So So Noodle at So in San Francisco
So is the name of a noodle restaurant in Sunset district of San Francisco. I’ve heard that the chef/owner is the son of the San Tung restaurant located down the street also on Irving. Since San Tung restaurant is a Korean-Chinese style place run by Shandong folks, I’d figure that their So offspring would offer much of the same, if not a better concentration of the classic Korean-Chinese favorites. But alas that was not really the case here.
I had a chance to sample a variety of noodles and sadly none of them really were to my taste. Overall, most of them were heavily black-peppered out. I actually like black pepper on food, and even like the Taiwanese style black-pepper sauce (used on steaks and pan-seared noodles) found in Taiwan’s steak houses. However, the noodles at So were all so singularly dominated by the black-pepper that the only thing I can taste was the spiciness of it and not much else.
We started with So Wings – their take on the Shandong dish Gan Pong Chicken. Their version is similar to the ones found at Korean groceries’ deli section. It is sauce-less and more sweet than spicy/savory. It tastes good as it is, but it is not the same as traditional version found at places like Cafe Yulong. (Grade: B+)
The Black Bean Sauce Noodle (炸醬麵; Zha Jiang Mian) was very different from the traditional version as well. The sauce was not dark brown/black but a lighter brown. I did not get a good taste of this but suffice it to say it is not what I expected. (Grade: C-)
The Shredded Pork with Garlic noodle (豬肉炒麵) tasted mainly of black pepper. (Grade: D)
Noodles with Peanut Sauce – this is a take-off after the Sichuan style Tan Tan Mian (擔擔麵) noodle – which is also peanut sauce based. However, like the other dishes, it tasted more black pepper than peanut sauce. (Grade: D-)
Mao Pao Rice – again, a take-off of the famous Sichuan dish (麻婆豆腐; Ma Puo Tofu). Somehow we ordered it with the beef instead of the traditional pork. The meat was not tenderized and tasted a little tough. Flavor-wise it is just spicy tofu – it did not evoke the special spicy bean paste flavor that is essential to this dish. (Grade: C)
Out of all the noodles tried, the Combination Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup tasted most similar to its original counterpart, the Chao Ma Mian (炒碼麵). The spicy level was on-par as expected and the heat was from red hot pepper instead of the black pepper. (Grade: B)
So to summarize, on one hand, I do applaud So for trying to break out from the traditional Korean-Chinese mold of Zha Jiang Mian and Chao Ma Mian and Sweet & Sour Pork. But I don’t really get the black-pepper infused noodle dishes. To me, one of the main strength of Shandong cuisine is lost. Perhaps there are other new, original dishes that are great, but we did not get to try it this time.
So, if you’re looking for traditional Korean-Chinese flavor, stick with the parent San Tung restaurant or venture down to the south bay or even the east bay for more and far better choices.
2240 Irving Street
(between 23rd Ave & 24th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122