A few years ago, there was a noticeable upswing in ramen activity. We saw not one, not two, but three ramen-yas opening in Irvine (Ajisen, Mizuki and Shizuma), all within the span of two years.
Now it seems we are in the midst of another noodle-soup arms race in Irvine. This time, it looks like the warhead of choice is niu rou mian. Better known to most as beef noodle soup, this is a dish that features a spicy/tangy anise-imbued broth that's dark as tea, supple hunks of beef stewed till falling apart, and, of course, oodles of noodles.
The dish and its many interpretations is virtually the calling card of all of Irvine's notable restaurants: Asian Tapas, Tri-Village, Chef Chen, and A&J, among others, serve it. The newish Liang's Kitchen makes its name on it.
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Now, there's going to be one more contender, which might just slap down the heaviest gauntlet of all. Planned for a June 2011 opening, Chef Hung, a franchise branch of the restaurant that purportedly won numerous back-to-back awards at the Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival, will open within steps of 85 Degrees C Bakery at Diamond Jamboree. A sister store will also open in Beijing around the same time.
Construction has barely started on the eatery, but a menu is already up on its website. May the niu rou mian proliferation continue!