Sunday, July 6, 2014

Spicy Beef Noodles (Yes, Again) at China North Dumpling

China North Dumpling somehow dove beneath my radar after I took note of its opening about a year ago, coming as it did amid a spate of new Northern China, Shandong, Xi'an, and Xi'an-Shandong restaurants presenting their noodle credentials to me. Some recent online buzz about China North Dumpling reminded me I had not so much as set my foot in the door  yet, so I headed to Noriega St. via the counter-intuitive and counter-clockwise 30 Stockton - 28 Nineteenth Avenue route to make amends and vet the hand-made noodles as my first mission after a couple of weeks of distractions.

China North Dumpling is a homey place with a long menu of Northern Chinese appetizers, dumplings, noodles and hot dishes and a few bows to Shanghai (which is technically a southern city, but definitely on the noodle side of the noodle/rice divide). For my noodle quest, I went with a safe option, "Spicy Beef Noodle Soup" on  the menu (mala niurou mian in Chinese), accompanied by "Mixed Bean Curd, Skin, Cucumber and Peanut" cold appetizer, which sounded like the perfect foil for the soup it it turned out as spicy as I wished. (Yes, I know it's my third "spicy beef noodles" post in a row, but who's counting?)

When I had more time to parse the menu, I noticed that the other two beef noodle soups atop the noodle menu "Special Beef Noodle Soup" and simply "Beef Noodle Soup" translated to "red-cooked beef noodles" (possible a nod to Taiwanese beef noodles) and "clear broth" beef noodles, suggestive of a Lanzhou lamian style. Those two entries alone will justify a couple more visits to China North Dumpling, not to mention another 20 noodle options presented by the menu. I also noticed (from some online photos) that the restaurant's "Shanghai Style Chow Mein" looks like the real thing (meaning it looks pretty much like my wife's), but that'll be something, along with the "Shanghai Style Rice Cakes," to turn the whole family loose on in a future visit.

I was not disappointed by either my noodles or the cold appetizer. A wealth of thick, gloriously chewy noodles sat in a spicy, almost to the point of fiery, chili-laced broth along with braised beef brisket and a couple of stalks of bok choy. Simple and direct, as Northern Chinese food tends to be, and gratifyingly filling. As for the appetizer, The cool cucumber chunks, chewy softened tofu skin and peanuts in a slightly spicy, pleasantly tart dressing were the perfect accompaniment to the noodles.

What with Shandong Deluxe, House of Pancake, House of Xian Dumpling, Xi'an Gourmet, Terra Cotta Warrior, Made in China and China North Dumpling emerging in the last 18 months or so, our cup of regional Chinese noodles runneth over.  But who's complaining? I just wish they could cluster in a single neighborhood, or at least on a single bus route.

Where slurped: China North Dumpling, 1311-1315 Noriega St., San Francisco

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