Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Turtle Tower Restaurant, that little bit of Hanoi in Little Saigon, closed today, but don't panic -- it isn't exactly turning turtle. It will reopen in a few weeks just a few doors up the block. But will it be the real Turtle Tower or simply the mock? I pondered this question tonight over a ceremonial bowl of pho ga, or chicken noodles, if you will, at the original premises .
Overall, I'd have to rate Turtle Tower's pho ga as one of the best noodle soups of any Asian persuasion in San Francisco (or anywhere I have eaten noodles). Unfortunately, we'll have to live without it for a few weeks, or make do at one of the less highly regarded offshoot Turtle Tower branches.
Where slurped: 631 Larkin Street, San Francisco (RIP).
Friday, February 22, 2013
Since House of Pancakes is a mere block from Shandong Deluxe (see earlier posts) with its similar proletarian prices for hand-made noodles and dumplings, comparisons are unavoidable. Most importantly, in the case of both houses, the noodles are excellent, hearty and chewy. If anything, the noodles at UHOP were slightly less chewy, though they didn't lean toward undesired softness until I neared the bottom of the bowl. The broth at House of Pancakes was notably more savory than Shandong's "qing tang" broth (I'm guessing a pork bone and chicken stock). The lamb, in both cases, was lean and tender (though I'd hope for slightly fattier cuts) and a generous proportion. As far as overall serving size goes, Shandong Deluxe uses slightly larger bowls, but both restaurants' portions verge on excessive, so I can't award House of Pancakes demerits on that score. In terms of service (never really a big issue with me) I found both places efficient with UHOP slightly more cheerful, though I have yet to observe it under the hectic conditions that Shandong Deluxe's popularity has brought to it.
What's to choose? House of Pancakes and Shandong Deluxe both offer fresh, hearty well-priced noodle fare. We're lucky to have these two places emerge in recent months. I only wish they were closer to me.
And oh, yes, I'll get to those "pancakes" -- eventually.
Where Slurped: House of Pancakes, 937 Taraval Street, San Francisco
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Hear that, House of Pancakes? You'll get to wrap your lithe and limber noodles around my desire yet. Let's see if you can top Shandong Deluxe's snow job!
Where Slurped: Shandong Deluxe, 1042 Taraval Street, San Francisco
Friday, February 1, 2013
After posting the video of noodle-pulling hijinks at M.Y. China this morning, I found myself craving some fresh handmade noodles and headed for -- not M.Y. China, but the more proletarian fare of Shandong Deluxe on Taraval Street. I had in my mind to try out a noodle dish rarely -- if ever -- seen in these parts, clumsily identified in English as "Fried Crushed Noodles" but more elegantly and musically rendered in Chinese as 新疆丁丁炒麵, Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian.
Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian is like no other chao mian (or chow mein, if you will) out there. It consists of hand-pulled noodles "the thickness of chopsticks" according to this recipe I found online. The noodles are then chopped at approximate 1/4 inch intervals and stir-fried with lamb, tomato, garlic shoots, red and green peppers and celery, all chopped equally finely, in a ginger-garlic sauce.
As with other noodle dishes at Shandong Deluxe, the Xinjiang Ding Ding Chao Mian is served in gargantuan proportions; the chopped up noodles also make eating it with chopsticks tedious, and I eventually resorted to use of a Chinese soup spoon to fill my gut (which was accomplished with about half my order). Overall, the Silk Route pedigree of this dish seemed to come into play here, as I felt I was eating a middle eastern or Mediterranean pasta dish more than a Chinese noodle dish. Tasty and satisfying as the dish was, I felt cheated by not getting the pleasure that comes from lifting and slurping long noodles.
One reason I wasn't able to finish my entire noodle dish (not to worry, I took home enough for a pasta "side" for my dinner) was that I had been sweet-talked by my server into trying an order of house-made xiao long bao. At $4.95 for 6, it was easy to succumb to this temptation, and I felt rewarded by it While not the most elegantly wrapped xiao long bao I have ever had, they were true to form in texture and flavor, a worthy xiao long bao "fix" (of which I am occasionally in need).
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the chef-owner of Shandong Deluxe spent some years cooking in Xinjiang, whence his penchant for the Xianjiang dishes sprinkled across Shandong Deluxe's menu. They've grabbed my attention on account or their rarity, but I suspect further riches await me when I actually get to the Shandong specialties at Shandong Deluxe.
Where slurped: Shandong Deluxe, 1042 Taraval Street, San Francisco.
Martin Yan's M.Y. China is the type of pricey, upscale venue that I normally eschew, but it's a friendly, fun place, as the video below suggests (not to mention being a half-hour closer by bus for me than any other hand-pulled noodle joint). The noodles, made to order for you, are excellent, and if you sit at the counter by the noodle station you get the same vantage point this video was shot from, so it's a dinner/lunch show worth the $12-$18 ticket price. Thanks to Alex Ong, Chef at Betelnut Peiju Wu for this video, recorded at M.Y. China and posted on Facebook. It features the noodle-pulling exploits of head chef Yong Dong "Tony" Wu, including "Gangnam style" and "10,000 strands blindfolded" as breathlessly narrated by Martin Yan.