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Lucky China - St. Paul

  • bob s Nov 24, 2009 04:31 AM
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OK, a new place has entered my consciousness and jumped to the top of my must try list - Lucky China. Just read this great piece on Heavy Table (http://heavytable.com/lucky-chinas-hi...) and I'm totally intrigued by the place. I think I had Cha Jang Mein when I was in Seoul a while back but I never knew the name and I've been trying to figure it out ever since.

Has anyone been here?

Lucky China
1375 Robert St S, Saint Paul, MN 55118

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  1. Read this, made a mental note to go, and finally did at about 7:30 last night. As the Heavy Table review said would happen, I was immediately sized up and given the Chinese menu. Asked for the Korean menu instead, and was given a double sided, narrow, laminated one, led to my table, and quickly served a pot of tea and a small plate of robust kimchi.

    I was one of a very few Caucasians in the restaurant, which was filled to about the midway mark with what looked like families out for a Saturday night meal. I noticed most of them also ordering from the Korean menu.

    I have no idea what Cha Jang Mein (or Cha Jang Myun as it was listed here) is supposed to taste like, but here's what I got: a huge bowl of noodles covered in a somewhat chunky black sauce, with very thin wedges of raw cucumber atop.

    The server cut it up and mixed it with a pair of heavy duty scissors and left me to it.

    The noodles themselves (buckwheat?) were medium thick, just a bit chewy, and coated in the black bean sauce. Not a strong onion flavor, not a strong black bean flavor...just kind of mellow and earthy. Maybe a bit bland at first bite. But each bite propelled me to the next. Just noodles, the black bean sauce, tiny cubes of potato, and the occasional sliver of cucumber. The server told me that their version is not heavy on the pork, and indeed I don't recall any bite that led me to think "Ah! There's a bit of pork!" I took her on faith on that one, coupled with seemed like the presence of the essence of a little pork fat rather than an actual encounter with pork fat...if that makes sense.

    When the server returned to my table, she asked me if I'd ever eaten Cha Jang Myun before and when I said no, asked me if I liked it. I loved it, I told her, and she lit up. She said Lucky China is known for it, people drive distances to eat it there, and that it's Korean fast food. Comfort food, is how it strikes me. I looked it up when I got home, and learned that it was introduced in Korea by ethnic Chinese.

    Couldn't eat the entire bowl, so took the rest home, along with an order of chicken fried in garlic (also from the Korean menu, this was a gigantic platter of lightly breaded, fried chicken and chilies, very hot, in a red sauce and served with a sliced half orange and rice). The Cha Jang Myun was $7.50 and the chicken $12.00, I think. I had them for lunch, my husband and I had them again tonight for dinner, and there's enough left for yet another light lunch.

    Can't believe I've lived so close by all these years and thought Lucky China only had your standard blah Chinese to offer. I'll be back again, probably on some cold, snowy night when a bowl of Cha Jang Myun should be just the thing.

    Lucky China
    1375 Robert St S, Saint Paul, MN 55118

    4 Replies
    1. re: clepro

      Clepro- I have not been; it's on my list of places to go. But I have friends (Korean Americans like myself) who love the ccham-ppong there as well. It's noodles similar to the cha jang myun noodles in a spicy broth with seafood (usually shrimp, calamari, mussels, etc). *That's* the dish I dream of on a cold winter's night!

      1. re: clepro

        Thank you, thank you, thank you for the review. I've been waiting for someone to check the place out. I want to make it over there, but I'm never in West St. Paul.

        The dish I had in Seoul did not have cucumbers, but otherwise it sounds like what I had. The acquaintance with whom I ate this dish in Seoul was very particular about finding a specific place that served it in the "Chinese" style - which she preferred - instead of the usual "Korean" style.

        You've renewed my need to try this place out. Thanks again.

        1. re: clepro

          I just had the Cha Jang Mein at Lucky China based upon these reviews. Korean comfort food, very hearty dish. For $8, it was easily two servings. While the food wasn't bad, I can't recommend making a long drive just to try this stuff. I live nearby so it was no biggie. The Cha Jang Mein was just ok, but not a MUST HAVE. If I go back, I'd order something else.

          Lucky China
          1375 Robert St S, Saint Paul, MN 55118

          1. re: clamchowder

            Thanks for the review. I still haven't made it over there!