Shanxi Knife-Cut Noodles @ Five Happiness in SF
Long ago, London hound“limster” was dedicated to chowing at every Chinese place on Geary Blvd. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/16328#44697 Not sure how far he got, but I followed his example last week when I found myself in the neighborhood and picked a spot that I’d not been to before, Five Happiness.
Having pegged it as a hole-in-the-wall based on the street view, I was surprised to find a more elaborate interior of dark woods, traditional Chinese furniture, and classic décor, albeit a bit dinged and shopworn. Especially notable are the trio of giant carp swimming energetically in a small tank. When asked, my waitress said they were about 11 years old.
As others have mentioned, the menu romps around all the major culinary regions of China. The dumpling, noodle and small eats page alone has 56 items! At first I thought this might be a “Mandarin” restaurant under Shandong ownership, but the inclusion of a number of Taiwanese specialties, Taiwanese breakfast on weekends, and omni-China approach points more toward Taiwan.
I passed on the $5.95 lunch specials to order “42. Shansi Mu Shu Chow Mein (Sliced Noodles), $7.95.” This came with a complimentary bowl of lukewarm creamed corn and egg drop soup that wasn’t very good.
The knife-shaved noodles were stir-fried with thin slivers of pork, cabbage, carrots, green onions, and scrambled eggs. The eggs really added something, imparting an extra savory depth. And, I was happy there were no bean sprouts. The noodles were of varying widths and thicknesses and more chewy than doughy, just the way I like them. This dish glistened with a bit more oil than the version at Shanghai House, and lots more flavor.
Diversity is creeping into the San Francisco Chinese scene. I’m still dazed that I’ve had knife-cut noodles at two different restaurants in the City in two months. Plus the ones at Su Hong in Palo Alto, so that now a dish that was once considered uncommon around here is not so hard to find any more.
A few months ago “calalilly” recommended the Peking duck at Five Happiness,
I’d love to hear some specifics on other dishes where this restaurant excels.
4142 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118
This has been a favorite lunch stop for my wives and MIL for about 15 years because the appetizers menu has had such a strong Shanghainese leaning (as is often the case with Taiwanese-owned restaurants). Both the cold and hot apps (including xlb) have always been prepeared competently if not exceptionally, and the price has always been reasonable. You'd like the congyou bing better than Shanghai House's but not the XLB. They seem to always do a good job with the cold apps, like drunken chicken, smoked fish, vegetarian duck and jellyfish salad, IIRC and I think they have a cold beef tendon (or crosscut beef shank) in the Shanghainese manner. Can't remember when I've been there for dinner, so have no recs there.
I've recommended 5H as a "stealth" Shanghainese resto because of the lunch menu (and part of the dinner menu) whereas the name and the pink awning somehow suggest Yet Another Cantonese Restaurant in the Richmond.
I jsut checked, and the ownership (at least according to the beer and wine license) hasn't changed since 1977, so the place has some legs.
BTW, I believe it's Shaanxi, not Shanxi that's famous for knife-cut noodles.
re: Xiao Yang
re: Melanie Wong
I also went for lunch and had the hand cut noodle #42 ...very nice chew to the noodles and crunch of the cabbage, with a hint of 'wok hai' balanced it with a side of cool cucumbers in sesame oil....very nice combo... a neighboring table had a "mu shi'ish" dish that made use of the pancakes which I was eyeing hungrily! I will be back to explore other dishes there!
Great tip. We went yesterday. I agree that the Shanxi noodles are chewy and firm, and I liked that the cabbage in the dish had some wok char flavor.
We also ordered the Peking duck, to follow up on the previous recommendation. Although they usually require 24 hours advance notice, they were able to produce a gorgeous duck a couple hours after we called in the morning. I thought the duck was good, not quite great. Pluses: rich, meaty duck flesh; amazing homemade pancakes, somewhat thick, flecked with blackened spots. Minus: skin had too much fat on it and became soggy quickly. The duck style seemed rustic in the sense of the skin and meat being cut in big, graceless slabs, and the pancakes were inelegantly thick, but neither was a problem since the thick pancakes, slabs of meat, and fatty skin were all in the right proportions when wrapped up together.
Overall, it was a very good meal. Between the chewy noodles and the thick pancakes, heavy flour products appear to be their niche. Most of the other tables were having scallion pancakes, long doughnuts, and other doughy treats.
The owner is from Shandong and the chefs are from HK and Taiwan, according to the host.
re: david kaplan
"... other doughy treats."
Your kind of place! You were there during lunch/brunch?
I'm very interested in the homemade pancakes. Was the duck just one course? That is, no soup, salad or stir-fried duck. If it's not used to make soup, I try asking for the duck carcass to take home.
Thanks for the background check too.