Hand-Pulled Noodles at Four Seasons (樂宮), Cupertino
Hidden away in a strip mall formerly occupied by Nob Hill Foods on the busy stretch of De Anza Blvd is a Korean-Chinese restaurant that still makes noodles the old fashion way – 100% hand-made and hand-pulled. It is run by Shandong-ren who came to US via Pusan, Korea, a port city in the south of Korea and its second largest city. In that sense they are similar to the owners of Cafe Yulong in Mountain View, who are also Shandong-ren who came via Pusan, with an additional stop through Chicago.
The sign for the restaurant is a little small and faded. But the characters on the bottom spells out “中華料理” in Korean characters – a sure sign of a Shandong restaurant. The place was half full during a weekday lunch time, mostly occupied by Koreans looking for that familar Chinese food taste that they’ve grown up with in Korea. There were also some non-Asians who were there happily eating Sweet & Sour Shrimp and Kung Pao Chicken, not knowing that this is not your typical Cantonese Chinese, but Shandong style Korean-Chinese where the specialties are vastly different.
I ordered the San Xian Zha Jiang Mian (三鮮炸醬麵; noodle with black sauce) as the waitress that it is the speciality here and better than my usual order of Gan Zha Jiang (三鮮乾炸醬; noodle with black sauce, dry version). Not wanting to make another trip, I also ordered the San Xian Chao Ma Mian (三鮮炒碼麵; spicy seafood noodle). The “San Xian” denotes the “deluxe” version of the noodles, usually meaning a combination of at least three types of seafood ingredients.
As I was waiting, the standard kimchee is served. The flavor here was right on, like the Korean version, but the regular cabbage was used instead of napa cabbage. Then I started hearing some thumping noise. Could it be? Is it the sound of the noodle dough being thrown against the counter in making of the hand-pulled noodles? Yes it was. (See the video below for an example of how it is done.)
I have not heard that sound for awhile since a lot of the Shandong places nowadays use the machines to press the noodles at the last step of the hand-made process. So the noodles lose some of the hand-pulled characteristics such as uneven thickness and the more soup absorb- able surface.
The Zha Jiang Mian came and it was as it should be, the sauce looked and smelled great and the noodles definitely had that freshly pulled look.
After mixing them together and tasting it, it was good. The flavor was pretty close to what I had growing up eating in Korea.
The only knock against it was that there were only a few small shrimps and scallop pieces, along with the squid to complete the San Xian (three fresh seafood) part of the equation. (Grade: A- )
The Chao Ma Mian came next and it the smell was also right on. I made sure the order was spicy, the way it is done in Korea. The hand-pulled noodles really soaked in the wonderful flavors well while retaining its great Q-ness (toothsome) throughout. The garlic infused broth was hot and spicy and really hit the spot. The three seafood here consists of a few large shell-on shrimps, squid, and scallops. Other places often have better ingredients such as larger peeled shrimps and even sea cucumber. However, the flavor of the broth and the great noodle make up for it. (Grade: A )
While eating, I overhead the next table order Woor Myun (in Korean) or Wen Lu Mian (溫滷麵). This is a cousin to the more commonly found Da Lu Mian (打滷麵), and it very rarely found nowadays in America’s Korea-Chinese restaurants. The difference between the two is that in Korean-Chinese restaurants, Da Lu Mian is made without the extra corn-starch thickening of the broth, while the Wen Lu Mian is made with the extra thickening, like it is done for the original version of Da Lu Mian.
I also saw another table eating Liang Zhang Pi (炒肉兩張皮/山東拉皮; double skin) as well. So this place definitely has the full range of Shandong specialties. I will try to come back to try the entree items such as Gan Pong Chicken (乾烹雞; dry-fried chicken) or Tang Cu Rou (糖醋肉; sweet & sour pork, non-Americanized style)
According to the owner’s son, they’ve been open for 10 years. I feel ashamed for not trying them earlier. It’s good to find another solid place for Shandong noodles in the south bay.
Four Seasons Restaurant (樂宮)1163 S. De Anza Blvd
San Jose, CA 95129