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Aug 23, 2010 02:00 AM

Best Chinese beef stew noodles?

Queen's House in downtown Mountain View is my default restaurant when I need a fix for Chinese (Taiwanese?) beef stew noodles. But every time I'm there, I wish they would use fresh noodles made in-house. Now I have my prayer answered by Ark Chinese Restaurant in downtown Alameda! The chef makes noodles in plain view of every diner. The portion is quite small though, and the beef and soup quality is comparable to Queen's House, or maybe just a tad less interesting. But those noodles are to die for. They remind me of an earlier discussion on this board of whether one should order the thick handmade noodles at Ryowa in downtown Mountain View (Melanie likes them but KK doesn't, I think). I wonder if there are other really good Chinese restaurants offering beef stew noodles in the Bay Area.

By the way, last night I tried the beef stew and wonton noodles at Ranch 99 In Mountain View. I think KK recommended the wonton noodles at this place a while back. Wow for less than $7, you get a bowl with five huge shrimp wontons and quite a bit of beef stew. The whole bowl was really great, especially considering this place is just a takeout deli with only a few tables. The strange thing was the huge shrimp wontons contained both whole shrimps and shrimp paste. I am used to shrimp wontons with whole shrimps and ground pork, never with shrimp paste.

Queen's House
273 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Ark Chinese
1405 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

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  1. Queen House blurs the line of Taiwanese style beef noodle soup by using chunky untextured cuts of beef brisket, but usually stews them more on the tender side. I feel they put too much (rock) sugar inside, even for the Sichuan spicy version. For MV it's a half decent fix, at least the chewy thick noodles fill up stomach space. Cafe Yulong's spicy beef noodle soup has a lot of chili oil (also brisket cut) that burns the lips even after the meal...noodles are great, but overall probably better used in bean sauce noodles.

    99 Ranch MV deli is a good fix if you are hungry and want good value, but that place too can be hit and miss.

    For good Taiwanese style beef noodles, try A&J in Cupertino Village (spicy version only, clear broth version is not good), or A&J in San Jose. Thick noodles (knife shave) are not bad, and thin noodle (outsourced) can be hit and miss depending on who is in the kitchen...but the broth is great and the beef shank is awesome (with the criss cross strips of tendon), sliced to the right bite.

    Other versions you may want to try, Mama Chen in Santa Clara and Liang's Village Cuisine (Cupertino).

    If you are in SF, try the 5 spice beef noodle soup at San Tung on Irving, my all time favorite bowl. Love their noodles (great texture), really tender beef shanks with more than ample tendons, spinach, a strong 5 spice broth with garlic (sometimes can be a tad bit salty or on the watery side). $8+ a bowl but it is humongous.

    1. There are several way to look at Chinese beef stew noodles. The Taiwanese beef few noodle is excellent. It is really mainland influenced beef noodle which migrated with the Kuomintang Army to Taiwan. Needless to say, I also enjoy the Cantonese/Hong Kong style beef stew noodle.

      However, Lan Zhou beef stew noodle is highly regarded especially among today mainland Chinese. It is probably the real origin of beef noodle. Historically, Chinese Han do not consider beef as an important food ingredient, instead pork is. This of course is not the same for Hui people who are Muslim by definition. The notion of beef noodle was actually imported from Hui people. As such, Lan Zhou hand pulled beef noodle is still considered the best by many Chinese.

      I think you should try La Zhou beef noodle if you have not.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Yes great points and facts.

        But ultimately the consumers end up deciding in the end.The interesting thing is that based on the last Taiwanese Beef Noodle Festival (2009) held in Taipei, even the recommended Lanzhou beef noodles places by the experts did not score very high overall in the end. Ditto for Islamic Chinese style beef noodles (whether "red stewed" or clear broth) over there (some too expensive, as nice as it looked). Neither of them made it onto the top 3 categories for best stewed or best clear broth style. Some believe that while the Lanzhou La Mien is a great classical method (and of course how can you beat the visual of a chef guy hand pulling the noodles in plain view by the window, thwap thwap thwap, to attract passer-by's and ensuring made to order noodles), it is but a distracting gimmick.

        So applying that locally here, the results are mixed. I recall the stewed beef noodles at Fatima in Cupertino (Islamic Chinese place, quite famous) was very average...very very chewy flanks. Although 5+ mins away, Chinjin Eastern House does a superb rendition (forgot to mention this earlier) that's way better.

        For the really picky, there's always something to nit pit. Just like HK style won ton noodles, and using the broth, noodles, beef as measurements (or won tons), you'll very rarely (to never) find a place that nails all 3. It's already great if you can get 2, or 2.25 down. Vincent pretty much confirmed this with Ark, despite having a Lanzhou noodle maker in house, but yet the beef and broth are comparable to Queen House (which to me speaks volumes).

        Chinjin Eastern House
        1530 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA

        1. re: K K

          Agree, I am not saying the La Zhou version is definitely better, but I think it is not a bad thing to experience La Zhou beef noodle if anything just to have a solid understanding and a broader picture.

          In addition, I am not surprised that most Taiwanese residents/judges may ultimately prefer the Taiwanese beef noodle. However, most mainland Chinese that I know prefer the Lanzhou style more than the Tawianese style, so I think childhood experience has much impact on this one.

