Passing through San Jose at dinner hour recently, I pulled into the parking lot outside Do-Henkotsu intending to try the ramen again following reports of a return to quality. But a small place with the humble name of Chinese Food Restaurant a few doors down caught my eye. The menu posted in the window listed handpulled noodles, so I detoured here to recalibrate on Chinese la mian, the inspiration for Japanese ramen.
Bright and cheery inside with what looked like new carpeting, the interior had the well-scrubbed look one might expect of its Japanese neighbors. The woman who seemed like the proprietress greeted me in Japanese. She spoke only a few words of English but we managed to communicate. She confirmed that she was Shandong-ren via Korea and Japan. I inquired about the dishes illustrated on the Japanese language menu and learned that those were rice plate combinations popular with Japanese ex-pats. When I asked about the handpulled noodles, she recommended the chao ma mian (listed as spicy sea food soup noodle, $5.95 on the menu).
The complimentary small dish of kimchi was nice with some aged flavor on it. The chao ma mian was aromatic with wok breath on the sweetly fresh sautéed veggies. Some squid, a couple shrimp, and a scallop plus a few strips of not tenderized beef provided protein. The broth would have been better a couple degrees more concentrated but was still satisfactory despite not being very spicy hot. The noodles were the star, just a tad thinner than other versions and very elastic and silky textured. I think Id like these in a non-soup prep next time, maybe zha jiang mian (black bean sauce noodle on the menu).
Oh, I also asked about the Korean-Chinese standards, and they make many of them. Interestingly, she told me that I could order sweet and sour pork in American, Japanese, or Korean versions. Would love to hear from someone what the Japanese version might be like.
Chinese Food Restaurant
4320 Moorpark Ave.