Restaurants & Bars

Noodling at Oriental Restaurant, Salinas

Melanie Wong | Jul 3, 2005 10:46 PM

On Thursday I had lunch with my parents here. This was the third time I'd been here and the fried noodle dishes have been consistently good. Run by a husband and wife team, she takes care of the front and he's in the kitchen. It has the look of an old-fashioned American Cantonese place with an L-shaped counter and naugahyde booths though I think the current owners have not been here that long.

Being located in Salinas, they don't have daily access to certain Chinese ingredients. Thus, they roast their own ducks and char siu. The fresh fun (rice noodles) are available once a week, on Wednesdays, I think. The chef doesn't have great knife skills, as pieces are cut rather unevenly and in clumsy chunks. But he does have a hot and well-seasoned wok and uses it well.

We got the last serving of fresh fun for an order of beef chow fun. My dad doesn't like bean sprouts, so the chef makes it for him with leeks, yellow onion, cabbage, and bell peppers instead. The aroma of these wok-flashed veggies mingled with the fermented black beans and nicely charred beef is wonderful. The beef is sliced thin and is tender enough without being artificially tenderized to mushiness. Extra points earned for getting sear marks on the fun as well for some chewy bits.

We also ordered the special Hong Kong-style chow mein. Because they don't get many orders for this type of chow mein, the noodles aren't prefried like the busy places in SF Chinatown. Cooked to order, the surface of the noodle cake is crispier and has the fresh singed aroma of wok-hay that's becoming a lost art. I could do without the canned mushroms, bamboo and water chestnuts, hard carrots and broccoli, and the dried-out chicken pieces. However, the fresh roasted char siu made from the silky tenderloin only and the juicy shrimp are wonderful. The gravy is light without heavy gloppiness weighing down the noodles.

Individual bowls of egg flower soup are complimentary. The stock tastes tinned, so I wouldn't order soup noodles here. With tax and tip, our bill for the three of us was $14, and we had a half plate of chow mein to take home.

Oriental Restaurant
(831) 758-8147
568 E Alisal St (@ Wood)
Salinas, CA 93905

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