Westsiders live everyday with the sad truth that there's an inverse relationship between proximity and good Chinese food. You can imagine the collective jubilation then, when master beef rollers 101 Noodle Express opened up a miniaturized branch at the Westfield Culver City mall.
Open since July 9th, 101 Noodle Express has plans to slowly expand their menu's offerings, beginning first with noodle dishes and their famous beef roll, a thin and crispy pancake wrapped around herbs, braised beef and sweet bean paste. A dish Jonathan Gold praises annually in his 99 Essential Restaurants, both for its physical heft and its delicacy in flavor. How much of the menu has translated to the Westside?
Thus far, not much. The manager, James, who makes a point of saying hello to those who mention visiting the other locations, explained that he's slowly training a new staff to cook one menu segment each week. So when we asked for dumplings, then for rice dishes, then salad, then even a turkey roll -- a new variation on the beef roll -- we were politely denied. When we visited, the "Any Side Dish" just meant french fries. If you don't remember those in Arcadia, neither do we.
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But along with a new corporate-friendly logo and modern storefront came free samples of minced pork noodles and the beef roll, offered to a fedora and cropped jean jacket-wearing clientele who probably hadn't spent hours in traffic for visits to the original locations.
Hopefully jars of the cilantro chile relish, which we guiltily admit to applying to entire dishes at a 1:1 meat to condiment ratio, will make its way to Culver City eventually, and at some point in the future everything on the menu will be available to order. For now, Westsiders now have a new hope that the beginnings of Chinese food equality might just be on the horizon.