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Anti-fans of Joe's Noodle House?

I bet I'll get flamed for this, but is there anyone out there other than me who doesn't like Joe's Noodle House (and is afraid to speak up :)? This board seems to be full of people who rave about the place so I thought I'd give it another shot after trying it once a year or so ago and not liking anything I'd ordered (I'm Chinese American and grew up on fabulous Chinese food in California, just to give some perspective, but I find A&J's here to be great).

This time, we had a party of 6, all Chinese Americans, and ordered about 15 or so dishes. I can honestly say that nobody had more than a single try of any one dish. They were all so terrible it seemed a waste of stomach space to put any more food in there. Granted, Joe's has lots of exotic dishes you can't seem to find anywhere else around here, but exotic doesn't equal good. They were all prepared so terribly with such low quality ingredients that I was embarrassed I had suggested the place to my friends. I mean, it wasn't even just that the food was OK and not wonderful the way we'd expected it to be based on reviews - the food was actually terrible! I would say definitely some of the worst Chinese food I've ever had! Can I honestly have ordered all the wrong dishes yet again???

Please tell me I'm not the only one out there who thinks Joe's is disgusting?

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  1. I have a big goose egg in my history of not trying A&J's, and I'm for one open to dissent to Joe's, but I wonder, from what region of China do you like the most?

    From what I know, A&J's fare prevails from the northern part of China, while Schezuan province is southwestern. I'm still eagerly learning much about the cultures and foods of all regions, but I know there are great disparities.

    What do you think of other Schezuan offerings?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dennis S

      I love spicy food so typically do love Szechuan-style Chinese food. The red-oil dumplings and dan dan mian in particular. (Wait, are Szechuan and Sichuan the same? It's the American part of the Chinese American coming out in me, as you pronounce these the same in Chinese, but I've never quite figured out if they're the same but with different Romanization spellings) However, I'm just a fan of Chinese food overall, from Cantonese dim sum to Shanghainese xiao long bao (which I've long given up on finding anything that compares to Ding Tai Fung and others in LA - even Joe's Shanghai in NYC doesn't quite cut it) and stir-fried rice cakes to Hainanese chicken rice to the unique dishes of the Suzhou area, the Hong Kong style seafood restaurants to Taiwanese food which also has its own distinct dishes and style. A&J's I believe is originally from Taiwan as the chain originated out there and gradually spread through California and then to the East Coast, but they definitely aren't exclusively Taiwanese food.

      Love all sorts of Chinese food had just been hoping to add Joe's to my rotation. Shocked by how terrible it was and was hoping to find others who thought similar and had alternatives to suggest! :)

    2. I've never tried joe's, and am not inspired to either. I do though, commend you for sticking your neck out and offering a dissenting opinion. Good for you.

      I have though, tried A&J, and was not impressed. NOt enough food for the money, and much overhyped. It's good to try once in awhile, but I wouldn't make a habit out of eating this type of food everyday.

      1. I'm also AA from CA and I wouldn't say I'm anti-Joe's, but honestly I have yet to have a completely satisfying Chinese meal in this area. After 2 1/2 years out here I've accepted that it ain't going to be the same. So I just go out to the Chinese restaurants here, keep my expectations on a moderate level and that way I can enjoy the meals. Plus my friends are sick and tired of my whinging ;D This goes double for Vietnamese.

        My apologies to the native Chowhounds, I know it sounds rather snotty, but really I just miss eating very good Chinese food. Some of the local restaurants that get praised here just wouldn't survive out in L.A. It's really vicious out there and if your joint is even just okay, you would be hard-pressed to be in business. There seems to be a enough Chinese folks and Chinese food fans here, I wish that we could generate some quality control.

        I stick with the Taiwanese and northern Chinese food and pass on dim sum and pho in DC. Just not worth the money.

        26 Replies
        1. re: tdonline

          I also moved to DC from SoCal, and go back there about once a year. I will agree about the quality of the Chinese food here compared to LA. But I will disagree about the Vietnamese. Sure there is a bigger Viet population around Westminster, but my personal opinion is that just for plain pho, the quality here is much better than in SoCal. I've had too many so-so phos in California. I think, at least for pho places, the Northern VA joints have the LA and NYC ones beat.

