Since I’ve been here in San Francisco I’ve only eaten beef noodle soup once at a restaurant in Chinatown, and it was absolutely nasty and tasteless! Since then I’ve stuck mostly to chow fun since that dish seems slightly harder to get horribly wrong.
Anyway, my friend Emily — who I met and became good friends with while studying in Taipei — came to visit me from the Philippines today! While we were in Taipei we’d eat lunch together practically every day and almost every single time we’d end up going to the same beef noodle soup booth near school. So naturally I decided that we had to have beef noodle soup for lunch. After spending some time searching on google (I typed in “Taiwanese beef noodle soup San Francisco”) and reading various reviews, I settled on “Tea Garden” in downtown San Francisco.
Tea Garden is a small shop on the corner of 1st and Mission that at first glance seems to be just one of those milk tea drink places “to go” with a few pastries and no real seating — just a small counter with a few stools against the wall and a single small folding table that basically takes up half of the customer area. However they do have a small menu of cooked dishes: some combination of either soup noodles and meat, or rice and meat. Anyway I was there for only one thing and so I went right for item #1, the beef noodle soup (“niu rou mian” in Mandarin) for $6.50. After a short wait it was ready and I went right to eating!
I can’t say that the noodles were anything special (somewhat thinner than spaghetti noodles, though not bad at all)… but the broth was very tasty and exactly what I’d expected! The broth wasn’t spicy at all, which is probably a better decision on Tea Garden’s part since there were no options and not everyone likes their soup spicy (and you can always add your own hot chili sauce, which I did). The beef pieces were also good… really soft. The portion was fairly generous and definitely enough for me!
Although I wish they offered some options in terms of soup spiciness and noodle choice, overall I was happy and satisfied with Tea Garden’s beef noodle soup! I’ll definitely be going back for more.