I push through the restaurant door seeking noodle nirvana, but what I get is so much more. It is late afternoon – too late for the lunch crowd and too early for the dinner crowd – so the restaurant is empty, except for the three faces at a table looking up at me. As I stroll toward the counter, a woman, probably in her 50s, maybe early 60s, jumps out of her seat to join me, leaving her laptop computer, Chinese language newspapers and two male cohorts behind.
I pick up a menu, but the woman bats it away. “I’ve got a Chinese menu for you,” she says. I tell her I can’t read Chinese, but she says it’s got English, too. So I scan the menu and see what I’ve been lusting after: wonton noodle soup. Cool. Since moving to Arizona nearly five years ago, I’ve been seeking a Chinese restaurant with good noodles. But every time I’ve ordered it, I’ve been disappointed. The broth is either bland, or the noodles lacked the right flavor. Back home, the best Chinese restaurants are grungy hole-in-the-walls, and this one has the look and feel. “I’m from San Francisco,” I tell the woman. “And I miss eating good wonton mein.” She replies: “If you’re from San Francisco, you’ll love our food.”
She’s spunky, full of energy. I like her. And I want to believe her. So I order two bowls of wonton noodle soup, and one order of crispy chow mein and some jook for good measure. “Are you going to be able to eat all this?” Yup, I say. Do you want that crispy bread to go with the jook? Yes. Do you want this order to go? Yes. One of the men, wearing an apron, hurries into the kitchen to prepare my meals. After paying, I turn to join Miiko, who is parked at a corner table, when the woman says, “You should eat the wonton noodle soup here.” It wasn’t a question. It was practically a demand. A bit bizarre. I look at Miiko. She looks at me. Moment of truth… and I say OK.Read More