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New Hand pulled Chinese noodles place in SF on Irving, any reports?

K K Mar 5, 2009 09:01 PM

Friends of mine on the Y__P site tell me of a new Northern Chinese restaurant on Irving (can't remember exactly where) called King of Noodles. The draw? In house fresh hand pulled authentic la mien noodles.

Anyone want to get a new report in on this one, and gives us the lowdown?

I'm curious how this place will compare to San Tung

King of Noodles
1639 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 566-8318

  1. s
    sfbing Mar 15, 2009 07:59 PM

    Have tried this place three times, and I've been feeling kind of mixed about it.

    1. Had the beef tendon noodles, which are pretty bland as Xiaoyang reported. This is not a bad thing, since I didn't get a raging MSG thirst as I often get with San Tung. And a touch of soy sauce and chili sauce perked the bowl up. The noodles were smooth and chewy and quite good the first time. The guy kind of plunked the noodles down and disappeared without providing chopsticks or spoon, so I kind of had to help myself to some utensils.

    Wouldn't recommend the cold lotus root appetizer, which is basically parboiled lotus root tossed in oil with chopped ginger. Although, it is possible that some salt would also help that dish.

    2. Ordered the mustard green soup noodles. The stock was more flavorful, presumably due to the salty pickles. Noodles again good and observed a woman in back wrestling with a large sheet of dough.

    The cold green bean sheet dish was pretty one dimensional and underdressed. Raw garlic, a little vinegar, some cucumber garnish.

    We had the pork dumplings with chives, which came to the table unfortunately raw in the middle. Asked them to recook the dumplings, at which point they were quite good. Friend said she thought the wrappers are too thick, but I kind of like them that way with a little chewiness.

    3. Third time was when it got really weird. Asked for mustard green noodles for myself and a takeout order of zha jiang mein and shrimp dumplings for roommate who was too lazy to go out for dinner.

    The noodles in my mustard green soup were not the same as before. They were brown with a gritty feel (from particles of whole wheat) and a very very pronounced whole wheat flavor. They were also mushy with no bite or elasticity. When I asked why the noodles weren't the same as before, the kid who took my order was like, "Uh...we sort of ran out for awhile, and anyway these noodles are better for you because they are made with whole wheat and very little flour." (I wish they had told me this BEFORE.)

    Anyway, my opinion on these noodles is an unequivocal "YUCK!" However, they were extremely unusual, so I thought people should know about them. If you're looking for soft, incredibly wheaty noodles, this is the place to go. (I would be very specific with the waiter about the noodle you are looking for, because I don't think they normally use these.)

    The roommate got... shrimp dumplings (check), egg flower soup (huh?), a tray of plain noodles, and a whole cucumber (?? where's the sauce?).

    In conclusion, I like their dumplings and the regular hand pulled noodle. Those wheat noodles are hella weird--I've never had anything like them. Their appetizers are kind of hit and miss. The service is also clearly a little bit flaky.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sfbing
      b
      bigwheel042 Mar 15, 2009 10:17 PM

      Agree on the service - I walked in solo and they handed me a menu, then several minutes later a table of 4 and of 8 walk in. Guess which table got their order taken well after the other two?

      Anyway, I liked my "QQ noodle with wonton" which looked similar to the beef tendon noodle bowls in the pictures on this thread. Also ordered the marinated radish cake, which was decent but not as delicious as the one I first tried at Kingdom of Dumpling.

      1. re: sfbing
        s
        SteveG Mar 16, 2009 12:15 PM

        On the menu, only the special noodles are listed with fresh hand-pulled noodles. The mustard green noodle (mis-translated as "master green") dish is listed on the menu as having whole wheat. At the top of the noodle section, it says you can substitute your choice of noodles in any of the dishes...so if you didn't specify and your waiter didn't ask, then you got what you were supposed to--not that that's a good thing.

        As for service, our first visit on a non-crowded week night was great, but we went yesterday and they had a full-blown meltdown where nothing came out of the kitchen for 30 minutes and the poor owner announced to the whole restaurant that they were having problems and if we wanted to leave without our whole meals, that was OK. They also weren't serving beer this time, which I assume will get worked out with time.

        Also, the hand-pulled noodles in both our dishes were in very short pieces this time, but before they were very long--more than 4 feet long. Either they're pre-cutting them for easier service before leaving the kitchen, or when they're rushed the noodle lady converts to an easier method that produces shorter noodles. The first time we were there, I'm pretty sure I heard gentle thwacking noises, which I did not hear this weekend.

