HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Taiwanese lunch today in Cupertino... help me choose between....

Mama Liang's
Mama Chen's
Which one is better? I know Mama Liang's is going to be more military village type rather than Taiwanese. But not caring so much about than taste/execution. Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What did you try?? I have been to Southland and Mama Liang's exactly once so did not feel right endorsing or disparaging either.

    1. anywhere else is better than mama liang unless eye candy is on the menu. (think poor service, microwaved entrees, lots of msg)
      mama chen's is very good. not sure if same owners are present.

      1. So I ended up going to Mama Chen's. It was very good and I want to go back again to try more things. We got:
        a beef noodle soup - broth with depth, noodles with bite, and good meat
        the mix mix cold appetizer dish - really flavourful lu wei.. not just soy suace taste
        the oyster omlette - crispy on the outside, appropriately gooey on the inside.

        1. I think all three are pretty mediocre.

          Southland has some ok stuff. I thought Mama Chen's was terrible. The menu looks great, but the execution was poor. Mama Liang's was ok, but as you said, more military village type.

          Have to say, I'm pretty disappointed by Taiwanese food in teh Bay Area. I generally like to go to Grand Harbor (I think) in Fremont when I crave it.

          1. Is it called Mama chef now? And does granny's mugshot still adorn the logo of the business? Was Mama herself in the house?

            If you ever make it to the East Bay, try Chou Mama's Kitchen in Newark. It's a bit of a dive, like eating at that Sweetheart Cafe in Oakland Chinatown. Way better tasting oyster omlette, oyster noodles, and gua bao (and better looking) than Mama Chen/Mama Chef versions. But I have to admit, the wide thick noodle/beef noodle soup at MC is quite good, wish it wasn't so greasy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: K K

              Sweetheart has more than boba and smoothies?

              1. re: kc72

                I'm saying that Chou Mama's Kitchen's interior/decor, ordering process, and seating/furniture (which could pass for the kind at some fish and chips or ice cream place) is kind of like Sweetheart....very cafe like, casual. Not a sit down restaurant proper kind of atmosphere.

            2. Haven't been to Mama Chen's for a while. Just went back today after reading the article. I did noticed that it changed to Mama Chef's. But it's the same folks that works there though. The interesting thing is Mama Chen is opening up a new place just about 1/2 miles down near Tantau on Steven's Creek. The signs are up, but it looks like they are still decorating the inside. This will be interesting, the battle of the three mamas on Stevens Creek.

              Anyways, we've been on this beef noodle soup chase the past few weeks. We were just down in LA, so we tried the Chef Hung's noodle soup house in Irvine in the same plaza as 85 C Cafe. Chef Hung had been the champion of Taipei Beef Noodle Soup competition for several years. I thought it was pretty good, very neveau interpretation of the dish. But my wife thought it was so-so. She likes Liang's version of it, she used the exact description you had. Our other local favorite beef noodle soup place is A&J Restaurant in the Cupertino Plaza. Our conclusion of Mama Chef's version is that it is a very traditional version of the dish, nothing wrong with that. It has that home-cooking/comfort food feel & taste, definitely brings me back to my childhood when my dad, who's a beef noodle soup finatic, would drive a few hours to eat a bowl because someone told him that there's a good beef noodle soup vendor there.

              The competition is good! Now we have choices. My wife's still fixated on Village Liang's. But I prefer the food choices at Mama Chef's.


              We had the beef noodle-

              10 Replies
              1. re: gundam91

                Is the new spot for Mama Chen closer to Wolfe Road?

                The reason I ask is that last month Smiling House (Stevens Creek & E. Estates Dr, just west of Wolfe Rd.) closed and a Taiwanese place was in the works. Or maybe there's another Taiwanese spot that we should be accounting for?

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Nope. Different place. Mama Chen's will be next door to that little sheep hot pot place.

                  1. re: gundam91

                    Thanks, then this gets even more interesting. Happy to hear about competition!

                    Glad you contributed to this discussion. Please keep us posted on developments.

