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May 31, 2008 12:31 PM

La Mian, ... anywhere around the Bay?

I am a young chef just back from a few months in Shanghai and am deeply craving the steaming, spicy bowls of hand-pulled noodles. I have quickly looked around SF Chinatown but have been sorely disappointed with what was served as la mian. Fried ramen-style noodles just don't cut it. Any thoughts....?

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  1. Not hand-pulled, but a similar type of noodle in the spicy beef soup at ZY Garden (a.k.a. Sam Lok) in Chinatown is pretty satisfying, though actually spicier than Shanghainese tend to go for. Otherwise, you have to get away from Chinatown for the northern style noodles.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Xiao Yang

      Like where? I live in Berkeley and regularly make trips elsewhere in the Bay Area that always allow for some tasty side trips. And what's the address of ZY Garden?

      1. re: romwilson

        Not exactly the style you're looking for, but closer to home, and probably worth trying... there's supposed to be good Taiwanese-style spicy beef noodle soup (sometimes with hand-cut noodles) at Wuling Karaoke (not sure if they're keeping the name - they recently remodeled) in El Cerrito (10561 San Pablo Ave). I haven't tried it yet but plan to soon.

        1. re: daveena

          Can you eat here w/o having to listen to ppl sing?

          1. re: kc72

            According to callalily, who posted the original tip, they're limiting the singing to later in the evening.

          2. re: daveena

            Ok - I made it to Wuling Karaoke last night. The noodles are as good as calalilly promised, but the whole experience was one of the weirdest experiences I've ever had. I think it was even weirder than the deserted pizza parlor/Mongolian restaurant across from the main Oakland public library.

            I'd forgotten calalilly's note that the door is kept locked, and that you have to knock to be let in. As we were parking, we saw a few people go in, so we were puzzled that the door was locked when we tried to enter. The proprieter saw us peering through the window, opened the door, and asked, "noodles"? Yes, noodles please.

            We ordered two bowls (there is no written menu, and the proprietor said that they do not do knife-cut noodles) and settled into one of the few tables without a "reserved" sign. The singing started pretty early - maybe around 7:30 - and all in Chinese. Some of the patrons brought their own laserdiscs. As the room began to fill, we noticed that we were the youngest people there by at least 20 years.

            Now for the noodles - they weren't knife cut, but they were excellent. Roughly the diameter of thin spaghetti, fresh and very chewy, with a texture that held up to the end of the bowl. I was a little concerned that we'd received a non-spicy version when I saw the bowl - it didn't have the slick of red oil that I'm used to seeing - but it was very flavorful, with a subtle but satisfying spiciness. The meat was primarily meltingly tender tendon, and there were small squares of a green I couldn't totally identify (I'm guessing romaine lettuce). The broth was excellent - broths are usually too salty for me to finish, but I drank all of it. This was probably the most refined version of this dish I've ever had.

            We also ordered a plate of the excellent dumplings (wrappers are handmade) and spotted xiao chi (small eats) on other tables.

            The room is... eccentric. There are three flat screen TVs mounted high on the walls, as well as a small, raised platform with a chair for the singer, should he/she choose to sit, Christmas lights outlining the platform, and a dance floor that takes up at least 1/3 of the room. The silver disco ball is the icing on the cake.

            It did feel a bit like we'd crashed a private social club. I'm planning to go back again, but during the week... I'm hoping there will be less singing then, and also less of that feeling of intruding on a private party. Also, I'd like to try their xiao chi.

            10561 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

            1. re: daveena

              Do regular patrons use a secret knock?

              What were the prices like?

              1. re: kc72

                LOL... no clue re: secret knocks. All I could hear was karaoke.

                The soup was $8/bowl, as were the dumplings (I forget how many were on the plate). Tax included. A dollar or two more than I would have expected, except I think that includes the right to karaoke... I think.

          3. re: romwilson

            As others have noted, any Chinese restaurant featuring Taiwanese, Shandong, Sichuan or any other cuisine north of Cantonese is likely to have noodle soups close to what you might find in Shanghai. Even there, the soup styles vary a lot. Did you have a particular favorite noodle shop or chain in Shanghai? I was really hooked on a place called A Niang Mian Guan in Xujiahui (where I happend to be living the last time I was in Shanghai).

            1. re: Xiao Yang


              Z & Y
              655 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

        2. Other places in EB that might work

          Shanghai Restaurant
          930 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

          China Village
          1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

          Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant
          328 10th St, Oakland, CA 94607

          Great Szechuan (closed)
          3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA

          3 Replies
          1. re: kc72

            I had the spicy beef noodles here last weekend. I thought is was very good, with more of a Sichuan flavor than average- besides Sichuan peppercorn I recognized at least 2-3 other pods and barks that I associate with some of the hardcore Sichuan dishes I've had, though I don't know what they are, really. The broth is flavorful and not oily, and there is a good amount of meat. I don't think the noodles stood out.

            I think this is better than the beef noodle soup I have had at China Village, though I have not ordered it there in many many years.

            I don't know that this is what you mean by la mian, though I rather suspect not.

            1. re: twocents

              Could you clarify where "here" was? The post you are replying to lists four restaurants. Thanks!

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Oh, sorry, you're right. I was referring to Great Szechwan. Sorry about that.

          2. The only place that I know of that serves hand pulled can hear the slap of the noodles on the counter when they are making Chef Wang Restaurant.
            1320 El Camino Real
            Millbrae, CA 94030
            The only place that I have had noodles that had the texture of hand-pulled, but not hand-pulled is San Tung.
            1031 Irving St
            (between 11th Ave & 12th Ave)
            San Francisco, CA 94122
            Some people like the hand made noodles at the Noodle Shop on 25th Ave. San Mateo, but I don't think they have the texture that hand pulled noodles have.

              1. Is it more the noodles you're missing or the spicy broth? It's hard to find both in a great combination in SF, but give these a try. They are Taiwanese, but as mentioned it's tough to find Shanghainese fare in SF.

                Tea Garden, Mission and 2nd. Taiwanese style beef noodle soup, but not at all spicy.
                Spices I, Clement and 8th. Also Taiwanese style, but quite spicy but not as good noodles.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Pei

                  I wouldn't say it's tough to find Shanghainese fare in SF, though it's tough to find the kind of noodle shops popular in Shanghai, because the market for something so specialized here is limited (compared to the market for Cantonese/HK style noodle soups). And la mian per se is not particularly Shanghainese, but the preference for eggless alkali noodles of medium thickness is.