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“Bamboo” Noodles (jook sing mein) and Hand-pulled Noodles (lai mein) @ King Won Ton (SF)

Melanie Wong Aug 8, 2008 11:54 PM

Last week I spotted this new restaurant at the address that used to be New Cheung Hing while shopping on Irving Street. The red-colored “grand opening” banner flying outside is what first caught my eye. Far more interesting was the photograph in the window of a white-capped cook astride a bamboo pole making jook sing noodles in the old-fashioned artisanal way. I’d watched Anthony Bourdain’s piece on Hong Kong and this dying art, and had thought I would have to journey there to have the opportunity to try this style of handcrafted noodles.

I went inside to ask if the noodles were indeed made by the bamboo pole method. The lady at the cash register nodded affirmatively though I can’t be sure she understood my question. Hopefully someone with more fluency than I can confirm this. The kitchen is open to view behind a glass screen. No one was making noodles at that time, only divvying the raw strands into single serving portions and then boiling them at the forward cooking station. The restaurant was about one-third full at 11:30ish that Monday. I’d already had lunch and decided to wait until Friday to try it when I could bring my mother.

When Friday rolled around, the two of us headed to Irving Street and discovered a line outside the restaurant a little after noon. I dropped off Mom, and by the time I could park and walk back, there were more than 20 people waiting outside to get in. I asked my mother if it was too hard to wait in the cold and fog, but she said she was fine. In truth, I think she was kind of excited to be part of this street scene. We asked the people ahead and behind us if they’d eaten here before, and none had.

This stretch of sidewalk turned out to be a crossroads of Chinese ex-pats; those in line were spotted by acquaintances happening to walk or drive by and had a chance to chat with relatives or friends. Our numbers swelled as some chose to wait with us for a seat for lunch. At one point a member of the restaurant staff came out to announce that once inside, there would be a long wait for won ton orders, as they’re filled and cooked to order and not prepared and stockpiled in advance. He suggested ordering chow mein for quicker service. Some of our co-queuers left at this news. The rest of us continued to bide our time and amused ourselves by doing exit polls. Reactions from the departing clientele were definitely split: some were satisfied, and the others complained about the long waits for food and that the prices were too high.

After waiting more than 20 minutes outside, finally we were seated at a six-top, shared with two couples from Hong Kong. Naturally I needed to know whether any of them had been here before. And, yes, one woman had and returned with her cousin to try it. She cautioned me that the service was bad and that when the kitchen can’t keep up with the volume, the wait staff stop taking orders to manage the demand. Since the restaurant has an automated order-entry system, this is a strange protocol that results in lots of handwaving by antsy customers trying to catch the attention of servers who are intentionally ignoring them. Her party had been waiting nearly a half-hour to place their order. And, when they were able to order finally, she commented to me that now they’d have to wait too long for the food to come. However, she said that the won tons were very good and worth it.

The grease-stained pink paper menus hadn’t been collected from their table. I asked if we could have them so that it would appear to the wait staff zooming by that we wanted to order. That did the trick and soon our order was in the kitchen too. My chopsticks had a piece of lettuce stuck to them and my spoon was greasy. I wiped them off with my napkin soaked in hot tea, the way my grandfathers had taught me as a wee one, a procedure I’d not practiced at a Chinese restaurant for many years.

Our tablemates’ food – various toppings on won ton noodle soup – appeared in less than 15 minutes, surprising them. My mother’s #14 won tons arrived shortly thereafter, which surprised all of us. We would wait another 12 minutes for my order to come. Well, at least that let us focus our full attention on the single bowl in front of us.

#14 Shrimp won ton noodle in soup, $5.25 -
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3255/2730585871_9eba49c5c8.jpg?v=0

For the photo above, I pulled up one of the five won tons from under the mass of noodles. In the classic style, the bowl was topped with only a bit of fragrant yellow leeks. Silky textured with fluttery tails, the dumplings were filled with coarsely chopped pork and two or three whole shrimp and lived up to their “swallowing clouds” name. The very fine and wirey noodles were cooked perfectly to a bouncy texture. If they’re not “bamboo noodles”, then something else is going on that makes them simultaneously more delicate but also firmer and crisper in bite than any Hong Kong-style noodles I’ve had in the Bay Area. The broth was just average, lacking the orange-y tint of shrimp shells with not enough taste of the sea and relying too much on chicken bouillon powder. The initial tastes of the broth were good enough, but as we got to the bottom of the bowl, the alkali soapiness grew stronger as it leeched from the noodles rendering it inedible. I noticed that the Hong Kongers made liberal use of the red vinegar on the table and maybe that would have helped adjust the acid-alkali balance.

#62 Soft pork bone lai mein, $7.99
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2283/2730585877_7136b4cbf8.jpg?v=0

I had ordered the lai mein not really knowing what it might be other than hand-pulled noodles. With Japanese toppings of psychedelic fishcake, bamboo shoots, red ginger shreds, half a soy egg, scallions, and wakame, this was a caricature of ramen, which is itself a Japanese take on Chinese noodles. Our tablemate asked me to pull up some of the noodles into view and she nodded her approval saying she would order this next time. Thickish, dense and very chewy, the noodles were outstanding. My mother didn't like the heaviness of this prep, but she liked the elastic noodles themselves. The roasted and then braised pork, made with the rib tips had the smooth succulence and buttery tenderness I love about this cut of meat. Some of the cartilage was too hard and thick to eat though. The milky toned pork bone stock was greasy, meaty and heavy, music to tonkotsu ramen lovers ears, and beats out any i've had in the City.

I'd have to put myself in the camp that says this place is worth the wait and cost. The noodle-making is superlative, and with time, hopefully the rest of the accompaniments can make the same grade.