                2. re: gundam91

                  Any updates on the battle of the three mamas? :)

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I haven't been to Mama Chef, but I have been to Liang's and Mama Chen's (at the Tantau plaza) a fair amount of times.

                    At the start, Liang's was quite good. Loved the beef / scallion pancake wrap and the beef noodle soup (particularly the dry version) was pretty decent. Then, they started expanding like crazy, the quality tanked, and the food crept towards the salty side. We stopped going when this happened and haven't been back since.

                    Mama Chen's has been more consistent, but it's overall just average for me, and your results can be mixed. The "mix-mix" appetizer is decent, the beef noodle soup is OK (not much depth but just a textbook example of it), and their kidney/liver saute is executed relatively well. Some standard dishes can be clunkers - the scallion pancake (limp & underseasoned) and the porkchop (A&J's was much better) to name specifics.

                    I've attached some photos of Mama Chen's food.

                    1. re: Jon914

                      Always value your posts, thanks, Jon. Are there any other noteworthy Taiwanese places that should be on our radar?

                      I've heard there's been some change at A&J.

                      And since you ordered pancake items at both, have you tried Michelle's Pancake House? Here's a link to the thread if you have some specific comments to post there,

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        For some reason, Taiwanese restaurants just can't seem to survive in this area. Taipei 101 has the best stinky tofu. The first time I had it there, I had the same experience as that food critic from the movie Ratatouille. Every bite brought back memories of my childhood eating in the night market from southern Taiwan. I stopped by a few weeks ago for lunch to find that they have closed. I think A&J has folded as well.

                        Mama Chen's is the best out of the three mentioned. But my wife still likes Liang's best beef noodle soup the best. There is another one (廟口小吃, Grand Harbor) in a strip mall on the northeast corner of Warm Springs & Mission in Fremont that is decent. There is a brand new mall complex right next to it, the Taiwanese restaurant in there branched out from LA. They used to be in Milpitas but folded many years ago. This time around, the food is not even worth mentioning.

                        Michelle's is interesting with various types of fried buns(餡餅), but the best one ( for fried buns 生煎包) is this hole-in-the-wall place called Shanghai Flavor Shop on Old San Francisco Rd. Different style, but really good. Don't get anything else there though.

                        1. re: gundam91

                          @Gundam - Fried Buns (San Jeen Bao) are a pretty fun dish to look around for. If you go to a restaurant specializing in Shanghai cuisine, you can get some pretty decent renditions (though not like what you get back in HK / Shanghai). I like a nice, crispy golden brown crust, a bun that isn't too bready/thick, and ideally, some soup in the middle.

                          Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, as you mentioned is one. The Shanghai place in Milpitas Square is another. [Pic 1]

                          I'm partial to the one in Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae (which also across the board, does its stuff well). [Pic 2]

                          The best one I've had in this area was at Sunny Shanghai in San Bruno, but that place is temporarily closed and will pop back up again I've heard.

                        2. re: Melanie Wong

                          Thanks Melanie.

                          My parents have been there, but I haven't personally dined there myself. They did bring back the pancake, but that wasn't a fair shake. All I could say is that the Liang's version was heartier and more generous on the filling, but I felt that Michelle's was aiming for a lighter, healthier take on its cuisine.

                          A&J is no more. It's been replaced by "AI Noodle" - Menu here - http://vc-menu.blogspot.com/2013/02/a... - it looks pretty similar to A&J.

                          Besides the three "Mamas" and Southland Flavor Cafe, no others come to mind. However, I expect more restaurants to open up in Cupertino thanks to the popularity of the Tantau Plaza and the Merlion / Gyu Kaku / Liang's plaza across from Vallco.

                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                        i don't remember the specifics any more since i haven't been to any of these for a while. but my general impression is that, the Mamas, and Michelle, can be salty and greasy. (Maybe its supposed to be?) I recall I liked the earlier incarnation of Mama Chef better before it became Mama Chef. in the last couple of years the Mamas seem similar as I find it harder to differentiate one from the other.