It is rare opportunity to be able to taste niu rou mian on par as those found in the streets of Taipei. One such place is the oddly named ASJ Restaurant in San Jose. The restaurant used to be called A&J, part of a small chain with locations in Cupertino and Irvine, CA. Supposedly it is related to the A&J in Taipei (now closed). There was a ownership change but supposedly the chef stayed on, which is a good thing.
The best niu rou mian has to have its 3 main components done right in a harmonious way and ASJ does it right. From trying the various versions of this noodle in the bay area, the most difficult component to get right is the soup or the broth. It is the heart and soul of the beef noodle. This is where ASJ shines. Its hong shao (紅燒; soy braised) beef noodle broth is the best in the bay area. Its aromatic and rich flavor that can come only from hours of stewing the beef in a complex mixture of herbs and spices. It is deep in flavor and one can taste the light but not over powering star anise flavor in the aroma atop the soy based soup. A thin layer of red, spicy oil tops it and makes it the true hong shao broth. The version here even outshines its twin at the original A&J in Cupertino, which is little thinner.
The beef here uses cross-cut beef shank that allows the beef and the tendon to meld together in tender perfection. The flavor carries forth the broth and is consistently good. I’ve almost never tasted a tough piece here. Many other places can make the beef tender and decent but not many can do it as consistently.
The noodles come in two varieties – wide or thin. Both types of noodles are home made and cut to size. I usually prefer thin noodles in niu rou mian, but the rich soup here allows even the wide noodle to soak in the flavor so both versions are equally good. The wide noodle here is flat cut and not the knife-shaved variety such as those found in Darda or Joy. Both types have excellent Q-ness or chewy-ness and stays that way throughout the meal.
So when you put the best soup, the best beef, and the best noodle together in one bowl, it is easy to see that the result is going to be the best bowl of niu rou mian around.
1698 Hostetter Rd # D
San Jose, CA