I am on a quest. I am determined to find the best beef noodle soup in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I will eat a hundred bowls of noodles if I must!
Beef Noodle Soup, (niu rou mian in Mandarin), is a traditional Taiwanese dish. It’s my comfort food, and it’s one of my favorite meals that my mom would frequently make while I was growing up. Of course I will always love my mom’s rendition, but barring that, I’ve been searching for a suitable replacement out here in Northern California.
The first stop on my quest: Izzo Restaurant in San Jose. I picked it purely because it’s a highly-rated restaurant on Yelp, but I wasn’t sure if there would be anything special about its beef noodle soup. Yelp lists the restaurant as Taiwanese fusion, but I’d say it’s just modern-day Taiwanese. I kicked it off with a mango iced tea (delicious).
The decor is contemporary, and the space bigger and cleaner than your average Asian food joint. The staff is warm, helpful, and eager to make recommendations. We went with all of her top choices, including this passion fruit fried rice. Interesting in theory, but the passion fruit flavoring is all syrup, so it’s got the right idea with a sweet-and-savory, but not as great as a mango fried rice with actual mangoes, for instance.
The pork belly quesadillas are all the rage at Izzo. They are definitely decadent and delicious, and an inventive “fusion” take on the traditional Taiwanese onion pancakes.
The chicken wings had great flavor and were a solid choice.
And the main event: The beef noodle soup. First of all, this is a huge asymmetrical bowl, which is a cool modern touch. I was only mildly afraid the soup was going to run out of the low side of the bowl. Upon first glance, everything looked perfect for what I expect in a beef noodle soup. nice chunks of meat, baby bok choi, some green onions, a nice deep-colored broth, and traditional noodles.
The big three elements of any beef noodle soup are the beef, the noodles, and the broth.
The beef was nice and tender with good flavor and a little bit of the fatty parts thrown in. The noodles were great– perfectly cooked, and not too soft. I definitely prefer these noodles over the spaghetti type. And finally, the broth was complex, filled with the flavor of meat and spices and not just a bowl of sodium. There was just a slight kick (it’s listed as spicy beef noodle soup on the menu), but it didn’t hide behind spice. This is the kind of broth that I can drink to the end!
So the verdict? 4.5/5!
I actually couldn’t believe we got such a great bowl of beef noodle soup on the first try.
Here are my dining companions, Dan and Rebecca. Thanks for coming along on my quest!
The Quest for the Beef Noodle Soup in the Bay Area!
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often jetsetting and eating her way around the world. Read more on her blog or follow her on facebook for more photography and travel adventures.