          1. re: K K

            Hey KK, since you mentioned HK style won ton noodles above, what's a good place to have a really decent bowl? I've been in the Bay Area for like 20 years now, and I still haven't found a place good enough to rival any of those inexpensive award-winning won ton noodles houses in Hong Kong.

            1. re: vincentlo

              For me I think I've all but given up, although once in a blue moon I'll settle for near the bottom of the barrel should I need a fix.

              In SF, Hon's Won Ton House (run down place) was an acceptable fix for me 8 years ago but I have not been back since. Small portion so get a side of greens or something else (or save stomach space).

              I'm not a big fan of King Won Ton on Irving, but the effort is commendable, at least in the noodles (even though they are very lacking in the duck egg yolk flavor). Broth I think I tasted more chicken cubes...and the addition of chopped young yellow chives makes it visually deceiving. Huge wontons and shui gow and for the price you get a big bowl (which can be an abomination for those who are used to the likes of Mak's in HK where it's like a banquet soup bowl serving).

              Have you tried HK Bistro's in MV? It's a half decent effort overall. Better than that HK restaurant behind the hotel/Rasputin Records (which does better stir fry plates).

              I heard a report a few years ago about a guy w/o all of his digits making excellent won tons at the 99 Ranch deli in Milpitas, but I never had that luck.

              Cooking Papa's HK style clear broth brisket ho fun noodles is not bad, acceptable for a South Bay fix.

              Saigon Seafood Harbor (Sunnyvale) offers won ton noodle during lunch (and brisket noodle too). If you try it report back. I'm sure at least the won tons and broth are of a slightly better consistency.

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

              Cooking Papa
              2830 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

              1. re: K K

                I had the brisket noodle (grand opening special at EB Saigon) and won ton noodle recently at EB Saigon -- both pretty good. We tried to get the won ton and dumpling combo at 11:45am but they told us they had run out of dumplings and hadn't had time to wrap more yet.

                I like both of those noodle soups at Daimo also.

              2. re: vincentlo

                Close by is Blue Sky in Belmont which is one of my favorites for Wonton noodles and close by you.

                I second Won Ton King too.

                Blue Sky Cafe
                1625 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA

          2. ark's hand pulled noodles seems to be more showmanship than reality. you can see the chef take out the dough, flatten it out, and twirl it a few times. was the noodle prepped inside the kitchen using a machine? the noodles doesn't taste the same as other hand pulled noodle places.

            the xiao lao biao seems interesing with the circle on top. certainly seems machine made. how can hand made ones be made like this?

            ark seems also to "specialize" in many kinds of chinese cuisine. i find eateries trying to be "jack of all trades" to be masters of none. there are shortcuts involoved. (offsite preparation).
            oh, i found their spicy beef stew noodle to be a broth of soy sauce and msg. the "beef brisket" were large chucks of tender beef, definitely not beef brisket.

            2 Replies
            1. re: shanghaikid

              OK showmanship or not, Ark's noodles are miles ahead of what most noodle houses offer, at least texture-wise. I know a lot of folks love their XLB and stuffed chicken wings, but since I was by myself the only time I was there, I didn't have a chance to try those.

              1. re: vincentlo

                some authentic hand pulled places to consider:
                -qq noodle (fremont)-too popular these days (taiwan, mainland)
                -everyday being (san mateo) taiwanese?
                -san wang (s.f) san dong
                -four seasons (cupertino?) san dong
                -hand pulled noodles house (san jose): something funny here. didn't hear the usual; thumping.. authencity in doubt. staff spoke cantonese.
                *any san dong restaurant(chinese from korea) restaurant probably can made "hand pull" noodles (note korean writing on their sign) but they usually use a machine,,either korean or italian, the machine kneads the dough/flour, rolls it, and then slices/splices? the noodles. looks like a mini size one of the kinds that make chinese noodles.

            2. The beef tendon noodles at Kingdom of Dumpling on Taraval in SF is pretty good too, although the broth is lighter. They claim to use no MSG and actually cook in low heat with mushrooms, so you can slurp without worries. The noodles are decent, and the tendons are sliced thin. It's a good fix to have with their great dumplings too. After that, drop by Kingdom Of Chinese Dumplings on Noriega, the source of the goodness, and grab some to take home. On a good day, the dumplings are freshly molded from the aunties and grannies in the back of the shop, and sometimes Lexus'd over by the owner (or his brother) to the restaurant.

              San Tung is pretty heavy with MSG usage, but there's a bit less in the noodle soup bowl than their other stir fry or deep fry dishes.

              I should try the Canto brisket noodles sometime at Venus in Cupertino.

              Kingdom of Dumpling
              1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA

              1. Hard to believe The China Tofu (it has a new name) located in the Marnia Shopping Center in Newark (? not sure but I think it is in Newark) had a good Northern style Red Braised Beef Stew Noodle. it was better before but still petty good and for the size and price it was really good. Deep rich stock and a little bite. It making want to try again soon.

                4 Replies
                1. re: yimster

                  Possible that it is China Tofu 1743 Decoto Rd Union City located in Union City Marketplace with Marina Foods?

                  1. re: wolfe

                    looked on the map. china tofu is near industral; way near 880. this ,may actually be china tofu's warehouse/manufactiuring plant with a kitchen/dining room added.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      It is the one. I may have a new name. The other address Shanghaikid the the tofu factories address.

                    2. re: yimster

                      heard new china foods opened a restaurant in san ramon (crow canyon rd). this year. unfortunately, i hear it has already closed down.