April 21, 2010 > Restaurant Review: King Noodle
Restaurant Review: King Noodle
A Noodle Crown Jewel in Fremont
By Denny Stein
Photos By William Mancebo
Nestled in the Hub, in the stretch along Argonaut Way, is King Noodle. Its large glass windows are papered with pictures of noodle dishes and icy drinks. Customers inside are happily chatting and slurping up bundles of yellow and white noodles. Big bowls of soup steam up the air, scenting it with chicken, beef, or curry aromas. The high ceilinged, sunny room lends itself to relaxing and enjoying your meal.
But the King Noodle folks don't relax when it comes to choices, service and taste. The wait staff is attentive, quick to seat you, ready to take your order on their handheld electronic Wi-Fi pads. Not to worry, though, if you need a few more minutes with the extensive menu, they'll come back. The menu is big, bright and illustrated with the international symbols for food: photographs.
It is difficult not to continually order one's favorite dish, in my case, Curry Tofu Veggies Noodle Soup. The sweet warm taste of the curry cradles the tofu and fresh vegetables, and soaks into the noodles (your choice of yellow or rice). Last week, foregoing my curry predilection, I tried the Beef Vegetable Noodle Soup: a light, clear chicken broth with noodles, cabbage pieces, thinly sliced beef, broccoli florets and translucent carrot leaves. Colors are brilliant; the texture is crunchy, beef flavorful, noodles al dente. The broth is hot enough to finish cooking the vegetables just enough so they absorb its flavor and are not overdone.
Delicious, and enough to bring home.
In case you think King Noodle is another pho "soupery," be advised, it is a Chinese noodle house. But Dr. Park, in the interest of global exploration, ordered the Pad Thai. As far as I know, Pad Thai is not a Chinese specialty. Her critique was "Serviceable, especially with extra cilantro. The noodles have a nice hefty quality but beef is not the best choice as a Pad Thai ingredient." I recommend sticking with the traditional Chinese noodle and rice dishes, rather than going "off-road."
As an indulgent accompaniment, we tried the Daikon Peanut Pancake. This is similar to a Chinese Scallion Pancake, but lighter. Of course, since it's fried, it's delicious and the bits of peanut and radish provided a surprise crunch and flavor. The dipping sauce enhanced and added depth to the mouthful. I would definitely order this again, but with several people as it was a generous plateful.
I am compelled, though, to wax ecstatic over the drinks menu. My absolute favorite is #48 - 3 Courses of Bean Drinks: coconut milk, crushed ice, sugar, and bright transparent green bean and fruit jellies, plus little kidney beans... clearly a healthy protein filled vegetable drink. This is my idea of pure bliss. There are numerous other drinks including fresh iced lemonade, juices, coffees, teas, and pearl drinks, sodas, beer, and bottled water.
King Noodle opened a little over five years ago. It is owned and operated by the Tran family, a brother/sister team raised in Viet Nam by Chinese parents. An older brother runs the Santa Clara King Noodle. In Fremont, you can find Harry and Linh in the kitchen, behind the counter and walking the floor. "It is a family business so you have to work harder" said Harry. Their hard work is obvious, and filters down through the rest of the staff.
The oldest member of the staff has been at King Noodle since before the Trans took over the site, and he still looks happy, even washing dishes. The tidy kitchen is long and narrow, with pots of fresh broth and soup base lined up on the big black stove. As orders come in, noodles are freshly cooked in a cauldron of very hot water, then blanched. Steaming chicken broth is ladled over vegetables and tofu or meat, and sprinkles of herbs and nuts grace the top. All the menu's elements are prepped in the morning so you can be sure the ingredients are the best.
Menu items are numbered and so are the tables. When you are finished, just walk up to the front counter, mention your table number, and pay your bill. Look back and you will see the staff clearing and cleaning up your table. The bathroom is modern and serviceable. Tuesday night it was tidy, even at the end of a long day. You get the feeling that the employees and management take pride in King Noodle and want to please their customers. There is always a smile and a greeting from every staff member you encounter. And, the prices are low. It's a good place to bring your family, old and young, or a group of friends. The entire menu can be found on-line (created by Harry), with all its glorious photos. King Noodle gives you a great price for a really good meal - "try it, you'll like it."
Visited April 12 & 14, 2010
39226 Argonaut Way, Fremont
3577 El Camino Real, Santa Clara