          1. re: dpan

            I'm going to respectfully disagree here. More disappointing than the Chinese food here is the Vietnamese. Granted since I do not drive, I have not had a chance to try many of the restaurants further out, but from what I’ve eaten in Arlington, I’ve pretty much resign myself to getting Vietnamese food in CA. I lived nearby Pho 75 in Courthouse and I’ve seen many praise that place and I just don’t understand it as my experiences there were so blandly below average.

            The good pho I have had in CA (and elsewhere) have really good broth which you know has been slowly cooked and infused with fantastic flavor which should come out steaming hot, fresh and abundant side veggies, silken noodles which have not been overcooked and meat that is tender. I have yet to have really good broth and noodles here in DC. I really question if they are really cooking the broth properly and slowly, I do think the places here cheat on this crucial factor.

            1. re: tdonline

              Why do people, when referring to Vietnamese food, only refer to Pho and/or Banh Mi? Has it come down to defining an entire culture's grub by using a noodle soup or a french inspired sandwich? I've tried a few vietnamese dishes at Hong Que and can't verify how authentic they were since I'm not vietnamese, but thought they were great. One dish in particular was chilean seabass nuggets stir fried with a brown sauce.

              1. re: Chownut

                Hey Chow, I hope that's a general rhetorical question. I only refer to Pho because as you can see in my profile, it's my fav comfort food so it's my own personal litmus test. Since I was born in Vietnam and my family can make home cooked Vietnamese food, I'm well aware that's a lot out there. I've had other Vietnamese food that I wasn't crazy about. For a good place, I like Viet Huong in Eden Center. I took my mom there when she visited and she told me that I've found a good Vietnamese joint and to stick with it. I haven't had their pho but the dinner we had was great.

                1. re: tdonline

                  I'm going to take a slightly different stance than Chownut and ask why Pho 75 still is the mark? They churn it out and are almost undoubtedly one of the places that uses MSG to bolster the broth when the stock is getting low, rather than investing the time into a real pot of new broth.

                  Unfortunately, I think the best Pho in the area (was in Rockville -0 forget the name right now) closed. Still there are many other greats, including Nam Viet, Pho Reston 75 (not part of the chain I'm rankling on here), and many others - many found in pho threads on the board. If part of your complaint is the pho from Pho 75 (the chain) then please try some of the others first.

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    It was Pho Quyen and it was outstanding. RIP.

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      I've heard that the pho place in the same mall area as Full Kee in Bailey's is quite good. I've actually tried three times to go there, but the first time I got there, they were just closing and the other times, they were closed for renovation. Any word on this place?

                      Also, leaving Bob's 66, I saw a place called "Saigon". Any word on that place? It would be great if it's any good because it's metro-accessible.

                      1. re: tdonline

                        There are two places that you might have seen departing Bob's 66 with the name "Saigon" in them and they're both easily accessible from the Rockville station metro.

                        One is on the corner of Washington and Middle Lane in Rockville. It's new-ish (no more than a year old?) and I haven't been.

                        The other one is sort of in the back of a funny office building on 355, almost immediately adjacent to the fire station. I can't comment on a lot there, because I've only had the fish and veggie options, but I haven't been overwhelmed by their offerings. I think the summer rolls (I can never remember their name) for vegetarians are down right terrible. The other dishes have only been so-so. They do a great iced coffee. I don't think I've ever seen pho on the menu.

                        1. re: Smokey

                          Oh what a pity. Yes, the one I saw was in the office building. Perhaps the one on the corner is worth checking out then.