Discussion of Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations – Hong Kong” -
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/437824

Bourdain Bamboo Noodle-maker segment video -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMk_5toRXv0

More about jook sing mein (竹昇麵) -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jook-sing_noodles
http://www.yp.com.mo/wongchikei/

-----
King Won Ton
1936 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

  1. ChowFun_derek Aug 9, 2008 09:31 AM

    Melanie,
    Fantastic report...and your photos were wonderful...it is a definite on my list...I'll try to go at off hours to see if that helps

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChowFun_derek
      Melanie Wong Aug 9, 2008 05:12 PM

      The tables and floors were a mess during lunch house. Hope it will be cleaner when you visit. Please do ask when the noodles are made, would love to see the process, or at least get confirmation that these are bamboo noodles.

    2. K K Aug 9, 2008 01:15 PM

      Great report. Bamboo noodle is a dying artform, lucky SFers!

      I recall seeing ads for this place in the Chinese newspaper. Is this place called Won Tun Meen Dai Wong in Chinese? (Won Ton Noodle King?)

      A good classical HK Cantonese won ton noodle broth requires not just dried shrimp but pork bones and dai day yue (a type of fish). The best won ton noodle broth I had to date was at Chef Wai when Andy was still working there (where he took it a step further and made a surpreme broth with it that had hints of chicken and chicken bones).

      3 Replies
      1. re: K K
        manda Aug 9, 2008 03:10 PM

        Yes, the place is called that in Chinese.

        1. re: manda
          Melanie Wong Aug 9, 2008 05:10 PM

          Thanks, manda, have you tried it?

          Here's my photo of the ad posted in the window showing the English name as Won Ton King Noodle.
          http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3142/2...

          The sign on the restaurant says King Won Ton & Noodle. The menus say Won Ton King.

        2. re: K K
          Melanie Wong Aug 9, 2008 05:19 PM

          Here's an older post about the classic won ton noodle broth,
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4072...

          I looked at other info about this place on the web, and none seem to mention the bamboo noodle angle. Also many complaints about the lack of more stuff on the won ton soup. Sheesh.

        3. limster Aug 11, 2008 11:45 AM

          Thanks for the preview, I managed to squeeze it in last week.

          The wheat noodles in the shrimp wonton noodles were indeed thinner than most, and I really liked the way they snapped on the teeth. I wouldn't mind them a little less cooked and more resilient but they were very enjoyable. Shrimp wontons were pleasant and fresh, with seemingly less of the usual baking soda (?) marinate that gives them a tenderized ripping texture. Soup was similarly unspectacular on my visit.

          The soft pork bone lai mein OTOH was rather disappointing, noodles verging on mushiness, and a bit thicker than I was expecting (more udon-sized iirc). The braised pork was excellent, rich and sticky from the cartilage and carrying a tiny clovey hint of what I thought was star anise. We ended up with a bit of optimization at the table, combining the noodles from the wonton noodles with the broth and meat from the lai mein in the empty bowls that we had used to share.

          Incidentally, the signs on the walls indicate abalone noodles, which would have been the next thing I would try, but alas, there were other things to sample on this brief trip.

          8 Replies
          1. re: limster
            Melanie Wong Aug 11, 2008 11:58 AM

            Thanks for giving it a try. What time were you there and did you have to wait for a table? Any luck on confirming that these are indeed bamboo noodles?

            I like your idea of mixing and matching.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              limster Aug 11, 2008 12:09 PM

              We there at ~ 5pm on Tues, and were seated right away, lots of empty tables, no big waits or or anything for the food. Didn't see any noodle making, and had a few other stops to make, so didn't do much in-depth research otherwise. I can't remember if they had some sort of stewed meat (e.g. beef or pork) noodle on the menu, but it might be worth checking if someone had a takeout menu handy.

              1. re: limster
                Melanie Wong Aug 19, 2008 08:33 PM

                The menu has 80+ items on it, and beef brisket stew is one of the options I recall.

                I was really excited to stumble on this place and I hope other chowhounds will try it and report back. It's far from perfect, but the noodlemaking great and not found anywhere else around here.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  limster Aug 20, 2008 02:12 AM

                  Good to hear about the brisket option. I'd certainly be checking out a bunch of other items on their menu if I lived in SF. Also a couple of items on the walls like the abalone noodles piqued my curiosity. Hope to hear about them from other chowhounds!

              2. re: Melanie Wong
                c
                commando Aug 21, 2008 12:13 PM

                It's probably not bamboo noodle. You could tell by the alkaline smell. The purpose of adding alkaline is to make the noodles tender but not too firm without the bamboo work. So there is really no reason to do both. And plus their noodles are available in major chinese markets like ranch 99 and sun si kai, and provide to restruants as well. There is no way you can make a mass production on the bamboo noodle. It's one of the reason damboo noodle is dying.

                1. re: commando
                  Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2008 12:49 PM

                  Yes, that makes sense. However, the descriptions I've read of bamboo noodle making include addition of alkaline water. Also, the restaurant could be making a small portion of its noodles and buying others.

                  No one has seen any noodlemaking going on yet. I had plotted with ChowFun to show up early in the morning before the restaurant opens to press our noses up against the windows to try to catch something going on in the kitchen.

              3. re: limster
                m
                mchan Aug 20, 2008 09:20 AM

                I think the marinade is cornstarch...

                By the way, great post everyone, and thanks for kicking it off Melanie!

                1. re: mchan
                  limster Aug 20, 2008 11:04 AM

                  I'm pretty sure tenderizing marinade isn't cornstarch or even arrowroot or tapioca powders. One of those powders that Mom had in kitchen.....Yimster would know.

              4. Xiao Yang Aug 20, 2008 08:20 AM

                Great find. The last I heard, that space was taken over by PPQ at the end of last year and was going to be another branch of PPQ, but apparently there was a shift in the wind in April. Any idea who's behind King Won Ton? It'll be interesting to find out how they came up with a pole jockey.

