is a fairly rare thing, even in the San Gabriel Valley. Slightly doughy, with a nice chew, it seems the uneven edges of Dao Xiao Mian tends to pick up sauce and broth a lot better than other types of noodles. To bad this wasn't it. It was a humongous amount of food for five bucks though.
The last item was the Niu Rou Mian - Beef Noodle Soup, with Dao Xiao Mian ($4.95):
I don't know if it was the broth, but the Dao Xiao Mian did better in the soup. To be honest, this NRM was way better than the version at Hunan in everything but the meat, which really isn't saying much. Like the previous dish had a ton of noodles in it, almost as if there was a fire sale on noodles on this day. On the bad side,the broth was barely mediocre, weak and lacking in beef flavor, with just a hint of heat, and needing an injection of richness.
We polished off the tendon, but ended up with a ton of leftovers, for just over twenty bucks.
Quantity just won't make it over quality in this case. And though the Americanized stuff coming out of the kitchen for the non-Chinese customers like the fried rice looked pretty good, nothing really compels me to return.
On the positive side, it's good to see places such as Quik Wok opening and making a go of it. And just the existence of such restaurants will have us up in North County a bit more often as well.
Chinese menu is only available on weekends.
Quik Wok 11967 Bernardo Plaza Dr San Diego, CA 92128
Unfortunately, this is one of those PWTSDS (sounds like putdz) posts....... "Posts Where the Sun Don't Shine". I had thought about just deleting the photos, but I don't get up to North County very much, and I'm not sure I'd want to have the NRM here again. So my apologies in advance......
Somewhere, in the comments section of one of my posts, someone mentioned that Hunan Restaurant in Rancho Bernardo made Niu Rou Mein. Being a big fan of NRM, I made sure to drop by when I was in the area.
To be perfectly clear, there ain't anything "Hunan" about Hunan Restaurant except for the name. I had a meal here years ago, and it was totally "ABCDE" (American Born Chinese Dining Establishment). But looking at the menu board, I noticed a section that had various noodle and rice dishes which looked promising.
So I entered the restaurant, and stepped into an alien green world!
I just found the greenish hue somewhat unappetizing, but I've never let stuff like that stop me before. Since I like to keep a low profile, and never use a flash, the lighting made taking photos somewhat difficult. For a while I tried timing my photos to the opening of the front door which would let light into the place. But of course, the wait between photos would have been pretty long!
The women here are pretty nice, and I simply ordered the Niu Rou Mian, which got the lady speaking to me in Mandarin, during my entire meal....... I don't think she ever figured out that I really didn't understand what she was saying!
Soon enough the NRM ($6.95) arrived.
When my bowl arrived, all I could think was "what the Pho?" That's what the broth looked like, Pho..... Though scalding hot, it was insipid, there was just a trace of five spice flavor, and it lacked any of the richness or the beefiness of Niu Rou Mein. What the heck? The noodles were the packaged stuff I buy from 99 Ranch Market, and was cooked well. What was impressive about this bowl was the amount of meat in this bowl. There was just as much meat under the noodles as was on the top!
The meat was tender, but lacking in flavor. I think I just found a NRM for those folks who think Bun Bo Hue is all about the meat, and should taste like "spicy Pho".
An acquaintance of mine loves the ABCDE food from Hunan, so those dishes might be good. I thought the service was very nice and friendly. But I cna get Americanized Chinese in dozens of places less than 25 miles from home.
Hunan Chinese Restaurant 16719 Bernardo Center Dr San Diego, CA 92128
Yes, I have a "little black book"......no, not that kind of little black book! This Moleskin that I carry around is full of little handy dandy notes...things like addresses, how to change the time on my wristwatch, and sometimes, when I anticipate that all to often occurrence nowadays, where the heck I parked my car. And of course, it contains names of restaurants, many restaurants, an unmanageable list of places to eat in several cities, some which I'll probably never set foot in....but like making sure you wear clean underwear, you know, "just in case", I'll jot down a restaurant, the address if I have it, what to order, and other stuff, in my own little undecipherable scribbling....just in case. And recently it dawned on me, this list of restaurants, having no rhyme or reason, has become untenable. Luckily for me, I can, most of the time, locate my restaurant scribblings when necessary. A good example is Kingburg Kitchen. Several months back, I scribbled "Kingburg - Shengjian Bao". And after reading first, Eileen's post on Kingburg Kitchen, which led me to Pepsi Monster's post on said dining establishment, we just had on head on over during a recent trip to the SGV. Please check out their wonderful posts.