                      2. re: Dennis S

                        I kinda like the Pho 75 in Arlington. But their broth tastes like it's cut with chicken broth, kinda sweet in that sense compared to good beef broth. tdonline - you're very limited in your range if you don't have a car. I like Pho Tay Bac (sp?) in the Culmore shopping center where the Peking Gourmet is. It's no-frills dining hall kinda atmosphere. It's been a couple of years since I was last there, but I always thought their broth and ingredients were fresh. I now go to Pho Bistro in Centreville on a regularly basis. Was just there yesterday. The broth has very good flavor, the noodles just the right texture (not too firm as if just taken from the fridge and dumped in the broth, or overcooked), the beef thinly sliced and tender, generous amounts of tender tripe, the tendon so soft it melts in your mouth. The place is always packed these days, that place is a gold mine for the owners. According to a banner inside, they just (or are planning on opening) opened a branch in Ashburn.

                    2. re: Chownut

                      Well, I'm not a pho expert (don't even care for it that much - then again, maybe I've never had really good pho) but if it's anything like Japanese noodle soup, it does need skill and care to make it well. If a Japanese soba-ya is any good, the thick smell of pork broth should hit you in the face as soon as you open the door.

                      How I wish there were as many soba and ramen bars competing around here as there are pho places. Sadly, in this region, everyone thinks Japanese cuisine begins and ends with sushi and tempura. :( :( :(

                      1. re: little audrey

                        I wish there was one ramen place - there are a couple of places to get ramen, but nowhere that specializes in it.

                        Of course, there's not a large Japanese population in the area to support such places.

                        1. re: Lori D

                          Aside from the Japanese market off Bradley in Bethesda, does anybody know of any other Japanese ramen places around DC? Most of the Japanese places around only offer overpriced Udon.

                          1. re: tedders

                            Blue Ocean in Fairfax has a very decent ramen on their menu. It's not a ramen place, but their food is generally very good.

                            1. re: tedders

                              There is no "Japanese ramen place" in the DC area. There are a couple of places that sell ramen, but there are none that specialize in it.

                              Daruma (the Japanese market in Bethesda) sells ramen, as does Temari in Rockville. I haven't tried Temari Cafe (although at least oone of my Japanese acquaintances has characterized their food as "oishikunai"); the ramen at Daruma is OK.

                              1. re: Lori D

                                I love Temari! It is indeed oishikunai. What I love about it is that it's real mama-san style cooking. Personally, I like their miso style ramen better than the shoyu style, but what I go for most often are the donburi and the home-style dishes I don't get as often elsewhere. Yummy!

                                1. re: whirlingdervish

                                  Oishikunai is the negative of oishii ... As i said, I was reporting someone else's opinion. One of these days, I need to find out for myself.

                                  Another place for home-style Japanese cooking (but no ramen, IIRC, is Hiro Sushi, near White Flint.

                                  1. re: Lori D

                                    D'oh! Of course, you're absolutely right. I think it's "oishidesu," largely because it reminds me of plain old homecooking the way my mom used to make. Of course, it's always possible that my mom was a bad cook...or that my impressions are tinged with nostalgia. I'll try Hiro Sushi, though. Thanks for the rec!

                  2. re: tdonline

                    Have you ever tried the chinese hamburger at Bob's Noodle House? I was watching a local eats program on PBS, and they profiled burger joints like Elevation and Five Guys. Then, they did a clip of Bob's Noodle House where the boss' daughter introduced it. It looked pretty nasty, as it was made out of preserved/smoked pork belly. One person tried it and was literally grossed out.

                    1. re: Chownut

                      I've had it a couple of times. The first time it was great, the next time a bit dry and boring. In person, it does not look disgusting at all. Just roast pork on a sweet bun.

                    2. re: tdonline

                      Maybe what you miss is eating California Chinese food, and you get DC Chinese food here. You know that cooking out of its native environment always evolves after a few generations and it's no longer pure. And it just evolves differently under different influences. And you, personally, have only one generation (yours) of taste buds evolved.

                      I think it's perfectly fair for you to say that you don't care for the Chinese food that you've had in this area, but it's not fair for you do declare that none of it is very good.