                1. possumspice Aug 20, 2008 10:48 AM

                  I tried this place about two months ago as part of my never-ending quest to find lah-mian similar to the incredible noodle shops of Eldridge Street in NYC.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/322988

                  I tried the soft pork bone lai mein based on a positive Yelp review. It was the best ramen-style noodle I've found in the Bay Area, nice and chewy, with a rich, meaty pork broth. Loved your descriptions of the two noodle dishes Melanie! Pure food poetry.

                  Still seeking out Lanzhou-style hand-pulled noodles though.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: possumspice
                    Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2008 12:56 PM

                    Thanks, I'm thinking I should evaluate the lai mein for the ramen rankings. (g)

                    Could you describe what you're looking for in Lanzhou noodles?

                    1. re: possumspice
                      possumspice Aug 21, 2008 05:14 PM

                      Yes, the pork bone lah mien seemed much closer to ramen I've had in Japanese restaurants than any Chinese soup noodle I've sampled. Though I understand that ramen is originally Chinese.

                      The Lanzhou noodles are thin like a ramen noodle, but I feel like the dough must be different, somehow the noodle tastes smoother? It's served in a beef broth, though not as rich and hearty as niu ro mien. This description comes with the caveat that I've never tasted the real thing...only what is being served in NYC's Chinatown.

                      Pic (not mine): http://flickr.com/photos/bionicgrrl/3...

                      Though looking on Flickr at pics of NRM, it does seem pretty similar to what I'm looking for. Basically, what I have eaten as Lanzhou-style lah mian in NYC seems very close to the beef noodles I've had in Taiwan, which are somehow totally different from the beef noodles I get in Taiwanese restaurants in the Bay Area. Those always seem to be fairly thick, with a very greasy (not clear) broth.

                      In the end though, if it's hand-pulled, I'll eat it.

                      1. re: possumspice
                        Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2008 05:17 PM

                        "In the end though, if it's hand-pulled, I'll eat it."

                        That's a philosophy I can get behind! Thanks.

                        1. re: possumspice
                          tanspace Aug 21, 2008 10:35 PM

                          Based on th picture looks more like Shandong hand-pulled noodles. You may be better off trying them at a Shandong-style restaurant. But their NRM, although served, may not be the same as the Taiwanese style.

                          Also QQ Noodle does a hand-pulled noodle, even more "smooth" than Shandong style due to the use of higher percentage of tapioca/potato starch.

                          1. re: tanspace
                            possumspice Aug 28, 2008 07:45 PM

                            i tried qq noodles in fremont and was pretty disappointed. the noodles were not very "q" :(

                            what is so great about the nyc noodles i've had is that they are so thin but still have some bite to them.

                            i went back to try the won ton "bamboo" noodles, which did have a satisfying, chewy texture. plus i loved the shrimp-stuffed wontons and clear, clean broth. so maybe i will have to content myself with those for now.

                            1. re: possumspice
                              tanspace Aug 29, 2008 10:23 AM

                              Ok, if you feel QQ noodle's are not Q enough, then you should not be looking for hand-pulled noodles. Real "shou la mian" are not supposed to be the "hardest", it is supposed to be Q - bouncy with bite but not hard. The bamboo noodles, which you think has the right texture, will never be made using hand-pulled method, but always some sort of hand-pressed method. And that's why you'll mainly find it in the really thin type of egg noodle or cantonese style "tang zhuang" mian.

                      2. s
                        SteveG Aug 20, 2008 01:00 PM

                        Anyone seen these at Imperial Tea Court? The Slow Food Nation report on 7x7 says this, "Did I mention the hand-pulled noodles that the Imperial Tea Court will be making? The owner [of the Imperial Tea Court] learned the recipe from her father. Their family was relocated to Xi’an during the cultural revolution, and one of the recipes he learned in the new city was the recipe for hand-pulled noodles with greens and chili sauce."
                        http://www.7x7sf.com/eat_drink/blog

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: SteveG
                          Xiao Yang Aug 20, 2008 06:21 PM

                          Last I knew, the owner of the Imperial Tea Court was Roy Fong, a native of Hong Kong

                          1. re: SteveG
                            m
                            Martin Strell Aug 28, 2008 06:03 AM

                            There is a thread on the hand pull noodles at the Imperial Tea Court in Berkeley, including my photos of them making the noodles.
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/384655

                            1. re: Martin Strell
                              s
                              SteveG Aug 28, 2008 12:17 PM

                              Thanks for the confirmation--don't know how I missed that thread from last year with you, Morton, and Xiao/Gary.

                              From the first "Recent Press" article at Imperial Tea's web site:
                              http://www.imperialtea.com/about/Rece...

                              "Made on the premises from organic flour and organic tea-seed oil, the hand-pulled noodles are thick and earthily chewy, reminiscent of chow fun but rougher-hewn and wheat-based rather than rice-based, revealing their northwestern Chinese roots."

                              1. re: SteveG
                                Xiao Yang Aug 28, 2008 12:33 PM

                                That sounds more like hand-torn noodles (maybe biang biang noodles, which are indeed from Xi'an), but far different from hand-pulled, which are slender and anything but rough-hewn.

                                Here's a couple of pics I took at a food stall in Flushing, N.Y. to show what I'm talking about. Do these look like the noodles from Imperial Tea in Beserkeley? If that's what they're serving. I'm there!

                                http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3035/2448171507_20d4fa8791.jpg?v=0
                                http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3115/2...

                                1. re: Xiao Yang
                                  s
                                  SteveG Aug 28, 2008 01:03 PM

                                  If you follow the link in my post above, there's a tiny picture of them that looks similar.

                                  On flickr, ochazuke has a nice set of photos of the noodle-making process at Imperial Tea Court in their photo set called, "an introduction to Chinese tea" on the second page:
                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/48722926@N00/sets/72157594478111947/
                                  A specific photo of the dish of noodles is here, but the veggies on top mostly obscure the noodles:
                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/48722926...