        XLB were supposedly being made fresh for the lunch service, and on the recommendation of our waiter we ordered two baskets, but they weren't very good. Not far below average, but not above average either. I think the waiter knew the kitchen was on the verge of melt-down and tried to steer us to particular dishes that he knew they were doing in volume, though we never got the pork dumplings he recommended, even after asking for them after our check was unceremoniously dumped on the table before 2 of our 7 dishes had been given to us.

        I would NOT go to this restaurant on a weekend until they've had a chance to get everything running smoothly with large crowds, but I would happily go back on a tuesday or wednesday evening.

        1. re: SteveG
          s
          sfbing Mar 16, 2009 01:19 PM

          I don't think the "whole wheat" part is mentioned in the English translation either. I wonder why I got hand pulled noodles the first time?

          1. re: sfbing
            K K Mar 16, 2009 03:40 PM

            This reminds me of the early days of Everyday Beijing in San Mateo when their initial noodles offerings were a shade of brown with specks of grey that looked more like Japanese soba (and tasted really good and smooth). Ever since that time they've settled on a more yellow colored noodle that while doesn't taste as good, is still pretty decent.

            1. re: sfbing
              s
              SteveG Mar 16, 2009 04:22 PM

              I don't read Chinese well enough to decipher whole wheat from rice or anything else. It's definitely there in the English--I remember, because I thought it sounded excessively healthy.

              I'm guessing if the noodle lady is not overworked at the time, they might substitute hand-pulled for other noodles, but on a day like last Saturday when there was a complete halt to food coming out of the kitchen, they'd probably just give you whole wheat unless you complained. This place has some major opening month growing pains...but when it comes together the food has been very good.

        2. possumspice Mar 13, 2009 07:47 PM

          I'm a hard-core hand-pulled noodle addict, so these noodles have been calling my name ever since I read this post. I actually spotted the small "King of Noodle" sign on my way to Everyday Beijing (for hand-pulled noodles, naturally) and filed it away in my mental future research folder, so I was thrilled to see this thread show up on CH.

          I also ordered the beef tendon soup, which did not skimp at all on the tendon. The noodle had a nice, chewy texture, though a touch softer than I like. The broth was not so hot, literally. It was lukewarm, which greatly detracted from my enjoyment of the meal. The broth tasted mostly of Chinese mushrooms, and I heaped several generous spoons of their chili paste into the soup to give it some kick. I would rank these noodles below Everyday Beijing or Spices (which are not made in house, but have a nice hand-pulled texture). Still, it's great to see another hand-pulled noodle place pop up in the city, and I would certainly return to give this another shot.

          As to the non-existent thwack thwack sounds, I could swear I spied an older woman pulling noodles in the kitchen. Instead of the typical two-handed spinning motion that you can find all over You Tube, she appeared to be making a repetitive pulling motion with one hand while the other held a ball of dough. This would be consistent with the type of noodles, which were not served in a long continuous strand, but were more like many short noodles.

          2 Replies
          1. re: possumspice
            Xiao Yang Mar 13, 2009 07:54 PM

            Did you say "several generous spoons" of the chili paste? The orange-colored stuff I had on my table was pretty potent, and I would advise others to start with a little.

            1. re: Xiao Yang
              s
              SteveG Mar 16, 2009 12:20 PM

              Perhaps possumSPICE likes spice ;-) I do love their chili paste, though primarily just for the lamb dumplings (great on two separate visits) and the green onion items, of which there are two menu options. One is presumably a pancake and the other is more of a pocket with preserved meat bits.

          2. k
            Kaypel Mar 6, 2009 01:05 PM

            I went last Saturday for lunch. The place isn't too big, so there may be a wait on weekends. For two of us, we got:

            Pork and cabbage dumplings - 12 to the order. Juicy, good size - not too big or small.

            Noodles with special sauce? I think it was called. It was noodles with bits or pork (5 spice flavoring), mushrooms and egg. The noodles were definitely hand made and were really good. The sauce was a nice homestyle quality that I really liked.

            This place is way better than King of Won Ton Noodles. Completetly different than San Tung, which has some Korean influence. I am excited to go back and get the zha jiang mien, which I hope to be more Beijing style than San Tung's version.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Kaypel
              K K Mar 6, 2009 01:27 PM

              Thank you for your report.

              Then my next question is if someone has actually seen a chef hand pull the noodles inside the restaurant.

              The fact that this place is owned by KOD's owner's brother (I wonder if it is David of former David's Kitchen), pretty much means they are non Shan dong style cuisine/noodles.