                      Would you expect to find good barbecue in China? What kind? Tennesse? Texas? Kansas City? Sam Ting. ;)

                      1. re: MikeR

                        Well, I should clarify that I think NONE of it is any good. That would be unfair. Afterall, I still go to Joe's, Bob's etc. My preferences is go to these places rather the Cantonese joints. Of course food evolves differently in different locations, even I accept that much of the Chinese food in L.A. isn't "authentic" compared to what is happening in HK or China. I'm just saying what is happening out here isn't very good. It's not so much purity as much as tastiness. When I get really good Chinese food in L.A. I'm experiencing fantastic taste, naunces, texture, etc. Damn, I'm hungry! Every time I come back from L.A. I can recall certain dishes I just had. For example right I'm still high from the "Phoenix Claw" dim sum I had last month. It's almost like I just ate it. I haven't had this experience with the Chinese food here yet...but you know there's always hope.

                        And just to show that it’s not 100% location bias, I’ve visited family in Sydney since the 80’s and the Chinese and Vietnamese food there is even better than L.A.’s. Sydney doesn’t quite have the variety that L.A. has, but the Cantonese and Vietnamese food is fantastic.

                        1. re: MikeR

                          China doesn't have the same sort of immigration policy we do. I'm sure they don't have an American expats community comparable in size to the ethnic Chinese community in the US.

                          As for the difference between California Chinese food vs. DC Chinese food. One can find good Chinese food in California. But for the most part, DC Chinese food is not very authentic and I would much rather just eat a burger. There are exceptions like China Star, A&J, and a few others. But the ethnic Chinese community here in DC just isn't big enough to sustain a larger selection of Chinese restaurants.

                          1. re: tedders

                            This is absolutely true. Now that I am an American living in China I can attest to the fact that the American food here is just as bad here as most Chinese food is in the US. We had a craving for a US-style breakfast (pancakes, biscuits & gravy) a few weeks that I wish I had satisfied at home in my own kitchen since what we got was decidedly 100% unlike the 'real thing'. And the place is run by an American. Of course, unlike Chinese places in the US, the waitstaff here were not Americans but rather Chinese who had no idea whatsoever what the term 'over easy' means...

                            1. re: James G

                              James G.

                              Good luck in the PRC. I know what you mean. I was once in Taipei for a week. I enjoyed every single business meal and street vendor I can find in that town. But by the end of the week I had to hit an American chain just to try to get a taste of home. Needless to say, I didn't get the burger I wanted. But at least I got a full week of incredible Chinese food.

                              Funny enough, it's not the fancy Chinese restaurants of California, Taipei or Hong Kong I miss. It's the street food.

                      2. Did you (vgaw98 and/or tdonline) ever try China Star prior to May of 2005, TemptAsian from then to about end 2005, or China Gourmet/Szechuan Boy between March 15 and April 30 last Spring? If so, what did you think about the food quality?

                        What places in the DC area do you like, if any?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: johnb

                          Sorry, johnb, I've not been to that places, not that I can remember anyway. I don't drive so I usually rely on friends' giving me rides and sometimes I tend to forget where they've driven me. Usually the one's where the food isn't very good. I've been to Full Kee at Bailey's when I need my Cantonese food fix. It's definitely hit or miss there. Some stuff they do well and others...I would skip the pork blood there. The one time I ordered it, it wasn't fresh at all and my mom and I ended up visiting the porcelein throne throughout the afternoon. We actually had a laugh about it because we were both desperate for the bathroom while visiting Great Falls.

                        2. vgaw98: I'm a big fan of Joe's (and of A&J), and just wanted to take a moment to thank you for posting -- We definitely need a broader cross-section of opinion here! It helps us a lot to hear dissenting voices, and, especially, comparisons.

                          I must admit that I've had some mediocre meals at Joe's -- but also some spectacular ones.

                          In general, the preparations seem much homier, a bit less creative, than were Peter Chang's -- but of course they're aiming for a different ideal.

                          We really ought to pull together another big Chowhound gathering at Joe's and have you join us -- perhaps you'll have a much better meal, or perhaps we'll get some perspective on what good sichuan cuisine can be.

                          In any event, please don't hesitate to post with more naysaying -- or, especially, with some raves of your own!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MartyL

                            I think a big group is the best way to go. The Chinese restaurants here are rather hit and miss so my fav expereinces have been with a bunch of folks to increase the likelihood of yumminess.