Lucky Noodle King


In the now defunct Ding’s Garden is a new restaurant joining the mouth-numbing spice craze.  Upon stepping into this new restaurant whose English name only shares the word “noodle” with its Chinese moniker, customers are greeted with a smiling of Chairman Mao and two other important looking Chinese men.  With a glance around at the photographs of menu items on the wall, it’s easy to see that Lucky Noodle King specializes in not just noodles, but also spice.


Will, in his never-ending quest for dan dan mian ordered a bowl of that, extra spicy.  According to him, the quality of Lucky Noodle King’s dan dan mian is almost on par with that of the highly esteemed No. 1 Noodle House.  When I had a taste of it, I noticed a striking garlicky taste followed by the velvety richness of sesame paste and the stinging pain of the chili pepper paste. It’s not a bad way to go if you’re a fan of that dish.


Considering the place has ‘noodle’ in its name, I also ordered a noodle dish: beef rib noodle soup.  When the bowl came, I knew I was in for some pain.  The slow-cooked beef was red, but nothing like the almost glowing red of the chili oil floating in a threatening layer on top of my broth.  The beef itself was a little dry in spots, but still managed to fall off the bone with minimal prodding with a chopstick.  The noodles were doing their terrifying job of sopping up some broth before entering the slick layer of chili oil as I fished them out of the bowl.  It wasn’t until I was halfway done with the bowl and had consumed most of the chili oil thanks to those noodles that I was able to taste the actual broth. It was pleasantly salty but not that beefy.  The lao ban niang claimed the broth was made in house.


Will and I also ordered their seasonal green vegetable which happened to be A-cai, a type of Taiwanese lettuce, at the time.  It was ordered mostly as a nice break from mouth-searing pain.  The vegetables were nice and crispy, a little oily, and almost a little too salty, but they did provide the much-needed breather.

While I’ll miss Ding’s Garden and their comfort-food-tasting fishball noodle soup, it’s nice to have yet another place to go where I end up almost in tears with sweat dripping down my forehead and beading my nose.  I’m already planning on what dishes to try when I go back.  The mixed hot pot is definitely on my list if I can rope some more meat-eating friends into coming.

Lucky Noodle King (天府之家 川菜面)
534 E Valley Blvd
Ste 10
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 573-5668

Vien Dong — a trek but worth it

DSC_5038Vien Dong is a Vietnamese restaurant different than the ones in the SGV I usually eat at. Instead of just concentrating on dishes like pho and bun, Vien Dong has more of a northern Vietnamese focus.  I chose to go to this restaurant because I wanted to taste what the difference between the north and south was.

Maybe not the best example of their disparity, but I ordered the fried spring rolls as an appetizer.  I have to admit that I can never resist these when they’re on any menu. The spring rolls came hot and crispy, which was a sign of good dishes to come.  The rice-wrapper used in these spring rolls fry up perfectly while still retaining a bit of their chewiness in the inner layers.

DSC_5040I saw that many people had recommended getting the sizzling plate of turmeric fish with dill and decided to follow the crowd.  The plate indeed was dangerously hot and sizzling when they brought it out.  Turmeric-yellow fish was piled high with slices of onion and many healthy sprigs of dill. This came with a plate of lettuce and fried sesame and rice chips, which I used to make something like a fish taco with crumbled chips inside and lettuce on the outside. Only a small drizzle of the potent and pungent shrimp sauce was needed to make a complete and balanced bite. Although I’m not usually a fan of pairing a mild white fish with strong spices, I really liked this dish.


There was also a noodle soup dish with a tomato-based broth and sea snails which caught my eye. Luckily, my dining companion was not squeamish at all about the snails, so we ordered a bowl to share.  The broth was red, savory goodness thanks to the earthy flavor of the snails and the small bits of crab.  The tender, free-form meatballs were the highlight of this dish and almost melted in my mouth from being so loosely packed.  The sea snails had a strong, earthy flavor as evident in the broth, but were a bit chewy, so maybe not for everyone.

I’m a fiend for a good bowl of noodle soup, so it makes me sad to think that Vien Dong is such a trek from where I am.  If it were in the SGV, I can see myself returning again and again just for the noodle soup with sea snails.

Vien Dong Restaurant
14271 Brookhurst St
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 531-8253

Mien Nghia (Chinatown)

I was craving a comforting bowl of rice noodle soup but didn’t want to drive all the way to the SGV, which was how I ended up at Mien Nghia in Chinatown.  The place has been around for a long time and is known for their noodle soups, but surprisingly, I’d never gone until this time.

When I walked in, I was greeted with a sticky table and surly service, both signs that this place may be legit.  After grabbing a dirty menu from the counter myself, I decided on what amounts to the house special noodle soup. Thick, flat rice noodles in a chicken broth were topped with kidney, fish balls, slices of what I call Vietnamese spam (thin slices of some sort of meat paste), juicy, plump shrimp, and some fried shallots.  It hit the spot.

Mein Nghia

The soup was piping out, the broth chickeny and mild, and the noodles were perfect. What’s that? The health board wants us to refrigerate rice noodles for sanitary reasons? F-that! Why ruin the delicate texture of these slippery noodles with refrigeration? My mom who’s been making pho for years leaves the noodles out for whole days and no one in my family has gotten sick from it yet.

Although the broth was fine as is, I spied a jar of satay sauce on the table and put a tentative amount in my soup.  It gave it a completely different flavor — a flavor that I really liked, so I threw in a larger scoop.  It gave the broth a nutty, slightly spicy taste.

When I was there for lunch, there were signs posted on the walls about a free dessert drink with each entree order.  It’s the ubiquitous drink with coconut milk and sweet beans over shaved ice.  I was disappointed to see that the waiter didn’t even mention my free drink until I asked about it and by that time, I was too full. If you see the signs and want to get your free dessert, make sure to speak up because they sure as hell won’t volunteer any information.

Charmingly surly service and a satisfying bowl of noodles. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes and only about $7 dollars lighter. What else could I ask for in a weekday lunch? I guess I could have asked for my free dessert, but other than that, it was a pleasing experience.

Mien Nghia
304 Ord St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 680-2411