Restaurants & Bars

5A Cafe of Burlingame

ed | May 19, 2004 02:43 PM

This is a small, bright, clean, open-kitchen chinese joint in a nondescript mall on El Camino just south of Millbrae Ave. (yep, about a block south of hkfl).

the clientelle is interesting, about half very chinese, and half gringo lunch crowd. the chinese seem to keep coming for the more authentic and well prepared northern/western chinese dishes, and the rest come as far as i can tell for the brightness and cleanness (and the lunch specials ;). having tried the specials, i can say they might like the relatively good hot and sour soup too. if you do get a lunch special, i recommend volcano beef or twice-cooked pork.

they have hand cut noodles! and cumin lamb! and spicy cold szechuan noodles, and those big terra cotta soup tureens, and what appear to be house-made dumplings, and lots of other good stuff that eludes me on the chinese menu. a good amount of thinly veiled espionage is worth it if you are sitting next to one of the tables of chinese patrons.

the nyu ro mien (spicy beef and tendon noodle soup) and spicy cold noodles are pretty good, somewhat depending on the chef and the weather of the day. i finally tried the hand-cut noodles, which were quite satisfying. these were the real knife-cut slabs and chips that i remember from beijing. sheared off the dough ball with short slashes with a very sharp cleaver, not peeled off in longer thin strips with a peeler. the texture was just as it should be, and that 'breath of the wok' was in it too (slightly toasty aroma from a very hot, very well seasoned wok). this may take a little longer to prepare, as the noodles may need to be freshly sheared, but when it comes sizzling hot right out of the wok, you will know wherefore you have waited.

i was pleased to note that some of the gringos are delving into the real chinese stuff, and i would be even more pleased if they would offer the 'real' menu in english so that this chinese gringo may do so more deeply himself.

i hesitate to share this local spot with a broader market, as they sometimes get too crowded at lunch, slowing service. but since people keep asking for places near the airport, and as a chowhound, i guess i gotta.

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