Saturday, December 26, 2015

Gourmet Noodle House Delivers On A Shanghai Classic: Yellowfish Noodle Soup

San Francisco has been blessed with decent Shanghainese resturants over the years and noodle-centric establishments featuring house-made Chinese noodles of varied provenance, but until now the two have never really overlapped.  Gourmet Noodle House, which opened two weeks ago at Geary and 2nd, is either an outpost of the Shanghai mian guan (noodle shop) chain of the same name or a brazen knock-off. The fledgling local eatery and the Shanghai chain have identical signage, identifying themselves as "Jia You Hao Mian (roughly "Good home-style noodles") in large Chinese characters and "Hu Wei Chuan Mian Guan" (Traditional Shanghai Flavor Noodle Shop) in smaller characters, in addition to the English name.

With their focus on Shanghai-style noodle dishes and "small eats" to accompany them, both local and Shanghai shops are also devotees of the fish known here as the "yellow croaker" and in China as "yellowfish" (huang yu), offering it in soup, in spring rolls, and as a fried side dish.  Yellowfish noodle soup has become an iconic Shanghai dish, and is the best known offering at A Niang Mian Guan, considered by many to be the best independent mian guan in Shanghai, though I'm not sure how one chooses the best from among 6,500 of so noodle houses.

The $9.95 yellowfish noodles ("N4 Special Yellow Croaker W/ Noodles Soup") was, understandably, my first choice of noodles to vet at Gourmet Noodle House. "There's a little bones in it," advised my server when she took my order. I nodded knowingly. It was a warning "out of an abundance of caution," to use a currently popular phrase; it's sometimes nearly impossible to remove all the fine bones from yellowfish when de-boning. (In fact, I found no bones in my soup.) Along with my soup I ordered a side dish fried tofu.

My soup arrived in an attractive wide-brimmed shallow bowl of the type favored by some ramen-yas today, and a long-handled wooden spoon to accompany chopsticks. I tasted the broth, which was fishy in the best way, without the cloying sweetness sometimes found in SE Asian fish broths, before digging in to the noodless. Thin slices of bamboo shoots and some Chinese greenery accompanied a generous portion of fish flesh chunks. The uniform (probably machine extruded) noodles were pleasantly chewy and held their firmness to the end of the bowl Overall, it was a bowl of yellowfish noodles that acquitted itself well, even in comparison to A Niang's paramount version. I didn't think of it at the time, but a dollop of soy sauce might have brought it closer to A Niang's richer-seeming broth.

The fried tofu side dish was pleasing as well, adding protein and textures to the meal. A heap of crispy, non-greasy cubes of tofu were intertwined with slices of raw onions and jalapenos. It was a bargain, at $3.95.

Where slurped: Gourmet Noodle House, 3751 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

1 comment:

  1. past this place a few days ago, had to do a double take because it used to serve bbq. i'll definitely give it a try.


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