                                  1. re: SteveG
                                    Xiao Yang Aug 28, 2008 07:11 PM

                                    I found the pics in Martin Strell's report, and I think we are talking about two different things. The noodles made by the young woman definitely look like "biang biang" noodles, "as wide and as long as a belt," as they say in Xaanxi. Discusssions of "hand-pulled noodles", on the other hand, usually have "la mian" in mind, which are slender, much more difficult to make, and involve a process which lends itself well to showmanship. The guy in this youtube video gives a good ideas what's involved, without hot-dogging it too much:

                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg2_IU...

                                    1. re: Xiao Yang
                                      tanspace Aug 29, 2008 10:20 AM

                                      Right, what Imperial Tea Court is serving is not really "la mian" in the sense that Chinese use it. It is generically a type of hand-pulled noodle, but has specific term for it that Xiao Yang mentioned. In China, the original hand-pulled noodle, or "shou la mian" is reserved for the type shown in the video.

                          2. Xiao Yang Aug 20, 2008 07:54 PM

                            There were only three tables occupied when I went there at 2:30 today (but they still managed to screw up my order). I ordered the beef stew wonton noodles despite myself; I really dislike the mouthfeel of skinny HK-style noodles (it's like chewing on someone's hair) but wanted to give the Wonton King's version as fair an asessment as possible.

                            The waitress repeated my order after me ("beef stew wonton noodles SOUP?" she said, and I answered in the affirmative). But when my order came, it was wontons, dumplings and noodles. When I pointed out the mistake, rather than redoing the order they brought me beef stew on the side (Shanghai style, in a small bowl).

                            The noodles tasted fresh enough and were al dente (to the extent that such a quality can be detected in so fine a noodle). The wontons were as Melanie described them; the "dumplings" (shui jiao on the Chinese menu) were filled like Cantonese "sway gow" but were plump and round rather than flat like the version at ABC. The broth was mild, almost neutral and I'd say if they used MSG they used it sparingly. I didn't detect any alkaline unpleasantness, but I might not have the same sensitivity to it as Melanie. Adding the beef stew added a faint hint of 5-spice (or just star anise) but I wondered if I would have gotten a stouter broth if my bowl had come as ordered. The beef itself appeared to be plate (sometimes mistakenly called "tendon"), with most of the membrane removed. It was tender without seeming to be tenderized.

                            I talked to the young man who seemed to be the floor manager, and asked him if they really made zhu sheng noodles on the premises. He said "yes" and pointed to "the boss," the only one in the kitchen with a white hat. I asked him when they were made, and he told me "nine or ten in the morning." He also volunteered that the curry beef noodles were probably better than the beef stew noodles, because so many people ordered them (he hadn't tried them himself).

                             
                             
                             
                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Xiao Yang
                              Melanie Wong Aug 21, 2008 12:55 PM

                              To one friend I described the texture of the wiry HK noodles as "like chewing on a brillo pad".

                              Thanks for giving it a shot. The service problems still abound it seems. Weird that they can't get the orders straight, maybe it was keyed in wrong to the order entry system.

                              I hope that someone will be able to provide an eye witness account of the noodle making. Hard to believe until then.

                            2. Cindy Aug 21, 2008 02:22 PM

                              Went and picked up an order of the #62 (Soft pork bone lai mein) a little before 11am today. The restaurant was almost empty - just one table occupied. The waitress took my order - pleasant enough, and even offered me a glass of hot tea while I waited. In the 10 minutes it took for my order, 3 more tables of customers filled up, so I could see where coming around noon might require a wait.

                              I didn't get a chance to eat the noodles until about 3 hours later - and even after sitting in the fridge and getting warmed in the microwave, the noodles were excellent! Not mushy at all (which I would have expected given the waiting and re-heating); still chewy and elastic-y.

                              Broth was good, drank all of it. About 4 pieces of pork, all very tender.

                              Definitely a place I want to return! Thanks!

                              1. k
                                kcchan Aug 21, 2008 02:48 PM

                                Does anyone know what their hours are?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: kcchan
                                  Cindy Aug 21, 2008 08:53 PM

                                  I know they open at 9:30am. Didn't catch the closing hour. Their phone is 415-682-9813.

                                  1. re: Cindy
                                    k
                                    kcchan Aug 21, 2008 11:52 PM

                                    Thanks - I actually walked past today (though didn't go in to try their noodles), and their hours are actually 10:30am-9:30pm. Looks like they recently changed the opening time, as there was a paper sign covering the area on the door where the original opening time of 9:30am was painted.

                                    1. re: kcchan
                                      Cindy Aug 22, 2008 07:52 AM

                                      Sorry about the misinformation; thanks for correction!

                                2. K K Aug 25, 2008 05:25 PM

                                  We dropped in here for lunch eariler today after leaving Safari West, as it was partly on the way home.

                                  What a big disappointment. Bad enough they made the "King of Won Ton Noodles" part of their name, but it tasted mostly like your run of the mill SF Bay Area won ton noodles.

                                  On top of cash only, there was another handwritten sign by the cashier (in Chinese) that translated to, to-go boxes are 25 cents extra per.

                                  One of the wall specials is "chum long yue with fish broth and mai seen rice noodles". Horrible rendition, where the fish tasted a hint muddy like. Nice that there were three big pieces of gai lan and for some strange reason red and green jalapeno slices. The noodles were ok, but the broth looked creamy but tasted very watered down. Sorry but Fat Wong's in San Bruno and Cafe Salina does a MUCH better version of yu tong mai seen (creamy fish broth with smooth rice round noodles). Actually the better half was craving the Yunanese style Crossing Bridge noodles from Z&Y but that was on the other side of the city.

                                  I ordered a shui gow noodle, just trying to go across the grain from others.
                                  The shui gows were huge, and they gave at least 5. But none of them tastes anywhere near as good as Ming Tai's as I last remembered it. The pieces of shrimp they put in were very small. The whole thing while wrapped quite nicely, just didn't taste all that together. The broth was indeed weak, like concentraed chicken boullion with chopped young chives, but no depth (unlike former Chef Wai's lunchtime version with superior broth). The noodles were good, but lacked egg flavor and finesse.

