Noodle Loft is one of those talked-about restaurants in Beijing. It's posh, it has good food, and best of all, it has theatrics. I had seen a clip of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations segment on Noodle Loft, in which an army of chefs worked their magic turning lumps of dough into beautiful Shanxi-style noodles. I had been meaning to try the restaurant for a while, but the original Noodle Loft in CBD always seemed far away when I had noodle cravings. Fortunately I discovered that the newer branch is at Hepingxiqiao, 1 subway stop from my apartment.
Given that we got to the restaurant after prime dinner time, there was much less fury of noodle-making activity than Anthony saw. Still, chefs in the open kitchen were still working their magic by stretching, shaping, swinging, and shaving noodles into vats of boiling water.
To start, we got a cold dish of spinach and thick vermicelli in vinegar and some stir-fried greens. For the noodles, I ordered the knife-cut version that is prepared pretty much like in this hutong noodle video, except in a snazzy open kitchen by a tall guy in starchy chef's whites. The texture of the noodles was equally thick, chewy, and delectable. Other noodle options included "cat's ears" gnocchi-type noodles, hand-pulled noodles, and "noodles made with one single chopstick."
After getting our hot noodles brought by the chefs themselves, we went to the dressing bar and loaded up on different condiments. I tried the aged vinegar and the stir-fried pork sauce; both were very good, though I prefered the smokey crispiness of the latter. Jacob tried the tomato and fried egg (rather bland) and the garlic broth (okay, except that a chef put out a fresh hot bowl right after J spooned the older broth over his noodles.)
I also had a drink that I now want to try making at home: hot pear cider with fresh pears cubes and tremella. Tremella, otherwise known as snow fungus, is often used in Chinese soups. And unlike mushrooms, another type of fungus, tremella's subtle sweet flavor makes it good for drinks. So even though I won't be able to swing or shave my own noodles at home, a skill that takes years to learn well, I am now inspired to experiment with various ingredients that can go into pear cider.
20 Xi Dawang Lu
CBD, Chaoyang District, Beijing
3 Heping Xijie (THIS LOCATION NOW CLOSED, ACCORDING TO A COMMENTER)
Chaoyang District, Beijing