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A month or so ago I was browsing in the Asian Midway Market when I saw beauteous things for sale. Duck wings, roast duck, Shanghai Kao-Fu, etc. I was super excited and found out that the place that made these delicious items was Noodle Express, and vowed to go there soon.

The first attempt was not so successful, they hadn’t ironed out the kinks in the operation yet. We went for dinner but they were doing a buffet, even though the website said that they only did lunch buffets, not dinner buffets. When we asked if we could order a la carte, we were informed that the kitchen was overwhelmed and it would be a much better idea not to. So we left.The place was packed with Chinese people though, so that boded well.

All in all their website is a terrible source of information. The hours don’t seem to be accurate. The website and the sign on their door say that they are open for lunch, but the place was utterly empty when I arrived for my take-out order. The Chinese menu said that they have only dinner buffets every day, and Chinese-style brunch buffets (a.k.a zao cha, “morning tea”) on the weekends. The websites says they have lunch buffets, and never mentions dinner buffets.

They have an unreasonably large menu with so many different styles of Chinese food (northern, Shanghainese, Sichuan, dim sum, hot pot) that … I almost want to call their bluff and order something completely obscure so I can see their look of “Damn, didn’t think anyone would actually order that, how is that cooked again?” It turns out that I didn’t have to try very hard though. Since the website only has a copy of their Americanized menu on it, I ordered off of that menu. The first thing the proprietor said when she saw me was, “How come you didn’t order off the Chinese menu?” Um. Because it was not on the website. So I ordered a lunch special of chicken in garlic sauce, and Mock Duck.

The fact that they had mock duck on their menu was the main reason I wanted to try them. But it was beyond disappointing. Instead of mock duck, I just got beancurd. Which is not mock duck. And it didn’t taste that good, it kind of tasted like ketchup was an ingredient. The chicken in garlic sauce was also a bad rendition of that dish. I have to go back at least once and order off the Chinese menu though, if only because the proprietor lady was super nice to me. She kept offering me things for free, and I kept refusing them. But when she shouted at me “Hey, we just finished roasting some ducks, you want some?” I had to buy half a duck. I just had to. In the end I walked out the door with about five more pounds of food than I needed, including some free kimchi (oh yeah, in addition to doing every imaginable type of Chinese food, they also do vietnamese pho and korean cold noodles and accompanying dishes) she gave me without my consent.

I’m not going to lie, the free stuff and the discount I tried to refuse were undoubtedly because I’m Chinese. But she was still nice.

The duck was Beijing-style. This means that the emphasis is placed on perfectly crisped skin, which is meant to shaved off the body in paper thin slices and sandwiched in a crepe with green onions and hoisin sauce. Just like most Beijing-style food, I never liked it as much as southern food. When eating Beijing-style duck I always use the pieces of meat instead of the paper thin pieces of skin in my crepe, and ask for Cantonese style duck sauce in addition to hoisin. However, it was a surprisingly well executed Beijing-style duck. That said, I’d still rather go to Wah Kee Noodles and have their Cantonese style duck, which, while the skin is not crisped at all, is just plain tastier due to the application of, well, SEASONING.

But, damn, those things on the Chinese menu sound good. I’ll have to give them another chance.