Thursday, August 19, 2010

[台北市] - 西門町 - 老山東牛肉家常麵店 - Lao Shan Dong Beef Noodles (Xiemending, Taipei City)

While stumbling and fumbling around the busy fun district of Xiemending some moons ago (somewhere between 2005 to 2007), this place was discovered completely by accident, tucked away into an unassuming commercial/office building that had some shops on the ground level, but if you dived further in, you would find escalators going up and down. This building was actually like a multi story shopping arcade (or mall if you will).

The basement was a bit uninteresting at first. Very few shops, a lot of vacant business spaces and literally a dearth of restaurants save about 3 or 4 places. I recall there being a restaurant that specialized in Taiwanse style fried pork chops that smelled absolutely baconlicious and sorry for the Japanese pun, oink-shii. But the thought of overgrease was a bit daunting for a lunch. The other option was a small counter shop of noodles, northern style won tons (huan duan) in chili oil whose name I forgot. We were thinking of trying this place but decided to hit the restrooms first. However on our way there, just feet away from the entrance to the ladies and mens room, was a table with two employees of that food stall, making and prepping fresh huan duans on the spot. Uhm no thanks, as fresh as your wontons might's all about location, location, location!

So we chanced upon this no brainer called Old Shan Dong or Lao Shan Dong Family (specializing in Beef) Noodle House - 山東牛肉家常麵店, that looked super bright and inviting. This restaurant is over 50 years old and has remained in the same location ever since!

Hand made, rolled, and prepped dumplings in house, de-facto standard. It's the equivalent of watching a sushi chef make nigiri, except this is cheap stuff.

Their specialties? Knife shaved hand made fresh noodles, pork based boiled dumplings (jiaozi), and beef in beef broth with xifen (bean thread vermicelli noodles). This is not a place where you mess around.

27 things on the menu. The signature knife shaved beef noodles ran about US$4.70 for a large, and about $1 less for a small bowl. This is perhaps mid end expensive for Taipei but not as expensive as Lin Tung Fong beef noodles in Taipei.

The appetizers were excellent, particularly the marinated pig's ear slices (that tasted like a cross between bacon and tendon) as well as the strings of seaweed that were crunchy with good vinegar marination and also very heavy in garlic which gave it the needed boost. At $1 per plate, it's a no brainer to kick start the appetite.

As for the signature bowl: the beef was very tender and delicious, and the broth was quite good. I'm hardly a fan of knife shaved noodles but I have to say it was executed very very well. At the time, there were no thinner noodles available, and bean thread version would have been uber soggy.

Dumplings were excellent. Primariliy pork but I believe had cabbage in it. And you know what, they were as excellent as San Tung (on Irving Street in San Francisco), if not better.

A taste of the past, stuck in time. There are arguably a lot better places around town, but for a place that has been around 50+ years, you have to respect that.

老山東牛肉家常麵店 - Lao Shandong Beef Noodles
台北市西寧南路70號 Taipei City, Xi Ning South Rd #70
地下室15 (萬年商業大樓地下室) Mahn Lien building, basement level #15