Best Beef Noodle (NiuRouMian) at ASJ in San Jose
- tanspace May 7, 2007 04:10 PM
I had mentioned ASJ as one of the best places for Niu Rou Mian in the bay area before talking on the QQ Noodle thread. After trying it out several more times, I can really confirm that it is one of the best. When I mean best, I mean that it is probably the closest thing to the beef noodles found in the streets of Taipei (or other parts of Taiwan).
Most Chinese restaurants try to have a version of niu rou mian on their menu since it is such an iconic item, especially for people from Taiwan. It is almost on par with what Ramen means in Japan, but most places cannot do a good version even if their life depended on it. Either they use store bought noodles that turn limpy, or have watered down broth that tastes worse than instant noodle versions, or the meat is so dry or tough that you'd rather eat a beef jerky.
But not at ASJ, they have perfected all three components and brings them together like no other places. I can say it even usurps its former twin of A&J in Cupertino. It is on par with the now closed Fortune Garden in Union City, who used to make the best version of it.
And just one other note, the "official name" of this dish Niu Rou Mian is "Beef Noodle" and not Beef Noodle Soup as it is sometimes called. It is not a soup, but a noodle dish (which happens to have soup).
Full review and pictures:
2006 Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival
re: K K
The menu looks very similar if not the same as before the ownership change. All the usual items are on it such as the various noodle dishes, the dumplings and the breakfast items such as yo tiao and soy milk.
A couple of the other nice items I've tried were the niu rou xian bing (chinese hamburger) and the pot stickers. The xian bing was nice and juicy, and the pot stickers are the open-ended kind and had good filling and wrapper.
The XLB is just so-so, as they're not the specialties here. They also sell frozen dumplings by the bags and I see people getting baozi here also but have not tried.
I had a beef noodle soup at Darda Seafood in Milpitas and homemade noodles that was really good. I'm not sure what the Chinese name is though. It was more like noddles and meat with broth as opposed to soup. Or they could have just given me a lot of noodles. In any case, I really liked it. The beef was very tender and a nice portion was included. The broth was very flavorful and dark but not salty at all. I didn't feel the need to drink water.
Not sure if that's what you are looking for but I'm throwing it out there.
Yes, that is beef noodle also. You're correct, it is not a soup, hence I mentioned that we should all start using its proper name "beef noodle" or "niu rou mian" instead of beef noodle "soup".
Darda's version is actually quite decent, especially their noodles, which is very good. However, their broth is too light as you've noticed. Also their beef is sometimes tender and a lot of times dried out. If you think it is tender, wait until you try the ASJ's version, which is more tender and on par with those found in Taiwan.
Finally made it here today for lunch, though it was quite the drive for me.
It must have been 15 years ago when I was last in this complex. Hard to believe it hasn't changed a whole lot, except for maybe a few new stores/restaurants.
Memories came flooding back when I walked in. The layout is more or less the same, but the Chinese name is no longer "ban mou yuen" but "chir wei tien" (eating for the sky, or for god, in a wrongful word for word translation, but probably is closer to a definition of chowhound?) My college buddy and I used to eat at this location/former A&J when my spice tolerance levels were super low, and I would down 3 to 4 glasses of water and tea to quench the spiciness. I never got into the beef but always dug the beef tendon noodle.
A few months ago this same buddy told me about ASJ and simliar comments to tanspace on how good it was, but I do thank tanspace for jarring my memory and adding more to the discussion to make me try this place. My friend came here very frequently at one point.
The former A&J here might arguably have been the first one in the Bay Area and predates the one in Cupertino Village by at least 5 years. Gotta love the fact that they did nothing else to the English name except to replace the & with an S (lol).
Pretty much the exact same menu as A&J, except they added frozen dumplings to go and also available dine in (boiled dumplings) as well as hot pot which you get to pick between mala, regular (probably plain boiled water), and what seems to be a medicinal/herbal broth. Range of items available hot pot that is priced per dish (not all you can eat). Certain tables are equipped with heating elements with knobs on the side. I didn't see the standard stir fry plates one might get during dinner that is on A&Js menu at ASJ.
I saw who I thought was the female owner (she is dressed a bit different than the other waitstaff) and have somewhat vague memories of her working at the previous A&J as a waitress. My friend knows her and did tell me she bought the business at the SJ A&J and turned it into ASJ (so many Js...I know).
Tried the spicy beef noodle and it took a little over 10 minutes to get to my table after ordering. I'd like to add that despite tanspace's push to use beef noodle instead of beef noodle soup, the A&J and ASJ menus both translate this item as beef noodle soup...
