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Joe's Noodle House (and Sichuan Jin RIver): Downhill concerns?

Just had Joe's for the first time in a *long* time and, sad to say, it was nowhere near what it was back in the day. Everything was fresh enough, but it was bland -- dumbed down, perhaps. Not the explosion of flavors one used to get in, e.g., the homestyle kung pao, the smelt with peanuts, the won tons in hot & spicy sauce, and the crispy/spicy shrimp.

There have been a slew of downhill alerts recently for Sichuan Jin River, too; but although I have noticed that the "wow"s are fewer and farther between, we've continued to have success there most of the time.

Both spots have most of the same old front-of-the-house staff, and both still attract many Chinese patrons; but perhaps there have been some departures in the kitchens. (As I recall, the original Joe's chef departed *for* Jin RIver several years ago.) I wonder if there are one or two great Sichuan chefs who have relocated elsewhere in Montgomery County . . . . There's probably a Chinese-language site that collects all this info somewhere; but if so, I haven't heard of it.

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  1. Sad to read.

    I forget the name of the woman that has always been At JNH, was she there?

    If I go I will ask her what she recommends for longtime fans that don't want to be disappointed...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I go to Joe's about once a month. Was there last Wednesday, in fact. Flavors seemed the same to me, which is to say--delicious. Has something happened since then? God, I hope not. I love that place.

      1. re: Steve

        Just remembered her name, Audrey..... was she there?

        1. re: Steve

          Yes, Audrey was there. Might have just been an off-night (chef's night off?), if flavrmeistr's experience is any indication. Hope so.

          1. re: Marty L.

            There are still occasional reports that if you aren't known by the person taking the order, and you don't look Chinese, you don't get the full-on spice treatment. Just FWIW.

      2. I was there about three weeks ago and things seemed just fine. Hopefully just an off day.

        1. I was there just yesterday. The Cumin Beef and Hot Sour soup were spot on as was the service.

          1. I checked out Joe's Noodle House for myself today and ordered three small dishes that I knew like the back of my hand from many previous meals. Wontons in red hot sauce, szechuan beef jerky, and fried baby smelt with peanuts. Two of them were totally different preparations than previously.

            First, the beej jerky was chunks of beef on the bone served ice box cold with a faintly sweet flavor. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't great and definitely too cold.

            Next up was the peanuts with baby smelt. This is used to be a very dry preparation of toasted peanuts but was now more oily/moist and added were garlic, scallions, and jalapenos slices. And to top it all off, sugar was sprinkled over it before serving. Seriously.

            Again, I think it's a tasty dish, but not the one I ordered, and the sugar was a surprise.

            The least changed was the wontons in red hot sauce. As where before I though they were the best in the area with a distinctly chewy skin and numbing sauce, these were about the same as served in a few other good places in the area and not numbing.

            It still is a very good meal, but definitely not the same and it takes a back seat to before. Audrey was not there.

            Ah, the sweet used-to-be.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Steve

              I was there again last week. The SP squid was great, as always. The home style Kung pao was smoky and spicy, but decided more oily than usual. The chopped leek stems were great and the yang chow rice was loaded with shrimp, beef and chicken. There was enough of everything for three more meals. So, I thought the quality was still there, but there was so much oil in the Kung pao that it soaked through the carton and filled the bag on the way home. Still very tasty, but the preparation is usually much drier. Haven't had the baby smelts for a while, but your description certainly doesn't sound the way I remember them. Audrey was not around, but it was early afternoon on a Tuesday.

              1. re: Steve

                When I had the beef jerky it was strips of boneless beef. But I'm used to getting garlic, scallion and rings of jalapeƱo with the peanuts--never sugar, though. Sounds like it's gone through a pretty serious change.

                1. re: KWagle

                  When I had the beef jerky in the past it was like the consistency of dried clay. Like the beef was mixed with spices (including a healthy dose of sichuan peppercorns) and then dried. The spices were integrated into the beef rather than simply coating the beef. Maybe the spices were pounded into the beef?

                  1. re: Steve

                    it's been a while since I've had it, but the flavor of the spice did permeate the beef. I remember it being in thick slices, and very chewy. (I also think it wasn't actually oven-dried the way American jerky is.) In any case very different than what you had. :-/

                    Hmm, here's a blog post that claims to describer Dunlop's recipe, which is first simmered, then marinated, then deep fried, and then simmered in more marinade.

                    http://helengraves.co.uk/tag/sichuan-...

              2. I have had a few meals in the recent months at JNH and found the food to be as good as always. The last couple of times I have had the mala cold dishes they were well sauced with a lot of spice. The crispy beef, deep fried ma la tofu with pork have both been very good and not oily at all.