                                  I saw that giant picture hung over the kitchen on the outside of a guy riding the bamboo pole, but you can tell it is not being done inside their own kitchen, probably somewhere else. Unfortunately I was in a hurry and didn't try to chit chat with the cashier to find out where the noodles are being made. The menu in Chinese says the noodles are all "sau da" (hand made), and only the plain noodles ($3.25 a bowl) have any indication in Chinese that they are jook sing noodles.

                                  Either way, a big disappointment. Service was spotty but not rude, and even past 1:30 pm the restaurant was quite busy.

                                  I think these guys need more time, or they need to steal chefs from Ming Tai and elsewhere. The noodles are very disappointing considering they claim to be bamboo pole made. Maybe not enough egg in the mix or mediocre quality flour. Texture was decent, and strangely very light pale yellow color as opposed to the dark duck yolk like hue. In fact I doubt they used any duck eggs which would have given it the needed tone.

                                  Oh well, wait a year and maybe I'll come back.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: K K
                                    Melanie Wong Aug 27, 2008 05:17 PM

                                    Thanks for the report. The won ton noodle texture seems to be all over the board. Inconsistent to say the least.

                                    Maybe lai mein is the safer bet here.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                      K K Aug 27, 2008 08:08 PM

                                      The next table's beef brisket lo mein (using the same noodles) looked a LOT better than what we ordered. Ditto for the nam yu sauce pig front feet lo mein.

                                      For those interested, here are the wall specials (Chinese only)

                                      Tsum Long fish in creamy looking fish broth and mai seen (round rice smooth noodles) - $6.25
                                      Abalone sauce goose feet thick lo mein - $6.99 (ok there's also a $12.99 version, what is up with that)
                                      abalone sauce goose feet - $1.50 each (another version or plate that is $11.99)
                                      Fu Yue (fermented tofu skin) and julienne pepper stir fried ong choy - $6.99
                                      roast goose with lai fun in broth - $6.50 (goose from Canada?!)
                                      garlic stir fried A-choy - $6.99
                                      blanched goose leg slices - $8.99

                                  2. b
                                    bigwheel042 Nov 15, 2008 10:35 PM

                                    Dropped by tonight and ordered the next-to-last item on the dan dan mien section, "preserved vegetable and shredded pork with noodles." Not sure if I played to their strengths here...it was OK but nothing amazing. I expected a much more tangy taste out of the preserved vegetable akin to what's in Old Mandarin's lamb/preserved vegetable warm pot- this was very mild, although the bowl had a funky smell to it. Couldn't tell whether this was from the vegetable or from the broth.

                                    I observed a guy at another table who looked like he had eaten many such bowls of noodles in alkali broth before and had the technique down cold. He filled his entire spoon with red vinegar, then dipped the noodles and meat into the spoon with his chopsticks before taking a bite. The spoon's only role in this drill was to serve as a container for the vinegar.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: bigwheel042
                                      Melanie Wong Nov 18, 2008 10:35 PM

                                      Thanks for the report. I've been meaning to get back there to try a few more things, and I can scratch that prep off my list.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        j
                                        jhleung Nov 26, 2008 09:29 AM

                                        Hi,

                                        I've finally dragged myself over here (1 year hiatus from chowhound due to birth of baby....)

                                        Anyways, I went here on a Tues afternoon at 4:30pm. There were 4 other people in the restaurant so I cannot tell if the kitchen has time mgmt issues during rush our or not -

                                        I ordered only the wonton noodle. Now, granted, I am a fiend for this kind of noodle. It is my favorite food. My reference is Mak's Noodle on Wellington Street in Central HK. I am constantly in despair because all the wonton noodle I eat outside of Central, HK, disappoints me. Particularly those I eat in the SF bay area, my home.

                                        I have purchased every single brand of noodle in all the major Chinese groceries, New May Wah, Sunset super, Ranch 99, in order to cook wonton noodle myself, as I'm often disappointed by restaurant's consistency. I've secretly video taped many wonton noodle maker so that I can perfect my noodle cooking timing at home.

                                        Lately, I've even given up on wonton noodle here in the Bay area because I simply cannot find an acceptable rendition. I've branched out mostly to eating pho or eating various noodles at VH noodle in the Ranch99 Mall in Richmond, or eating free-range chicken egg noodle at Hai Ki Mi Ga on Ellis.

                                        You see, I have less experience with pho, and less experience with, say, beef organ pure rice noodle @ VH. Its not like I've eaten thousands of bowls of these across the world in the past 35 years ..... so while I am respectful of quality, I am not ridiculously picky.

                                        I am ridiculously picky for wonton noodle. I measure the noodle among three axes:

                                        1) soup. Very yellow, quite chickeny and nice. Not as nice as the chicken broth at Hai Ki Mi Ga, but then again, this soup is supposed to have hints of Jo Hau dried fish, and it does not. However, taken in context, it is already quite superior to most of the broths in the bay area. Its a little more finely balanced with less MSG than, say, Daimo at Ranch 99. I give it a 7/10. Maybe Joy Luck Place (the quick one) in Cupertino Village beats it ever so slightly on the soup angle.

                                        2) Wonton. These are big. They are bigger than Mak's wontons. Big is bad. Small is good. However, they are not ridiculously big like Daimo's big wontons. Mostly fresh shrimp and some pork. The skin is very free flowing - like swallowing clouds. Similar to Ming Tai's wontons but not quite as big. These are good wontons for the States. 7/10.

