Chinese Breakfast at China Bee (中華路) in San Mateo
The Chinese name for China Bee in San Mateo is ChungHua Rd. (中華路). It is named after one of the most historically important (gastronomically speaking) streets in Taipei, Taiwan . It is the street where some of the best modern day pot stickers, peking ducks, and niu rou mian shops were located. I will leave the story of ChungHua Rd. to another day. But can China Bee live up to its Chinese name? In a simple word, no. But it is still a respectible restaurant in its own right.
Like the Happy Cafe down the street, it also serves traditional Chinese breakfast items such as soy milk, you tiao (油條; fried cruller), as well as shao bing (燒餅). The owners apparently are Shandong-ren as the newspaper clipping posted indicates. However, they seemed to have hailed from Taiwan so the dishes available are more typical of Taiwanese fare.
First up was the NiuRouMian which seemed to be a specialty of the house. When it first arrived, I thought it looked remarkably similar to the niuroumian found at ASJ in San Jose and A&J in Cupertino. However, it turned to be similar in looks only.
The beef was not from the beef shank but some other cut which suffered from it being a little too tough and chewy. The noodle was good, homemade noodle but was cut through a machine, and not 100% handmade like many Shandong restaurants. The soup was what most resembled the soup broth at ASJ and A&J. It had almost the same fragrant smell and probably had similar herbs and spices. I would not doubt it if the kitchen had some prior experience at the other places. With this showing, I think China Bee’s beef noodle can move into the Top 10 best list in the bay area. (Grade: B+)
The youtiao and shaobing came next and they were remarkably similar to those from Happy Cafe. The shaobing was also small as before. But opposite from HC, the youtiao had the right flakiness and doughy-ness, but was not fried well and was very greasy. (Grade: B)
The stinky tofu was just average as it did not smell pungent enough. The inside was not as airy and the skin was not as crisp as I expected. The Chinese kimchi also tasted pretty bland. (Grade: C)
The shrimp wonton soup here was good but not as good as the HC’s version. It was a little oily somehow and the soup was average. The wonton itself was good and each had a medium size shrimp in it. (Grade: B)
The XiaoLongBao had 8 in an order. The skin lacked a little elasticity and the filling was not memorable. There were some soup inside but the taste wasn’t very refreshing. I think when it arrived, it was not piping hot, which hurt its flavors. (Grade: B- )
The Shanghai stir-fried noodles here are, well, not very Shanghai. Instead of the standard udon style thick noodle with darker, soy based sauce, the version here uses a thinner style noodle with a lighter sauce. In fact, it is very much like Taiwanese chow mian. The flavor was light but good, it’s just not what I expected in a Shanghai chow mian. (Grade: B)
Last up was the pot stickers. It is not the famous open-ended style pot stickers made famous by Taiwan’s Chung Hua Rd. eateries, but the more traditional Shandong style water dumpling shape. The skin and fillings were again decent but nothing to write home about. (Grade: B)
Overall, most of the items we tried were about average. Nothing really stood out as a must have. The surprise hit was the niuroumian, which is one of the better version of it that I’ve seen outside of the south bay. But if I’m in the San Mateo area again next time for breakfast and I had to choose between this place and Happy Cafe? I would choose the latter.
China Bee (中華路)31 S B St
San Mateo, CA 94401