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Happy noodles [San Mateo]

New 30 seat restaurant with a chef from Chengdu (Chef Zheng). Cuisine from Kunming , Guiling , Sichuan , and Chongqing according to a sign on the door.

The temporary menu lists 30 something items, including 5 dishes you can order with handmade noodles (the characters 拉麵 indicate hand pulled, I think).

Anyone been? They're closed on Sundays and Mondays.

153 S. B St, San Mateo

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  1. I believe the characters you mention (拉麵) just mean "ramen".

    1 Reply
    1. re: Tripeler

      In Chinese it literally means pulled noodles, and generally refers to hand-pulled.

    2. Is this the place that replaced Sun Tung?

      1. Their "handmade noodles" is not really handmade. Machine made in a supplier factory off-site. Their dishes have authentic sounding names but are not at all authentic. Authentic sounding names draws in the crowd and higher prices. Just OK if you're in the nabe and desperate for food.

        1. Just tried this place out - one of the most enjoyable Sichuan meals I've had (though that doesn't mean much). Fresh, quality ingredients - prepared well. Clean, modern ambiance, decent service.

          The noodles are not hand-pulled but could very well be handmade - they've got the right amount of chewiness and smooth mouthfeel. Compared to most hand-pulled noodles, they're slightly wider and flatter. The craze over hand-pulled noodles is a little misguided in my opinion - it used to be that you pretty much had to get hand-pulled noodles to have the right texture and mouthfeel. But these days, other methods seem to be catching up. Who cares how the noodles are made, as long as they taste / feel good?

          In any event, we got the dan dan noodles, noodles with fish, and cucumber appetizer. Both were excellent (note that by default they come with rice noodles - you have to specifically request the handmade noodles). The dan dan noodles came with a good-sized portion of dou miao, which was a first for me, but definitely appreciated. The fish was fresh - always a concern with Sichuan restaurants. The noodles did soften up a little as the meal went on - not sure what they can do about that though (maybe I just need to eat faster). Cucumbers were really good - served with copious chili peppers and peppercorn husks, but mostly for decoration (it was barely spicy).

          1. A pleasant surprise!

            Dan dan mein (ordered with the "raman" noodles) were topped with ya cai, ground pork, green onions, pea shoots ("dou miao," thanks mr_darcy!), a generous portion of chili oil with lots of sichuan peppercorn flavor, ground peanuts, and a spot of chili (garlic?) sauce. The bottom of the bowl had a mix of ingredients including black sesame paste.

            Overall, this was a very good DDM with lots of things going on. Pea shoots weren't something I've had in DDM before and they added a fresh element. They matched up nicely with the wide noodles and, combined with the ground peanuts, this made for a crunchy dish. There was a small amount of ya cai and ground pork, but just enough to balance out the salt and savoriness of the dish. The amount of sesame paste was fine at first, but its texture became more noticeable as the noodle heap shrunk.

            The one element I flat out didn't like was the chili (garlic?) sauce, the heat and flavor of which stuck out like a sore thumb. I wouldn't mix any in next time.

            I also got an order of the Guilin noodle soup. Upon my request, the soup was served extra spicy (topped with a large amount of their sichuan peppercorn heavy chili oil). Also present were peanuts, cilantro, pickled vegetables (definitely long beans), thin slices of beef, fresh lettuce leaves, and thin rice noodles the gauge of thin spaghetti.

            I ordered the Guilin noodle soup extra spicy, and that masked any subtle flavors in the chicken stock. What came through even still was a complex flavor with a nice jolt of salt and acidity from the pickled vegetables. They did a nice job at keeping the beef tender. It was enjoyable to eat the lettuce as it slowly transitioned from crispy and fresh to wilted and flavor packed.

             
             
             
             
            6 Replies
            1. re: hyperbowler

              This is a nice place and certainly a good one for solo diners. I ordered their signature "over-the-bridge" noodles, and here are my observations:

              1. The portion size is small. You need $10-12 to get out the door, and if you are hungry, one noodle bowl is probably not enough.

              2. The broth is clean and light. Very light hand in salt or MSG (or lack of). I like that a lot. For some reason, this gave me a flashback of Japanese ramen places where I know they don't use or are light-handed in MSG like Halu.

              3. Even though I had already been informed by K K.'s review regarding their hand- or rather machine-pulled noodles, I forgot about that when I ordered and got the standard rice noodles (literally "noodle threads"), which were OK.

              4. I don't understand why all these places use the term "over the bridge." I can understand if they don't want to transfer the ingredients at your table to the hot broth, because it is labor-intensive and perhaps involves the health code, but "over the bridge" implies there will be some hot oil over the surface of the broth to keep things warm. There's always little oil in all the "over the bridge" preparations around. In my opinion, just don't call it that way.

              1. re: vincentlo

                Good point about the noodles. The menu says something like "with rice noodle or raman" and it sounds like the rice ones are the default. The server confirmed that the pulled wheat noodles are machine made, but good is good.

                BTW, fans of ya cai should note that they have a fried rice dish that uses it as an ingredient.

                1. re: vincentlo

                  "Over the bridge" doesn't necessarily imply an oil slick on your bowl of noodles. Serving the noodles with the toppings on the side (guoqiao) is a characteristic of Suzhou-style noodle joints (very popular in Shanghai) and even considered the "authentic" way of serving noodles there.

                  http://kaleidoscope.cultural-china.co...

                  1. re: soupçon

                    The oil slick is part of the legend of how the crossing-the-bridge noodles originated:
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing...

                    The Chinese version of this page has more info. It claims that while the casual version eaten as breakfast on the streets doesn't involve the process of cooking the raw meat when served, there are special crossing-the-bridge noodle restaurants where raw meat is indeed cooked in the hot pot of broth with the oil at the table, at a temperature higher than 212 degrees because of the oil.

                    1. re: vincentlo

                      It's not just "on the streets" but the also the most venerable noodle shops in Suzhou where "over the bridge" simply refers to toppings on the side. And rice noodles are never used.

                      The very notion of serving the toppings on the side "on the streets" seems implausible to me.

                      1. re: soupçon

                        I'm a little confused about whether "over the bridge" (which google doesn't seem to know much about) and "crossing the bridge" noodles are the same, but if we're talking about "crossing the bridge" Wikipedia says the name is lost in the sands of time but theories do involve the toppings and broth traveling separately.

                        Not that we believe everything Wikipedia says....

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing...

                        I've had "crossing the bridge" at the famous place in Kunming that claims to have popularized it, and honestly didn't get it. It was noodles. Would have taken a few more eats at different places