                                        3) Noodle - I place heavy emphasis on the noodle because this is mostly where everyone gets it wrong. I know - I have tried this many times - you can undercook any store-bought fresh noodle brand to varying degrees of underdone-ness, but you will end up simply with hard noodle and will not achieve that prized bouncy, wiry, tender texture. Note that this texture is very elusive - and its probably something you can only appreciate after if you're really after this specific quality. I read the comments about being off-put by wonton noodle texture as its like eating hair - I can understand that comment. The essence of the noodle is the texture. Its impossible to explain - just undercooking a run-of-the-mill wonton noodle doesn't achieve the right texture. It must be simultaneously SUPER thin, chewy, bouncy, elastic, and firm. Some of these qualities work against each other. The noodle must be very fine. For instance, VH noodle uses some brand that probably 1mm too thick. You can feel it on your tongue - the noodle feels too coarse. So, even though VH noodle is has the right firmness, it is not fine enough and lacks bounciness and elasticity. Anyways, I enjoy their noodle very much. I'm going back today to eat the noodle again. I give their noodle an 8/10. The texture was more similar to Mak's than I've had in a long time. I

                                        This is may favorite wonton noodle place now. Hopefully its not all downhill from here. Wonton noodle is an interesting thing - either you get it or you think "they are all thin noodles with no substance". I fall into the former category - so if you're not overly fond of wonton noodle to begin with and you come here, don't expect to suddenly find wonton noodle nirvana. However, if you're obsessed with wonton noodle, then I think you will like it very much.

                                        I gave up on Irving Street after Jook'n'Fun departed about 2 years ago. Now I have a reason to come back.

                                        1. re: jhleung
                                          Melanie Wong Nov 26, 2008 09:43 AM

                                          Jason! How good to have you back, congrats on fatherhood!

                                          Please do report back on today's noodling at King Won Ton. Glad to hear that you agree that the quality of the noodles here is unique. If they're not bamboo noodles, then they're certainly better than anyone else's. Do you think these really are bamboo noodles?

                                          -----
                                          Hai Ky Mi Gia
                                          707 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                            Zinc Saucier Nov 27, 2008 09:30 AM

                                            Thanks for the tip Melanie! I'll try this place out when I head out to SF. How would you compare this place to Fat Wong's Kitchen in San Bruno? Of course like you said earlier, if it's hand pulled noodles, I'm there.

                                            1. re: Zinc Saucier
                                              yimster Nov 27, 2008 11:09 AM

                                              I normally eat other things at Fat Wong's not noodles, but the at King Won Ton is as good if not better on some dishes and not as good on other. But on the whole it really is worth a try if like Fat Wong's.

                                              The food turns over quick at King Won Ton since the foot traffic is much higher.

                                            2. re: Melanie Wong
                                              j
                                              jhleung Nov 28, 2008 11:06 AM

                                              Hmmmm.. I think I'm going to echo other reports here and say King Wonton is somewhat inconsistent. I hand Pig Trotters Wonton Noodle two days ago (Wed) and the noodles were mushy! Completely and utterly wrong! Even the noodles themselves seemed even finer and thinner than before???

                                              However, I just went back an hour ago (Fri) and had the straight-up wonton noodle again - and everything was right with the world again. The noodle was very good as was the broth and wonton. I dunno.........

                                              1. re: jhleung
                                                Melanie Wong Nov 30, 2008 01:26 PM

                                                I'm hoping we can figure out some rhyme or reason to this inconsistency, e.g., day of the week, time of day, etc.

                                      2. yimster Dec 16, 2008 07:21 AM

                                        This was my third visit to King Won Ton and I am now ready to comment.

                                        First visit had good and bad points. Won ton and noodles were just fine while the Roast Goose left a lot to be desired. Fat and skin was soft. I did not post since it had first opened and may have had problems so I let it pass.

                                        Second time the side dishes were great, intestines and beef stew but noodles were not good did not have the bounce and was flat. The place was full and over whemed maybe.

                                        Last Saturday night we showed up and the place was very empty my hopes were high.

                                        Noodles with Won Ton and Sui Gow were prefect. Full of shrimps in won ton as good as any I have had in a while. The Sui Gow had the right mix of pork, shrimp and wood ear. The skin were just thin enough to hold the fillings and had the texture of house made. The noodles had the right bounce.

                                        Ordered three side dishes

                                        Pig trotters with Nam Yee

                                        Roast Goose

                                        Intestines

                                        Baby Bok Choy

                                        All was just prefect on cold San Francisco.

                                        Had a chance to speak to the chef and he was very nice and give me a lot of insight on his background. Work fourteen years in a kitchen in Hong Kong learning how to make Bamboo noodles.

                                        My take on King Won Ton is that you have to go when it is not too full. I was able to watch the chef cook the noodles. When they are cooked one order at time by owner chef they were prefect but there are two noodle stations and maybe the second chef is not as careful or skillful as the Master.

                                        I will be back during this cold season. I think there is nothing better than a hot bowl of won ton noodles on a cold winter night. My son was really pleased at this meal and understood that I ordered noodles, since I normally like won ton and/or sui gow only. Did not want to waste room for noodles unless it this good.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: yimster
                                          Melanie Wong Dec 16, 2008 09:05 PM

                                          On Friday I had lunch here again with my mother. I came to much the same conclusions, so thanks for typing out all that!

                                          This time we were seated where I could watch the two noodle stations in front. The chef/owner, presumably the guy who is in the large photograph overhead bouncing on noodles, was at his station and attentively taking care of noodle boiling. At the time I was there, it looked like the second guy was boiling the wontons and ladling the soup into the bowl, then the master would top them with the skinny noodles. Our bowl of wonton noodles was even better than my first visit. The wontons were tastier, and the noodles even more special with great bounce.

                                          I found out that the noodles are made by him offsite early in the morning before the restaurant opens. I told him that I wanted to make an appointment to watch that process. He just laughed, but I'm not kiddling. I'll keep asking.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                            Chandavkl Dec 20, 2008 10:19 PM

                                            Hi Melanie. Come down to San Gabriel where the chef bounces on the pole during business hours.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/580619

                                            1. re: Chandavkl
                                              Melanie Wong Dec 21, 2008 11:54 AM

                                              Thanks. The proximity to Hollywood obviously influences the level of showmanship.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                Chandavkl Dec 29, 2008 07:38 AM

                                                Somebody on the L.A. board just posted a picture of the noodle maker at Bamboodles hopping to it, though it's not exactly an action shot.