Kingburg Kitchen is located on Las Tunas Drive, quite close to Lucious Dumplings, a place that we'd been to a few times. And yet we had never noticed it, in spite of the very bright and yellow banner.
The interior is San Gabriel Schizoid......everything from a faux cloud ceiling, to the fake fish tank. And man does this place love fliers....sheets of paper posted everywhere. Many of them saying, "We have the best buns in town".
The tables were only mildly "San Gabriel sticky", and the usual suspects were in display with regards the soy and vinegar.
The menu is a simple two sided laminated page full of soups, dumplings, buns ("the best in town!!!"), and cold appetizers.
The woman working was very efficient, and quickly brought out some pickled napa cabbage, which was pretty bland, but kept the starving Missus satiated.
We started with the Niu Rou Mein (spicy beef noodles soup - $6.50):
My first thought was, "this looks nothing like what I saw in Eileen's post." And to put it bluntly, we didn't care for it very much. Nice mild spice, but no beef flavor to speak of, the meat was very tough, and tasted a bit off. The noodles started out with a decent chew and pull, but went mushy real quick.
The broth needed a more richness, it just reminded us of soy sauce water. Perhaps this was the first bowl of the day, and it needed more simmer time?
We couldn't finish half of it.
Of course we ordered the Shengjian Bao, starting with the pork and cabbage version ($6.50). After the requisite 20 minute wait, it arrived nicely browned on both sides.
The Missus and I both bit into our buns simultaneously, chewed and stopped, well, I swallowed. There was something wrong with these, the taste was decent, full of pork flavor, and well seasoned. But the texture of the buns was on the "gooey" side. This is when we took a look at the buns.....
Good God, the pork was still raw, and the dough on the interior of the bun was uncooked! I watched the Missus turn several shades of yellow, or was it green. The Missus managed to flag down the Server, who was already working on several tables, and explained to Her quietly in Mandarin what was going on, and of course we displayed the uneaten portions of the Shengjian Bao. Now, when something like this occurs, there are a whole range of responses we've gotten from restaurants. Everything from very defensive attitudes, to actions that try to place the guilt on us ("well, it's your fault you ordered this"), to where everything would just be reheated and dumped on our table. This lady responded in the best way possible to make things right. She was very, very, apologetic, and told us that they would like a chance to make us a fresh batch (this is a Chinese Restaurant, ain't no way you're getting comped, and we're not into making a scene). Of course this would take 20 minutes. So we decided to go ahead, but take the Pork Buns to go. In all honesty, I still get the heebies just looking at that photo.......
By this time our Vegetarian Buns($6.50) had arrived, and to be perfectly frank, I was ready to turn into a vegetarian about now anyhow.
Of course, we didn't just dig in this time, but daintily cut the Bao in half to check out what was going on first. Overall, we both weren't too pleased with the bun, in spite of the decent browning on both sides, we found the overall texture to be a bit too gummy, and the browned areas hard instead of crisp.
Personally, I love bitter greens, so I enjoyed the filling.
The smoked tofu and cloud ear fungus really just adds texture, but there was enough seasoning and flavor of my tastes. I think the Missus was still mentally consuming raw pork.........
We did have an entire order of Bao which we took home....but we really had a hard time eating them. I tried to have a few, but for once, we wasted food......which I feel real bad about.
We thought the service to be efficient, and the Server was very nice and professional. We really wanted to like this place, but I'm just not all that sure we'll be back.
Kingburg Kitchen 715 W Las Tunas Dr San Gabriel, CA 91776