Many thanks to chandavkl's for pointing out this place...
We don't get out to Rowland Heights nearly as often as we would like, so the fact that the Anza-Borrego wildflower routes you right through RH is an added bonus.
We had never been to Diamond Plaza (or the indoor mini-mall "Plaza Walk" way in the back. Felt like a long, skinny version of Focus Plaza in San Gabriel. It's got a funny entrance.... the easiest way to get there is to exit Fullerton road from the 60 east and continue straight ahead (do not turn onto Fullerton). It feels like you're going to go back onto the 60 east, but you're actually driving right into the Diamond Plaza shopping mall. Drive all the way to the back and look for the enclosed "Plaza Walk" area-- the furthest building in the back. In the rear of Plaza Walk is a food court with several restaurants which each have carnie-style barkers trying to get you to come in to their particular area. This is where the Rowland Heights branch of Noodle Express 101 is, as well as the chou doufu of Canaan, which we had only seen previously at the Taiwan festival near Olvera St. a couple of years back.
You can't miss "Taste of Beijing" on the left side as you enter. All of the servers are wearing Chinese costume jackets and you have to walk under a faux temple archway to enter their food court area. (Usually this much "Chinesiness" is reserved for establishments that cater to a lao wai focused clientele).
My Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) and I were delighted to observe that the yang rou chuan (charcoal grilled lamb skewers seasoned with cayenne and cumin) are the bargain basement price of $1 each, as are the chicken gizzards (interesting to note that Noodle Express 101 next door has lowered their prices to compete). We snapped up several of those, and the seasoning was very nice.... a great spicy kick with a punch of cumin, well balanced and the texture was right. (Noodle Express 101's yrc were decidedly worse.... the seasoning was pulverized into a grainy powder which made for an unpleasant sandy texure, and the punch was more heat and less cumin flavor). The real winner was the chicken wing skewer...... altogether different from the yrc, with a mildly sweet taste and heat. We devoured these too quickly.... I'll need to go back and take flavor/spice notes next time. Do yourself a favor and go there now and order the wings.
We were shocked to see that on the menu was the ever elusive hot mustard cabbage that my LTA and I consumed with fervor and ferocity (and other fantastically flamboyant falliterative fadjectives) during our 3 weeks in Beijing in 2006.
It's tantalizingly advertised on TOB's menu as "wasabi cabbage". Good lord..... could this be what we've been looking for lo these 3.5 years? But wait a second, why is it crossed off the menu with not a single, but a double strikethru? We ask the server... "We used to sell it, but nobody ordered it." ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! This dish in Beijing was for us our most outrageously deliciously masochistic meal experience ever... the sinus heat in this mustard was the stuff of legend... the kind of thing that villagers would use to ward off evil spirits. We have a video somewhere of my LTA taking a bite of it and you can see her face visibly flush within a few seconds. I wish I could find it. Alas it was not to be..... still, I may need to talk with the owner and see if I can get a special one prepared.
The other two dishes we ordered were tasty... a very good rendition of jia jiang mian... or perhaps it was so good was because I still had recent painful memories of the flavorless muck at Mandarin House in Koreatown.... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690795 Noodles were clearly handmade, rough uneven, noodles (about double the width of linguine) with a decent chew. Good stuff. The last dish we ordered was... hm, I forget. A relatively bland milky soup of tofu, veggies and mifen, which was inexplicably served with a couple of rounds pan fried bread (which was nice and chewy, lightly salty, but not crispy at all). This is one of those dishes that translates well when you're used to it or have grown up on it, but for those of us expecting more flavor bang-for-your-buck, it falls flat. I've adapted some of my expectations to fall more in line with my LTA's experiences (she is from Taiwan) and so I now find these kinds of flavorless soups kind of refreshing. However, others will find them boring and bland.
Perhaps the most astounding thing about this meal, which could serve 3 people comfortably, was the price. $16 before tip. Outrageous! Even if you just go for the chicken wings and yrc, this is an unbelievable deal... the fact that they do have some other very good items on the menu is even better.
On the way back home, we stopped at Noodle Express 101 in the food court... as stated before, skip the yrc. We went because we were intrigued by this idea of "Hand Torn Noodles" on their "new menu" card, which we couldn't get a precise description of from our server. No, they are not dough sliced noodles (dao shao mian). No, they are not hand pulled noodles (la mian). They are literally translated as hand torn noodles, but nobody can tell us what that means. So we order them in a vegetable soup...... these are wonderful. Similar to dao shao mian, but longer and thicker... supremely chewy. They serve these also in a lamb noodle soup which we did not try, but you certainly could.
Perhaps someone can chime in as to whether or not the San Gabriel location also has this "new menu" item of hand torn noodles? We do have some photos.... we'll post them sometime soon.
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