                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583463

                                        2. Cicely Dec 17, 2008 06:48 PM

                                          I just tried this place a week or so ago and had shrimp wonton noodle soup. The shrimp wontons were huge, fresh and very tasty. The noodles were certainly springy, but I expect a noodle soup to have a decent broth for the noodles to soak up. Granted, the thin noodles probably wouldn't have done much soaking, but even though the texture was good, it's not much fun to eat noodles that taste like nothing.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Cicely
                                            Melanie Wong Dec 17, 2008 07:08 PM

                                            Then I suspect that these wirey Hong Kong soup noodles are not a genre for you. This style of noodles has its own delicate and distinct flavor to be slurped up with a light soup. They have their own qualities of texture and taste and are not a blank, bland canvas for soaking up other flavors. I'm glad you posted so that others will understand what they're getting (or not getting) and perhaps rethink whether they want to try them by re-reading jhleung's post of Nov 26. This type of noodle is not for everyone.

                                          2. c
                                            Cary Dec 17, 2008 10:22 PM

                                            Oh man. I have to bring my mom (born/raised in HK) here. She's a tough person to please with wonton noodle soup. She never pays that much attention to the wonton broth though, as long as it's piping hot.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Cary
                                              Melanie Wong Dec 17, 2008 10:42 PM

                                              I hope you can catch it at one of the good times. Take a look at the photo above the glassed in noodle stations of the chef bouncing on the bamboo pole to knead the noodle dough. That's the older guy you want to see working in the front cooking the noodles. He wears a white cap. If he's there, all should be well.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                j
                                                jhleung Dec 19, 2008 11:05 PM

                                                Hmmmm... I just went to this restaurant again, Fri, Dec 19th. The restaurant was between 1/3 to 1/2 full.

                                                + Wonton Noodle - very good and very delightful. Bouncy, wiry, fine noodles. And, like Melanie mentions, these are not the kind of noodles with which to soak up broth. The essence of these noodles is the texture, not the taste. Its kind of like shark fin or bird's next in the sense that you eat it for the texture. The taste comes from an external element - the soup. This is why the noodles themselves are thin and wiry - the thinness promotes maximum surface area with which the soup can cling to, thus transferring the broth to your mouth in the same bit as noodle. Then, you must use your other hand to deliver a final flavor slug - a bit of soup from the spoon - in each mouthful.

                                                After careful consideration, I find that

                                                + Roast Goose - fatty, not so good
                                                + Empress Chicken - miserly, so-so
                                                + Green Onion Pancake - Very good! I'm very surprised. I would not expect Green Onion Pancake to be good at a southern style restaurant like this. My 11 month old daughter loves the green onion pancake.

                                            2. s
                                              SteveG Dec 29, 2008 09:53 AM

                                              Just had lunch here around 1 PM on Saturday, and it was 1/2 to 2/3 full. My noodle and won ton bowl from the lower left section of the menu was amazing, but a beef and pickled vegetable noodle bowl from the section on the menu at the upper right was pretty bad. I can't remember exactly which bowl I had, but it contained 3-4 delicious shrimp dumplings, and 2 especially large and tasty mushroom won tons with a nice hit of rice wine. For once I found that the won tons did look like the clouds referenced in the Chinese character.

                                              If I understood the waitress correctly, all the noodles in the lower left section of the menu are house-made. The noodles in the upper right section are the thicker bland type that soaks up flavor, and did not taste house-made.

                                              The "aged tofu and pig hand" was sort of what I expected after the waitress warned me there wasn't any tofu, and probably earned me some street cred with her, though she admonished me for not finishing the serving. I think the sauce involved fermented soy beans, translated liberally as "aged tofu." I ate what I could, but some of the skin still had an awful lot of bristle attached, so to be quite honest this rendition is probably only for people with a deep and abiding love for chopped up pig trotters from one of the front legs (i.e., hands instead of feet).

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: SteveG
                                                yimster Dec 29, 2008 01:12 PM

                                                The aged tofu is Nam Yee, with is used to flavor braised dishes. Made from soy beans but the process in not the same.

                                                I had this dish one time and it was petty good.

                                                I have to the conclusion the noodles at the stair here but the other dishes are petty hit and miss.

                                                Would be coming bacol for the noodles soups and leave the rest/

                                              2. b
                                                badbatzmaru Feb 6, 2009 08:33 PM

                                                I will not go to this place again. My wife and I went Friday, February 6, 2009, 8:30 p.m. My wife was born in Hong Kong and came here when she was in high school. I'm ABC. Our favorite foods include Chinese, and "Asian" food.

                                                We ordered three items. Me: Won Ton Lo Mein. Wife: Fish Lai Fun (White Spaghetti) and Onion Pancakes.

                                                There was NOTHING special about the three dishes. Typical Hong Kong/Cantonese Jok, Fun, Mein, Fan place.

                                                The Won Tons looked and tasted like the dim sum...shao mei. They were big, had shrimp, and some fatty pork. But, tasted and looked like dim sum pork dumpling.

                                                The LO MEIN noodle itself had that chemical taste. I have ordered various types of LO MEIN before, and many place do have that smell. But this one is fairly pronounced.

                                                My wife's noodles were alright, but the fish---some pieces were raw. I think they used cat fish; it was quite "fishy". The pieces with skins and bones were raw/undercooked. The pieces with no skin and bones (all meat) were cooked. I dug into a piece, poked into it, and the meat come off the bones--red color. I told the waiter, and he said he'll replace it, but I said don't bother.

                                                Onion cakes. Soggy, doughy, no flavor. I hardly order this dish at restaurants, usually only order at Shanghai Dumpling House in Millbrae. The onion pancakes are much better.

