I recently dined at another place that boldly put its house specialty into the name of their establishment, but this place took it one step further by adding in a boastful “ranking” to its name: No.1 Beef Noodle House.
My education in the Taiwanese cuisine available in the Greater Vancouver Area, and in particular beef noodles, has been under the tutelage of an experienced traveler to the island. With his guidance, I have previously visited another Taiwanese establishment in the city, and have checked out others on my own armed with some insights gained, though I am still learning. As well, the Foodospher is tempting me with the idea of taking a tour of food culture in Taiwan with him… very enticing, as Taiwan is part of the world I have yet to visit.
Chinese cuisine to me sometimes provides a challenge when ordering. And here, I’m not talking about the inability to read Chinese characters (which is indeed a problem), the strange English translations you find at times on the menu, or not knowing what a certain dish is. Rather, it is the portions. Listed prices or placement in the appetizer or mains sections does not always clearly represent the actual volume of food that will be coming out on a plate, in a bowl, etc. I tend to find that most Chinese restaurants are quite generous with their serving sizes, perhaps as it is more commonly a family-style, sharing mode of eating that persists in Chinese households. I can understand this, but sometimes I wonder what the chef must be envisioning in their head, as to how big the people are that are eating his meals.
Looking to try something out of the ordinary, I saw a whole page of uncommon chicken parts that looked like appetizers, and boldly claimed, “let’s get the gizzards”. I think my dining companion was shocked with my choice and probably wondering what the heck I was thinking – either I surprised him with my strange like for this ingredient or he thought this was going to be a bad pick. The chewy, rubbery texture of chicken gizzards I know turns some people off. But for me, there is something about this that appeals to me, especially when they are simply boiled and flavored in soy, ginger and garlic as they were on this night.
Salty, deep-fried chicken. Not the most healthy choice, but hard to resist, and when I have had it in Taiwanese cuisine, it has been hard to look the other way. Rather than be overloaded with large pieces, my friend wisely suggested we get a smaller plate of the stuff, so that we would have enough room in our stomachs for other dishes. Luckily, No.1 Beef Noodle House gave diners this choice. With a nice crispy exterior, and cut into bite-sizes pieces, with a good balance between leaner and fattier sections with skin still on.
Continuing with the classics, another dish we shared was the beef roll. The combination of the flaky green onion pancake, and the tender slices of beef draped in a sweet Hoisin sauce, is one of my favorites. The offering here was both smaller and the pancake portion was thinner than I am used to, as well it was not overly dressed in the Hoisin (unlike the one I had at Wang’s). A more subdued taste as a result, but still very tasty. I was also glad they served it fully cut through into individual pieces, a pet peeve of mine from other places that do not.
Lastly, the beef noodles with well-done beef brisket. As expected, a strong, rich beefy broth topped with generous chunks of brisket, finely diced green onion, cilantro, as well as long stalks of bok choy. Perhaps it is the result of me eating a lot more Pho lately, but whenever I revert back to Taiwanese beef noodles, I am struck at how thick and starchy they seem to be. At No.1 Beef Noodle House however, they were not as overbearing and chalky as the noodles had at Wang’s Beef Noodle House, so in a head-to-head battle, I have to give it to the cook here.
To sum, No.1 Beef Noodle House deserves the right to put this dish in their name, though saying they are the best might be a stretch. Though seeing how busy this place was, it clearly has its fans, which is even more amazing considering its strange location (it is recessed in the building so hard to see from the road) in a mini strip mall, with a greatly undersized parking lot making it a challenge to leave your car and get inside. With the rainy autumn days of Vancouver soon approaching, a bowl of hearty beef noodles does hit the spot, so I just might be back.
No.1 Beef Noodle House
4741 Willingdon Avenue
Tel: (604) 438-6648