Lately, when I am actually in the Bay Area and not travelling, I've been eating Chinese Beef Soup Noodles. Here are my observations:
Note that I am not originally from Taiwan and I have only limited experience with Red-Brased Beef / Tendon Noodle Soup as a tourist in Taiwan so my reference of comparison is only local:
Queen House in Mountain View:
Delicious Soup. The soup is hearty, rich, and extremely flavorful. This soup makes the star of the beef noodle here. They also give you tons of beef and tendon. This place has a huge serving for only $4.95. The noodles are way too soft for my taste though. Unfortunately. You also get lot of yummy spinach. But, again, the soup is the star.
Cafe Yulong in Mountain View:
This was just a slight step down from Queen House. The soup was ever so slightly less flavorful; the noodles were equally soft. Again, you get spinach and lots of beef and tendon, but perhaps the beef was just a little more stringy than that at queen House.
Old Shanghai on Geary in San Francisco:
I got beef noodle, not beef & tendon noodle here. The soup is about the same as Cafe Yulong... very tasty but perhaps lacking in the supreme richness and taste as Queen House. The beef is slightly unorthodox; instead of the "nyou lan" cut of beef, Old Shanghai uses thin sliced beef...its very tender and tasty. Fresh Bamboo Shoots ... this is delicious.... and the piece de resistance is the fact that they have slightly thinner but al dente noodles... These noodles are great.. toothsome texture; not soft at all, but hurry and eat it up before it gets soft in the soup! This really makes the dish. I'm a noodle man, and I love eating their beef noodles.
Joy in Foster City:
The soup again, is on the same plane as Old Shanghai and Yulong ... lacking Queen House's all reigning richness... but the knife cut noodles are awesome! Chewy, toothsome; delicious! They are thick and big though... if you are in the mood for chewing your noodles, come here. Also, the tendons here are HUGE are bountiful..... you don't quite get the same volume of beef and tendons as Queen House, but the tendon pieces are enormous and I think higher quality than Queen House. You get spinach in the dish.
All in all, I don't think there's a clear cut winner. I'd put Cafe Yulong at the bottom, but its by no means bad....very acceptable. With regards to Old Shanghai, Joy, or Queen House, it all depends on what strikes your fancy that day. If soup is your thing, its Queen House. If you want to chew homemade noodles, its Joy. And, if you want thinner but al dente noodles and lots of it and aren't in the mood for massive beef, the Old Shanghai it is.
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