                                                Stay away.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: badbatzmaru
                                                  h
                                                  hong_kong_foodie Feb 22, 2009 01:34 PM

                                                  Wow, this place is baaaad. First of all, like most people have pointed out, there is nothing special about the food. Nothing. Second, there is NO way they are making the noodles using that bamboo method because (1) it's very labor intensive and takes a loooooot of time and (2) given how little they would be making it would be impossible for them to give you THAT much noodles per order.

                                                  I spoke to a bunch of my friends last night (all from Hong Kong) and we unanimously hate the place. It's not that they are sooo bad that it's unedible, but it's the fact that they basically lied through the skin of their teeth about the noodles being made that way which is unacceptable.

                                                  I just wish places like 麥奀記 and 正斗 in Hong Kong would open a branch here. I think there's sufficient demand and they can probably import whatever's not available locally.

                                                2. SteveTimko Apr 24, 2009 06:20 PM

                                                  Wow, Yimster took to lunch at King Won Ton& Noodle today and after reading all the discussion about noodles I wish I had done my homework first. Here's my gweilo take:
                                                  The dumpling and won ton noodles soup was excellent and an unbelieveable deal for $6. Both the dumplings and the wontons were excellent and distinctive. I've maybe had better dumplings when I've ordered dimsum but these were excellent and complemented the broth. The wontons were definitely the best I've had. I liked the noodles. Fresh and nice texture. Perfectly cooked, as far as I could tell. The broth was also nice.
                                                  The intestines/internal organs was a nice dish. To get the honeycomb tripe that soft it must have been cooking since Bill Clinton was president. Nice flavors. The cold pork dish had nice flavor, although there was something about the texture I didn't like. But I'd order it again. I also included a photo of Yimster's chow fun food dish.
                                                  I liked King Won Ton & Noodle and plan on eating there again.

                                                   
                                                   
                                                   
                                                   
                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: SteveTimko
                                                    yimster Apr 24, 2009 06:36 PM

                                                    My bowl was the soft bone lai mein, I had over heard the next table talk about how good it was the last time I was there. Thanks Steve for coming out and asking to join you at the last minute.

                                                    1. re: yimster
                                                      Melanie Wong Apr 26, 2009 09:05 PM

                                                      Wow, that stock looks even lighter still than the two examples of lai mein I had some months ago. Did it feel thick with lots of dissolved collagen emulsified with pork fat? Doesn't look like it.

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                        yimster Apr 30, 2009 07:01 AM

                                                        No, it was not. A rich flavor but not sure how it was made. But I do plan to have it again soon. I was so happy with the bowl of noodles and soup I did try to break it down. Sometime when you are truly happy the mind stops work and just enjoy the moment.

                                                  2. s
                                                    superbigeater Jul 26, 2009 07:57 PM

                                                    My dad who used to be a chef states that bamboo noodles cooks easily and shouldn't be used as won ton noodle soup because it continues to cook the noodles in the broth. You can taste the texture as tossed noodles. We will be going sometiome this week .

                                                    1. augustiner Oct 5, 2010 04:18 PM

                                                      two years later...

                                                      after finally managing to escape from hardly strictly bluegrass, i wandered down irving with a friend. after passing up saiwaii ramen and a few other places, we ate here. it was not crowded at all, at about 2 PM on a sunday, but looked as if it had been earlier.

                                                      i tried to order the roast goose wonton noodle soup, but no goose. so i got bbq duck wonton noodles. from re-reading these old posts, not sure much has changed in the food. i liked the noodles, didn't seem alkaline to me. big slippery wontons, pretty tasty duck, lackluster broth. oh, and i've never come across super finely minced chinese celery floating in this sort of soup before, but they brought an occasional, pleasant green note.

                                                      an interesting side dish was...what was it called on the menu..."sour pettitoes." pig trotters stewed in soy, ginger....and an astonishing amount of some sort of sugar. is this normal for this style of pig feet? it was like CANDY. ginger meat candy. while the texture was nice and the initial bite of intense ginger was great, the sweetness was overwhelming.

                                                      service, which seems to throw so many people off, was actually great. our waitress was super helpful, navigating us through all our questions and even dissuading us from ordering one thing, NOT because we were getting the sweet and sour brush off, but because we were about to order way too much food.

                                                      i was amused to see that this place rates 2 1/2 stars on yelp. didn't bother reading the reviews, but i'm guessing there's lots of issues with service and the general paranoia about msg and "mystery" meats. if i lived in the sunset i would probably swing by on a semi-regular basis. i really like wonton noodles, but rarely get to eat them. its the comfort food that i wish was my comfort food.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: augustiner
                                                        Melanie Wong Oct 5, 2010 07:47 PM

                                                        "sour pettitoes."

                                                        Love the menu translation! For some reason, this dish is making a comeback. It's a traditional food for lactating mothers and until now, the only time I'd had it was after someone I knew had a baby. Then this year, i've had it three times on restaurant menus. Ginger meat candy is a great description, sometimes there are boiled peanuts as well to kind of cut through the sweetness but also adding to the confected personality. There should be a tang from the black vinegar as well. Here's a recipe I found, http://unclephilipsg.blogspot.com/201...

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                          K K Oct 5, 2010 09:19 PM

                                                          You can get this at Asian Pearl during dim sum lunch. For the Millbrae location, it is on the strip of paper in Chinese (special items) when the receptionist brings you to the table. About $5 to $6 for a small portion, maybe 3 to 4 mini, trotters a hulking piece of ginger and a hard boiled egg.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                            augustiner Oct 6, 2010 01:21 AM

                                                            do the trotters usually come with huge peeled chunks of ginger? as in whole roots peeled and bashed into 3" pieces? if the sugar had been cut in half i would have loved this dish very much. and i'm quite ignorant about wontons. are they (the good ones) traditionally big and thick, slippery, porky, with whole shrimp? any tip offs in the city proper would be greatly appreciated.

                                                            thanks

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