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A&J restaurant is the kind of place where you constantly entangle chopsticks with your fellow diner in quest of what's on their plate. The flagship Irvine location is no frills, with the only décor being Maneki-nekos and framed calligraphy on pink walls. It doesn't matter: the food is cheap, hearty and shareable.
The menu offers a number of noodle soups and entrees, but for variety's sake, go for A&J's small plates and order: the pan-fried beef bun, the cucumber salad in hot garlic sauce, the boiled peanuts with special seasoning, and pan-fried pork dumplings to split. With juices and oil spilling out, the pan-fried beef bun is crispy, doughy and garlicky. The pork dumplings are similar, but softer and chewier due to their wonton skin exterior. Dip the fried items in soy sauce, and it's salty, fried comfort food heaven.
The cucumber salad is essential to break the monotony of fried dough; cut into lengths with slivers of garlic and chili, it's lightly pickled, slightly sweet, and burns the throat in a good way.
The most surprising of the bunch is the boiled peanuts: their pungent saltiness and bean-like texture is a palate shocker, but you'll find yourself going back for more of that nutty savor.
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