Wednesday, February 14, 2007
On the last day of 2006, I finally got to experience the food at 101 Noodle Express. I liked it so much that I went back a week later, so basically, this review is based on items eaten at both meals. For my first visit, my group and I sampled 7 dishes and of the 7, I'd order 4 of them again.
Of the three that weren't on my hit list, two were dumplings. After seeing the variety of dumplings available on the menu, I was really excited and was thinking that I also found a new dumpling hangout. Unfortunately, I didn't care for their particular style of dumplings. The dumpling skin was too thick, which may have been okay if the filling was good; however, I found both the vegetable dumplings and the pork fried dumplings uninspiring. Both were just bland.
I also didn't care for the Dan Dan Noodles. Although I liked the spiciness of the sauce, the noodles were just too starchy for me and I didn't like how they stuck together.
There was still plenty to be happy about especially with the 4 dishes that made me a very content diner indeed. Of course, there was the Beef Roll which is basically the restaurant's signature dish. The crispy texture of the wrapper with the tender beef and peppery greens was a wonderful melding of flavors.
We also enjoyed the Shang Dong Chicken, which was a cold chicken dish that had a nice balance of flavor because of the salty and sweet soy sauce that it was marinated in.
To warm ourselves up, the Oxtail Noodle Soup did the trick and also made our palates happy with the rich, meaty-tasting broth and noodles that still had a nice medium texture to them.
The last of this meal involved the House Pan Fried Cake. We actually had no clue what this dish was but ordered it anyway. What we found was a dish that consisted of the wrapper from beef roll that was sliced and pan-fried with bean sprouts and green onions. The texture of the crispy wrapper and the slightly juicy bite of the sprouts went well together.
Overall, it was a great lunch and a week later, I went with a friend to have dinner there because I really craved that Beef Roll. :) With only two of us, we ordered 5 dishes. Of the five, the Beef Roll was again a pleasure to consume. 2 of the 5 were interesting in that the menu description didn't quite match what actually arrived at our table. Shredded Tofu, which we thought was a hot spicy dish, was actually cold tofu "spaghetti" with carrots and green onions. The tofu was tossed in some kind of oil which may have been mixed with something else. I wasn't completely sure, but I just remembered that there was something nutty about how the tofu tasted.
The Leek and Egg Omelette, which we thought was actually leek and egg omelet, came out looking like an empanada which was stuffed with chopped leeks and scrambled egg. The pasty part of this omelet aka empanada was lighter and flakier than a traditional empanada. I actually found this dish to be bland and it was only until I dipped it in a combination of soy sauce and chili sauce that it was tasting better.
My friend and I also shared two different soups. One was the Green (Mung) Bean Porridge and I'm never going to order that again. It was tasteless soup that was really watery when I was expecting a thicker "porridge" consistency.
The second soup was the Sweet and Sour Soup and wow, was that delicious. When we first saw it on the menu, we thought that it was a typo and that it should be Hot and Sour Soup. After taking the first spoonful, this soup really did have a sweetness to it that was surprising, but then you also had the the sour and also the hotness flavors to go with it, which all made for a very delicious soup.
The second foray to 101 Noodle Express had less than 50% success rate food wise, but the dishes that were good really shone.
In general, I really liked 101 Noodle Express. I enjoyed some dishes better than others, but I'd rather recommend a restaurant where there are a few really great dishes than a restaurant where everything was just okay. If you ever get a chance to visit 101 Noodle Express, be sure to order that Beef Roll. It's worth a drive to Alhambra just for that.
101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA, 91801