Friday, June 6, 2014

Go For The Karaoke -- Stay For the Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup At Dragon Gate In Oakland

It's been eight months (thanks, Foursquare!) since I've been sucked through the Transbay Tube to Oakland for a bowl of noodles. The last time it was for Liuzhou spicy snail noodles at Guilin Classic Rice Noodles; today it was for Taiwanese beef noodle soup at Dragon Gate, a new cocktail lounge/karaoke bar that happens to have excellent food, as reported  by the always reliable Luke Tsai in the East Bay Express.

I felt a little naughty going for noodles at a cocktail bar that has waitresses in slinky cut-off qipaos and private karaoke rooms in the back. But Dragon Gate is definitely G-rated at lunch time (though I'd say the waitresses were Gee!-rated even then). They don't even hustle drinks to the lunchtime crowd; my server asked if I would like cold water or hot tea to start off with. I chose the tea, which came in an attractive tetsubin, or iron teapot, accompanied by a stoneware teacup.  After pretending to study the menu, I ordered the beef noodle soup (which was my mission) and an order of fried tofu, upon learning that they didn't have stinky tofu.

When my beef noodle soup arrived, the first thing I did was cancel the tofu order. My bowl of noodles was so flippin' huge, I couldn't imagine having room for the tofu; in retrospect, I think that was a wise assessment.

My expectations for the Taiwanese beef noodle soup, based on Tsai's report, were high, and I was not disappointed. A sip of the tawny, deeply rich tomato-based beef broth revealed it to be both aromatic (with the expected star anise notes) and spicy -- not face-melting, but sinus-clearing spicy. After testing the broth, I went to work on the veritable rock garden of chunks sitting atop the bed of chewy wheat noodles underneath and supporting the pickled green foliage. There were big chunks of tender beef brisket, and of impossibly tender tendon, and big chunks of luobo and hong luobo (known as daikon and carrot, when they are at home). This was a chunky soup Clay Matthew's mom could only dream of.

Not having been to Taiwan, I haven't had a lot of opportunities to enjoy real Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup, and therefore can't really comment on authenticity. I'll take Luke Tsai's word for that. But if I were writing down my top ten Bay Area noodle experiences right now, Dragon Gate's beef noodle soup would be on it.

Where slurped: 300 Broadway, Oakland CA (entrance on 3rd St.)

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