              XY probably knows but I believe the Kingdom of Dumpling owner guy is from somewhere near or around Beijing.

              I've yet to find another Shandong restaurant that does Shandong style lah mien as good as San Tung. If the noodles at KON is the same kind served at KOD (ie their noodle soup bowls) then it's still promising, but I will know what to expect.

              1. re: K K
                Xiao Yang Mar 6, 2009 06:18 PM

                I went out there to check it out this afternoon. The menu is nearly identical to KOD's, down to the typos, but with a few items added here and subtracted there. I had the beef tendon noodles, which had a generous amount of beef tendon, sliced mushrooms and baby bok choy. The noodles were obviously fresh, had a nice bite to them and were real, honest noodle-sized noodles, though the closeup below exaggerates the size somewhat. The broth was subtle to the point of blandness (something I got used to in Shanghai where they believe all the flavor should come from the toppings) and benefited from a sprinkling of chili oil.

                The server (owner?) emphasized that the noodles were all hand-made. "Pulled?" I asked, demonstrating with a pulling motion. "Pulled" he said. I'll take his word for it, though I didn't see any furious activity nor hear any tell-tale THWACK! sounds from the curtained off work area. It's possible that they could have been made earlier, and that the noodle man was on break, it being 3:00 in the afternoon.

                For the record, the server (owner?) was speaking Mandarin to some others in the place and had a Beijing accent as thick as bean paste.

                I'm sure I'll be back to the King of Noodles, especially since it's a bit easier to get to than KOD on Taraval .

                JUst out of curiosity, what it the hallmark of Shandong style la mian? The thickness? The King of Noodles version is markedly thicker than made at the Lanzhou La Mian places all over Shanghai that I came to love (they are actually run by people from Qinghai), but I'd rather the deviate it the direction of thicker than thinner. My early experiences with hand-pulled noodles were not very positive, as they were made with showmanship in mind and pulled so fine they had little substance when cooked in soup. I recently saw a photo on-line of a man in China threading a needle with a hand-pulled noodle he had made; I hope I don't run across his noodles.

                 
                 
                 
                1. re: Xiao Yang
                  K K Mar 6, 2009 09:29 PM

                  Ahh if only you enlarged your first photo and took it directly from the front so I could read the Chinese characters.

                  But what I could make out on the window in green

                  - a mention of shui jiao (boiled dumplings)
                  - lou wei (soy sauce marinated appetizer dishes)
                  - guan tang xiao long bao
                  - shandong tor gu (ji?) - shandong style boneless chicken (not sure if chicken is the last character)

                  Chinese name of the place, La Mien Hwang (La Mien King). I just hope they are more King than the "Won Ton King" in the area...

                  I've had the beef tendon noodle soup at KOD, very homey and excellent. What you had looks very similar. I may have written this up on a separate review, but the KOD beef noodle broth was slow cooked for 5 hours, no MSG, and also cooked with mushrooms. The missus remarked it tasted like an old school grandma's kitchen. But if you say it was bland, then perhaps they changed the receipe or they just used minimal seasoning.

                  As far as the la mien style noodle at San Tung, I recall tanspace or someone else say that their noodles are machine made/pulled (?), but they taste almost identical to the kind I've had in Taiwan (used by my mother in law for DIY beef noodle soup, bought fresh from a street market vendor that sells fresh uncooked noodles and dumpling skins). What I like about it is the slurp factor and texture, and has a unique taste to it (and best of all light, you could eat a lot and still not feel like a rotundo afterwards). If you ever make it to San Tung on Irving, try the 5 spice beef noodle soup (not spicy at all). Or you have to pay like $1 more to upgrade to la mien if you order them stir fried. I've had the hand pulled noodles at the Korean Chinese place Four Seasons in a bowl of spicy pork and veg noodle soup, but found San Tung's noodle to be way more enjoyable.

                  Everyday Beijing in San Mateo makes an in house wheat noodle (via a machine). Also a great slurp factor but in a different way. The noodles were brownish grey at some point but eventually settled on a rendition that looked more yellow. Their beef noodle soup's soup stock improved over the years and instead of the "soy sauce and boiled water" rendition, it is now a much thicker beef stock with great depth. If I had to pick, I'd choose EB's noodles over Kingdom of Dumpling's.

