After trying noodle houses up and down Valley Blvd from Best Noodle House, JTYH, Happy Noodle House, Mandarin Noodle House, Mian and lamenting the closure of FFY Noodle House in Rowland Heights we had been on the lookout for a new hand-pulled noodle contender and we heard about Northern Cafe, a new-ish northern Chinese restaurant all things noodle specialist in Temple City.
The wait has never been longer than 20 minutes and the interior is shiny and new with two huge windows into the kitchen so you can see the hand-pulled and knife cut noodle action.
Smashed Cucumber Salad
This is was fairly standard. Could have been saltier and more acidic but garlicky and refreshing nonetheless. Lightly spicy, great to engage the appetite.
Cold Potato Salad
A northern Chinese specialty, this was delicious! The stringy potato was lightly blanched and tender yet still crisp. Usually I think of potatoes as heavy and starchy but here they’re light and refreshing without the fibery-ness of a proper vegetable salad. Soft undertones of black vinegar and mildly spicy.
Hand pulled Beef Noodle Soup
You can choose what style of noodle you want: thin circular, medium, thick ribbons, or knife cut. We opted for medium. This is a real contender for one of the best beef noodle soup’s in the San Gabriel Valley. The first time I had it here the beef was not sliced thinly as pictured, but tough inedible chewy pieces of tendon and fat. I’m glad they improved the quality of meat!
The noodles are perfectly QQ and the soup base is not a punch in your mouth flavor bomb like Dai Ho Noodle House but its still delicious. It’s deeply beefy like a great pho broth but it has strong star anise and other herbal flavors. And at $8 its a steal!
Cold Sesame Noodles
We really wanted to try everything on the menu and here is a fairly standard if somewhat bland sesame sauce. The real star are the noodles! So chewy, dense and uniform.
Fava Bean Appetizer
It seems like the menu while focusing on bready noodley stuff from Northern China, goes all over from Northern style to Sichuan to Shanghainese. Here is fava bean with preserved mustard greens, an iconic Shanghainese dish seldomly seen outside of Shanghainese restaurants. It was below average, the xian cai or preserved mustard greens were low quality, mushy and tasted a bit like mud.
Hot Spicy Chow Mein
First of all, why the hell would anyone order something called hot spicy chow mein. The Chinese name for this actually translates more to lao gan ma (a famous hot sauce) chow mein. Anyway, if I may use some stoner slang: this dish is hella dank. Chewy and doughy knife cut noodles, intense wok hei, bean sprouts and slivers of pork fried in a spicy oily soy saucey sauce. A must get! Delicious and so addictive. My loony born again evangelical aunt said this was her favorite dish.
The bing tasted kinda buttery? I thought that was unusual, but I was into it. The bing wasn’t too greasy and was very tender. The beef was very thinly sliced and pretty bland. I feel like if they salted the meat more and put more hoisin, this would be great. I would get this again though, I like this a lot better than 101 Noodle House’s version.
Sesame Green Onion Bread
It was alright. Pales in comparison to the version that was once served at that China Islamic restaurant that used to be in San Gabriel Square back in the day.
Garlic Chive and Egg Box dumpling
Tender and crispy wrapper and the inside was…juicy! Delicious, definitely smells rank coming out the other end the day after though. You’ve been warned.
Northern Cafe excels at the dumpling wrapper, bread, and noodle game! Here the potstickers had thin skins but still felt dense and held up nicely to a hard steam. You know sometimes you can tell potstickers have been frozen if they have either that plastic-y mouth feel or their overcooked to mush. Here at Northern Cafe, they stay strong and you know it was made fresh! The meat was fairly average. Gets the job done, like kumquats the skin is the star.
BBQ Lamb Skewers
In addition to noodles up the wazoo, Northern Cafe boasts an impressive menu of bbq items. I feel like I’m sharing a secret with you guys here but these enormous lamb skewers of tender, smokey, cuminy lamb are only…$2.50 here! Yep you read that right. Two bucks and fifty cents. AND they serve beer by the pitcher.
Charred eggplant, succulent, garlicky, salty and delicious! The first time we found the garlic to be a bit overpowering so we ordered the sauce on the side another time. Still great and only $4
Sugar Bing: I forgot what this was actually called on the menu.
Reminds me of a really good hoddeok. The dough is rolled to about 3mm thick and it arrives at your table piping hot and crispy. The inside is this gooey melted sugar and sesame jam. Excellent mid-meal treat.
Slutty BONUS: China Red’s Salted Egg Yolk Bao
This doesn’t replace my beloved FFY Noodle House but it comes pretty damn close. Northern Cafe is an excellent new noodle house in the San Gabriel Valley. I’m just glad this place isn’t a frickin hot pot joint. Stick to the northern bready specialties and pretty much anything will be great. Almost everything on the menu is <$10. Get the lamb skewers (minimum of 2 per order but I can eat 2 by myself).
9608 E Las Tunas Dr
Temple City, CA 91780