China, Chinese, Food, Fruit, Meat, Noodle Loft, Noodles, Restaurant, Review, Soup, Sweets, Vegetables
On our final night in Beijing, we went to the Noodle Loft, a wonderful, stylish and definitely pricy restaurant focused entirely on many types of noodle, especially Shaanxi-Province-style noodles. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show visited the restaurant, which is how we’d found out about it.
The interior is very sleek and modern, with a nice color palette supported by chrome and elegantly clad waiters:
The menu was huge, and we decided to start with a napa cabbage soup before the noodle courses:
The broth was light and vinegary, perfect as a starter.
Now to tackle the many noodle options! Noodle Loft offers knife-cut noodles that are thick and chewy in texture, sort of like udon, “cat’s ears” noodles which are small, shaped like cat ears and reminiscent of gnocchi in texture, hand-pulled noodles, and “noodles made with one single chopstick,” which are extremely long.
My friend went with a buckwheat version of the cat’s ears noodles (a Shaanxi specialty) stir fried with vegetables and sauce. These had lovely bite to them and were quite different from any other Chinese noodle dish I’ve seen.
My wife opted for the hand-pulled noodles with a spicy beef dipping sauce. These noodles tasted essentially like udon, but weren’t eaten in a soup:
Personally, I ordered vegetable noodles made with a single chopstick, which were green from the vegetables and so long, I felt like I gave half my plate away when I let the others at the table taste one noodle! I chose a typical Shaanxi-style dipping sauce consisting of a lot of vinegar with some dried spices. These noodles were wonderful, filling and just luxurious to bite into!
Now for dessert, Noodle Loft offers a variety of Western-style cakes (cheesecake, chocolate torte, etc), which my friend and wife went for. I on the other hand was determined to have a Chinese dessert on our last night in China, which left many obscure herbal jelly options (one had the character for turtle in the name…), as well as cooked birdsnests (outrageously expensive delicacy). I had initially settled for double-boiled hashima served in a papaya cup, because I love papaya:
The menu depicted it like this:
I figured hashima might be some fruit mash, or glutinous rice meal, but became slightly nervous. My friend’s smart phone and Google rescued me, as we quickly found out that hashima are frog fallopian tubes. Yes. Frog fallopian tubes. They are supposed to cure anything from a headache to tuberculosis in Chinese medicine, and they are a popular dessert.
Let’s just say I quickly regrouped and went with steamed Chinese yam, or hui shan yao, the air root of a climbing vine, with a sea-buckthorn, or sha ji, berry sauce.
I can’t even begin to describe how delicious this warm dessert was! The yam was buttery soft and sweet, melting in your mouth, and its starchiness was wonderfully contrasted bu the almost gelee-like consistency of the sweet but refreshing buckthorn sauce. I was already very full, but couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a single bite behind. I would do anything to get my hands on the ingredients and a recipe!
Bottom line? While somewhat difficult to find, Noodle Loft is definitely worth the trip. The noodles are amazing, and a special treat you won’t find many places outside Shaanxi province, and all other dishes we tasted were simply wonderful as well. On the downside it is certainly pricey, and we had some misunderstandings with the wait staff despite my Chinese-speaking friend doing the ordering. Meat in the sauces/noodle dishes is very sparsely used, so don’t expect Italian meatball sized amounts! I would say it’s a great treat for a special night – 4/5 from me.