Decided to finally try Heavy Noodling on Garvey, 1 block east of Garfield in Monterey Park. Also, I took my Taiwanese girlfriend who became extremely excited when she saw the style of noodles, printed in gigantic chinese characters on the front of the store.
Even without her there, I would have been able to figure out the unique method this place uses to create their noodles, as the front of the menu has an illustration captioned with "This is how we make our noodles." The picture shows a chinese chef, holding in one hand what looks to be a huge, oversized potato (about the size of a forearm) but is in fact a large wad of noodle dough. In his other hand he holds what looks like a wide, flat hand chopper, which he then uses to shave thick, wide slices of dough into the steaming vat in front of him.
We ordered a large bowl of beef and beef tendon soup ($5.95), along with a cold plate of mustard greens (About $2.00) and a "flour cake" off the dim sum part of the menu (a scallion pancake, basically) for $2.00. (Incidentally, we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal)
The mustard greens were tosses with thin square slices of tody. THere was a not-too sharp edge to the greens, which we discovered later made a good addition to the soup but also was a great way to wake up our tongues before eating.
Now the soup. An incredibly rich, deeply flavored dark brown broth. Like silk on the tongue. Really wonderful stuff, garnished with some sort of greens (spinach), a not-very-generous portion of completely tender beef, as well as the more-generous helpings of gelatinous tendon, and of course, the noodles. Now for those of you who have not ordered tendon before, (like me), let me describe the experience. There were several 1 inch round chunks of what appeared to be the texture and appearance of fat. I asked my girlfriend... so is this tendon? She said "yes!" and she took a big bite. As did I. It is a very unusual thing to expect to bite into something that looks exactly like a blob of fat but whose texture and flavor reveals something quite different. It is soft, definitely not the texture of meat. But it's actually soft and custard like almost, and the flavor extremely complex. When accompanied by chunks of beef, broth and noodles, the experience became quite extraordinary, delivering this vast, complex array of textures and flavors.
Surprisingly, the noodles here were the weakest link. Most were overcooked and too soft... not inedible by any means, but my girlfriend kept saying how they needed to be chewier. These tasted like an Italian pasta that was boiled just past al dente. The problem most likely is that these noodles were shaved too thin. We did get a couple in our bowls which were shaved thick, and got the Taiwanese seal of approval, and I could definitely taste the difference.
Also, sorry to give short shrift to the flour cakes, but these were perfection. Crispy on the ouside, so soft and steamy on the inside, with a giant flavor of scallions. And we all know how onions and beef flavors go together, so a dip of this bread in the beef broth was lovely, crispy, smooth and softy yeasty heaven.
And how often do you get heaven for $12 for 2 people, including tip???
153 E. Garvey