Restaurant Review: Chen's Noodle House
Zhao 'George' Chen's knife-cut noodles make us swoon
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Feb. 27, 2009
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd., 336-8888
Zhao "George" Chen, along with his wife, "Shelly," and his mom, Minsheng, has brought to Austin a unique treat from the Shanxi province of northern China: dao xiao mian, or "knife-cut" noodles. Made from wheat flour (no rice grown in those parts), the dough is formed into a long rectangular loaf resting on a board cradled with the left arm. The right hand uses a curved blade to shave off noodles, which fly through the air into a huge wok of simmering stock. After an al dente bath, the noodles are appropriated into one of four different dishes, three soups and a stir-fry.
Large bowls of beef noodle soup ($6.50) and lamb noodle soup ($7.50) feature the wavy-edged, slightly chewy noodles. The stocks are rich and aromatic, loaded with vegetables and meats. The stir-fried noodles ($7.50) are a huge mound of the noodles, tossed with wok-seared pork, bok choy, garlic slices, bell pepper, and carrot. Every table should order one of these. The combination noodle soup ($6.50) is chicken stock with pork, noodles, vegetables (spinach, carrot, potato), seaweed, cloud ears, enoki mushrooms, and tofu.
Two appetizers grace the eight-item menu. The leek pie ($2.50) is a wonderful golden-brown, flaky, fold-over pastry stuffed with scrambled egg and Chinese leek. The onion pie ($1.50) is a delicious, many-layered, crispy disc flecked with bits of green scallion. Both are rolled-out and cooked to order. The black-bean noodles ($6.50) are impressive, with fresh round noodles topped with a ground-pork sauce made from two different bean sauces. The wonton soup ($6.50) is great, loaded with minced pork and garlic wontons.
The space is small, with eight tables, and water and hot tea are serve-yourself (bring other beverages if you like). Go later on Friday or Saturday nights for the chance that Chen might be serving his kao chuan charcoal-broiled lamb kebabs. We love this place!