After discovering another hand-pulled Shandong noodle restaurant in at Four Seasons, I wanted to go back to another place that sells hand-pulled noodles (手拉麵) for a comparison. The place is called Palace Chef in Fremont. The Chinese name translates to “Shandong Eatery”. It has also been around for quite awhile. Though there’s a newer hand-pulled restaurant QQ Noodle nearby, this place still brings them in for their authentic Shandong, Korean-Chinese style noodles, dumplings, and entrees.
Comparison between this place and Four Seasons comes easy as it is also located in a very easy to miss strip mall. It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover hand-pulled noodle shop in the middle of nowhere. The menu shows the usual suspects of Shandong noodles – regaular or dry (Gan) Zha Jiang Mian, Da Lu Mian, and Chao Ma Mian, etc. in both normal variety or the deluxe 3-seafood versions.
First item to arrive was the Gan Zha Jiang Mian (三鮮乾炸醬; #109 noodle with black sauce, dry version). The noodle was topped with a fried egg. This is a common tradition in Shandong restaurants in Korea, where an extra egg can be added for an extra price. Not many Shandong restaurants in bay area include the egg, and most don’t even offer it.
The noodle is hand-pulled as can be seen from the slightly porous texture. When a noodle hand-made and then machine cut, as opposed to hand-pulled, the texture will be more smooth. This porous texture is very important in helping the noodle absorb all the extra flavors of the sauce or broth.
The black bean paste based Zha Jiang sauce was a little more watery than normal. It contained the standard onions, zucchini, and the 3 seafood deluxe of shrimp, scallop, and squid.
After mixing them together, it is pure Zha Jiang Mian heaven. The toothsome-ness of the noodle, the aromatic sauce and the various seafood and egg brings together the true meaning of eating Mian, or noodle. (Grade: A-)
Not to be outdone, the deluxe 3-seafood Chao Ma Mian (三鮮炒碼麵; #111 spicy seafood noodle) came in a steaming bowl filled with noodle soup and vegetable and seafood goodies piled on top.
The porous hand-pulled noodles really helped soak in the flavor of the broth. As can be seen from the photos, the un-even thickness of the noodles gives a tell-tale sign of it’s 100% manual, unadulterated birth. (Grade: A-)
And just to round out the meal, I wanted to try the Gan Pong Shrimp (乾烹蝦) here to see how it compares with my current favorite served at Cafe Yulong (玉隆小館) in Mountain View. It came in a big plate with shrimps lightly battered and fried. The Gan Pong sauce here is a slightly sweet version as opposed to the savory, garlicky version found at Yulong. Though not my favorite, it still tasted very good and the shrimp was large and fresh. (Grade: A-)
So how does this place compare to Four Seasons? I think very nicely. This place is just as good as Four Seasons in its noodle dishes. I would give a slight edge to Four Seasons for the Q-ness of its noodles and a slightly better Chao Ma Mian broth. But it is probably not worth driving to West San Jose for it if you’re in Fremont. So I can say that both the south bay and east bay has very good hand-pulled Shandong style noodle places.
There are definitely more Shandong style restaurants in the bay area, and I’ll be spotlighting them more in future entries.
Palace Chef (山東小館)4370 Thornton Ave
(between Contra Costa Ave & Coronado Dr)
Fremont, CA 94536