I would whole heartedly agree that the cuts of beef at ASJ were indeed properly nailed down, and pretty consistent slices of the cross cut flank with strips of tendon in between. But the best part is that they stewed the heck out of this, so that it falls apart with minimum tooth pressure, yet retaining the flavor and texture. I'm not huge into the big noodles and despite them looking more decent than the ones at A&J, I did not get them and opted for the smaller noodles.
I suspect the chef at ASJ is the same guy, as the plating (or bowl-ing if you will) of the beef noodle looked identical to A&J in Cupertino. One piece of Chinese green veg (talk about laziness to get in your greens or should I say green), but ample beef, noodle, and soup broth. My last 2 visits to A&J of having the same item just didn't compare to today's ASJ lunch. ASJ definitely nailed down the beef. Soup broth has a little more depth than A&J, and noodles were cooked a little better, to the right degree of texture, although I really wish they went the extra mile and used either yang chuen mien (a kind of Taiwanese noodle which you can get at Marina and I think 99 Ranch) or Shan Dong style fresh noodles, (or noodles made in house that's as good as Everyday Beijing's buckwheat noodles) but that's just a personal preference.
I'd be interested in coming back again sometime to try their fried pork chop and fried chicken over rice or noodles, and see if it is as good or better than A&Js (but then again if it is the same chef as 10+ years ago, I should not be surrpised at the outcome).
Gosh I can't tell you. I've been trained (or numbed) through the years. 15 years ago as I said I would down water and tea (and coke with ice back in the day) and feel sweaty. Today I didn't even break a sweat. I'm sure the spiciness would make my mom cry (she's a bit of a wuss in the spice department, a bit of an embarrasment considering her mom/my grandma can eat texas chilis raw and whole like 10 or 15 of them, down the hottest mala spicy sauce and still think it is too sweet - hope you are not reading this haha, happy mum's day!) I suppose eating all that wasabi and soy sauce mud bath with sushi put me through the rigorous training of handling spice.
If you want it spicy, perhaps you can dunk in their chili sauce. They have a clear broth version but I'm pretty sure tanspace and my college friend would not recommend it due to lack of flavor and depth. I think I would enjoy the broth more if they didn't put chili oil in.
As far as I know there's no mala beef noodle at A&J or ASJ. You might be able to get it at Ninji Mala Hotpot in Newark? Or Joy in Foster City might be able to whip one out for you, given that they do have a mala boiled beef pot dish.
I don't think it's very hot, but then again I enjoy eating Sichuan water boiled beef and Korean yook-ke-jang (spicy beef soup) (which I would rate 4 out of 5). The niuroumian here is probably on the level of 2 out of 5, with 1 being barely spicy, 2 being spicy but not really noticeable, 3 being "ok, I see that this is spicy"., 4 being "hey, this is pretty spicy, give me water", and 5 "wow that is super spicy (Mala spicy), get ready for some pain"
I also think that "nromal" Sichuan-style spicy NRM is NOT overwhelmingly spicy. For the extra fire-y version, you'll have to go to shops that specialize in mala (numbing hot) spicy NRM. I tried once at a Taipei night market and it was a memorable but painful experience the next day. As KK mentioned, I would not really recommend it because you're not really tasting much of the NRM, but just lots of hot chili oil.
There are variations in the yook-ke-jang spiciness as well that I've tried. But they range from medium to pretty spicy, but definitely not mala spicy. In that case, you'll probably find ASJ and A&J's spice level to be about a 2 out of 5.
The noodles at both ASJ and A&J are knife-CUT wide (they also have thin) versions that are basically "flat" in shape. This is not to be confused with the knife-SHAVED noodles (which are more 3 dimensional) found in Joy, Darda, and other Islamic-Chinese restaurants.
I've tried the beef noodle at Spices! and it was pretty bad all-around. The beef was pretty tough and chewy, the broth watery and the noodle limp.
You can see some pictures of the knife-cut noodles for ASJ below. The A&J version is very similar.
The Spices trilogy of restaurants (1 and 2 in SF, 3 in Oakland) I think, would gladly do a mala beef noodle upon request, given that they do Taiwanese style Sichuan dishes. I wonder what mala stinky tofu beef noodle will taste like. No ramen restaurant will touch that with a ten foot pole.
Humbucker you might like the thicker/broader noodle. It would be great to have a 3rd voice on this restaurant. I'm personally not a fan of knife cut noodles (and never liked the version at Joy) although was impressed with one place in Taipei 2 years ago.