Restaurants & Bars

Beef Noodle Soup at Old Mandarin Islamic

Melanie Wong | Sep 22, 200102:22 PM    

A week of eating Middle Eastern had left me with a deep craving for Chinese food. Then I remembered the Muslim Chinese place way out in the Sunset near the beach (Vicente and 41st, San Francisco) that I’d tried in the spring (link below). At 2pm on Thursday, I was the only customer but this is probably normal. The four staff employees were watching Chinese language soap operas on the TV overhead. My waiter first addressed me in Mandarin, and after I answered him in English, I noticed that they switched the channel to an English language soap opera program!

I ordered the beef pie ($5.95) again and the beef noodle soup ($4.50) that is asterisked as spicy on the menu and I asked for it extra spicy. All four staff jumped up and rushed into the kitchen to prepare my order. I could hear the rolling pin at work and then the sizzle, a good sign that the beef pancake was being made fresh and not reheated.

The soup had a generous portion of beef tendon, fascia and fatty brisket with earthy tasting seasonings. The steaming bowl was topped with raw pea shoots were cooked by the warmth of the broth, adding a fresh note to the long-stewed flavors. The beef chunks had a tender resistance to the teeth and were striated with a layer or two of firm fat, the way I like it. There was plenty of the chewy fascia and the tendons were in good size pieces that were still firm enough and not overly gooey. I give them high marks for getting this combination of textures right. The broth itself was flat in taste, which was puzzling based on the concentrated density and rich color. I added a spoonful of chili paste, a little salt and a sprinkle of white pepper. These additions, especially the vinegar in the chili paste, brought the whole thing to life. The noodles were mushy and didn’t add much to the mix.

The beef pie was excellent again. Browned pebbly crusty outside, soft chewy layers inside with a mildy spiced minced beef filling. I’d ordered it to take home, but I couldn’t resist a bite while it was at its freshest best. This is becoming my favorite dish here.

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