                  1. re: K K
                    s
                    sfbing Mar 6, 2009 10:44 PM

                    Have you tried the noodles at Beijing Restaurant on Alemany yet? The noodles have a very nice chewy texture, better than Everyday Beijing I think. You usually have to wait a bit for the noodles, because the mom makes them to order in back. The soups need a bit of salt, IMO, but they're clearly made from stock without MSG.

                    1. re: K K
                      Xiao Yang Mar 6, 2009 10:45 PM

                      I did say the stock was "subtle to the point of blandness" which may just be my taste. Beef tendon doesn't add a lot of flavor either. It may well be the same recipe as KOD's version.

                      As I mentioned, the menu is virtually identical to KOD's. One notable exception is the Shandong chicken, which uses a whole "huang mao" chicken and costs $18.95 -- the only thing on the menu over $6.95

                      1. re: K K
                        s
                        SteveG Mar 9, 2009 04:01 PM

                        We had a very satisfying meal there, with excellent juicy lamb dumplings, farmer's cucumber salad, shrimp-pork dumplings with green chives, green onion pancake, and special noodles.

                        The farmer's cucumber salad had a very well-balanced dressing, but the knife work was really random, with cucumber chunks running from tiny to huge.

                        Lamb dumplings were amazing, and so juicy that some of them squirted juice when I bit in to them before I learned to use the spoon like I was eating XLB.

                        The shrimp-pork dumplings weren't juicy, though not dry, but the flavor was dominated by the green chives and didn't really work for me.

                        Green onion pancake (I'm not sure what it was called on the menu) turned out to be a savory filling of green onions, thin rice noodles, and very funky dried shrimp with a few other seasonings wrapped in dough and then fried, with one side very nicely browned. The ratio of filling to dough was about 1.5 to 1, in physical structure it was more like a stuffed pita bread than what I'm used to seeing for green onion pancakes, but it was quite good.

                        Strangely, the noodles were perhaps the weak link. The special sauce was good, with pork, veggies, mushrooms, and a deeply flavored broth, and the noodles had a definite hand-made irregularity to a few of the pieces, but they were softer than I would prefer, perhaps just overcooked. Those looking for lucky noodles that are yards long would be thrilled by these, because they were so long we couldn't manage to separate out individual servings! After giving us time to properly appreciate them, the waiter reappeared with scissors and offered to cut them up a bit, which made for easier eating. When asked, the owner assured us that the noodles were made in-house, and the few abnormally wide noodle ends in our bowl could only have come from cutting them by hand, so at least on that front I think we can give this place full marks.

                        All the waiters and the owner speak good english, and were very helpful in answering our questions throughout the meal, so you need not be or speak Chinese to find good chow here.

                        1. re: SteveG
                          Xiao Yang Mar 10, 2009 10:32 AM

                          The "Onion Pancake" on the menu is "cong you guan bing" or "filled" onion pancake in Chinese.

                        2. re: K K
                          tanspace Mar 10, 2009 12:13 PM

                          I've mentioned that San Tung's hand-made but machine pressed. From the picture that Xiao Yang posted, it does seem to be hand-pulled due to its thickness. The other tell-tale sign is that you'll get noodles of un-even thickness if it is hand-pulled. Most strands would be similar but a few may be thicker or thinner than the rest.

                          This is great that there's more Northern style noodle places popping up in the city. Time to head up for a noodle-run soon...

                          -t

                          1. re: K K
                            d
                            da bin dan Apr 4, 2009 11:50 AM

                            they have

                    2. Xiao Yang Mar 6, 2009 08:48 AM

                      According to City records, King of Noodles appears to be owned by the same person as Kingdom of Dumplings on Taraval.

                      http://is.gd/m8VZ
                      http://is.gd/m8Yb

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Xiao Yang
                        K K Mar 6, 2009 09:30 AM

                        Fantastic detective work.

                        Then we know what to expect, as I'm already a big fan of KOD.

                        1. re: Xiao Yang
                          d
                          david kaplan Mar 6, 2009 12:59 PM

                          Just called. They are open for business, and they serve dinner every day, and lunch every day except Wednesday and Thursday. They told me that the owner is the brother of the owner of Kingdom of Dumplings.

                        2. w
                          wally Mar 5, 2009 09:57 PM

                          This may be of interest.
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546987

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: wally
                            K K Mar 5, 2009 10:19 PM

                            I sincerely hope my source got the correct address despite the similarty in the street numbers, and that this is a completely different joint than King of Won Ton...

                            1. re: K K
                              s
                              sfbing Mar 5, 2009 10:25 PM

                              It is a different joint. My parents attempted to go, but it wasn't open at the time.

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