After Nice Time Deli folded up shop, everyone was anticipating what would take its place. When 101 Noodle Express moved in, I wasn’t sure I was happy about it because I’ve been to its sister location in Rowland Heights and the experience was less than stellar. Still, I’m ne’er too happy with the Chinese fare in Irvine and decided to give it a shot anyway.
We arrived 20 minutes early — they open at 11.30am — and after several people had walked in to query about whether or not they can be seated, the server finally relented and allowed us in. We were given menus but everyone was left sitting there because according to the servers “we technically don’t start until 11.30am” — ahhhh the awesomeness of Chinese service! This left several people impatient and annoyed and thus, led to a stream of people getting up and leaving. But no sooner had they left, a new bunch waltzed in and took their place.
I perused the menu and noticed they had a really big selection of dumplings, both boiled and fried. This restaurant specializes in food from Shandong province, where there is an abundance of “mian shi” (麵 食) or literally translated as “flour eats”. This includes anything from buns, noodles, dumplings, pancakes — just anything carb related really.
Beef Roll was surprisingly good. The pancake is not greasy and they are not heavy handed with the hoisin sauce. The braised 5-spice beef slices are flavorful and a nice amount of fresh cilantro is added to the filling. In fact, I think this could possibly be one of the best beef rolls in Irvine.
I ordered the chives and pork potstickers for my son because he prefers them over boiled dumplings. The potstickers here are not especially made to be potstickers (like Peking Restaurant in Westminster does).
They use regular dumplings and pan fry them a golden brown on the bottom. The filling is really tasty and retained the pocket of soup so revered in dumplings — especially well made dumplings. This was a hit all around.
The regular boiled dumplings had the same wrapper as the potsticker, but after boiling, the wrapper became doughy and thick making them less pleasing than the potstickers. I chose celery and pork dumplings thinking they would use Chinese celery as its filling but alas, generic celery was used. Chinese celery has a far stronger taste than regular celery and these were lacking in the distinctive flavor I was looking for.
We love Dan Dan noodles but the version here is not authentic, well, why would it be? Dan Dan noodles are Sichuan and this place serves Shandong food. Such a shame because they had hand-made noodles which, if served in soup, would’ve been beautifully al dente. In this format, it was clumpy and dry and turned into a lumpy mess really quickly.
Shandong chicken was sitting in a pool of sauce with some limp cucumbers as accompaniment. The texture of the chicken was a bit mushy and texturally it tasted weird. i saw the next table had the Roasted Chicken and I think that might probably be a better choice.
When I saw northern sausage on the menu I was intrigued and asked what exactly it was. The server told me it was a house-made sausage with various herbs and they don’t use additives, coloring or preservatives. She asked me if I wanted to try so we said yes.
Unfortunately, no one liked this. It had the hardness of gyulai but the inside was a little crumbly like dried up boudin. The spices were also strange, nothing I’d ever tasted in Chinese cuisine. We left this one untouched.
Service is just what you would expect at a hole-in-the-wall Chinese place — virtually non-existent. However, having said that, for what they are serving, the menu is good enough to warrant a re-visit sometime in the near future.
101 Noodle Express
5408 Walnut Avenue
Irvine, CA 92604