“We’ll take you to our favorite Chinese spot,” a couple of friends told me, “but only if you won’t write about it.”
“Let’s go!” I said, careful not to make any promises. I’ve only experienced a handful of Chinese restaurants in San Diego that I’ve wanted to write about, and several of those aren’t even open any more. If this place was as great as they said, of course I would take pictures and share it here. I’m not worried though, these two aren’t big readers, so they’ll never catch on.
4646 Convoy St, Kearny Mesa
I do understand their concern, though. Not a very large restaurant, Tasty Noodle House draws a sizeable dinner crowd, so its waiting list for tables runs long, especially on weekends. Making any visit more frustrating is the cramped and crowded parking lot the place shares with its popular neighbors. A constant stream of cars flows into this Convoy Street shopping center, home to the ramen of RakiRaki, the sushi hand rolls of J/Wata, the soft tofu stew of Tofu House, and the curated craft beer tap list of Obrien’s Pub. With so much happening in one little strip, the aggressive jostling for parking spaces that ensues creates a logjam miserable enough to make Kafka shudder.
But these friends of mine routinely brave the crowds for the Tasty noodles, dumplings, sautéed vegetables, and dozens of other beef, pork, fish, and vegetarian options. We dove right in to Shanghai-style dumplings, including a pork and crab xiao long bao ($11 for eight) and grilled pork bun ($10.50 for eight). Though not as delicately wrapped as the ballyhooed bao of Din Tai Fung, the soup dumplings definitely scratch the same xiao long itch, with a savory-spiced meatball within and broth delivering flavor to every forgotten corner of your mouth. The grilled pork buns fared well too, likewise twisted at the top and caramelized with sesame seeds at the bottom. My friends order them every time.
Obviously, the noodles deserve a look, and alongside all our pork dumplings, a shared mixed vegetables chow mein ($11) satisfied without any meat. But on a return visit I had to try the ginger scallion beef noodle dish ($9.50). Though not as exciting as hand pulled, these thick al dente noodles are easy to like, and more so with strips of beef and coated with the savory oils of this ginger sauce. If you ever want help understanding the connection between Chinese and Italian pastas, dig into this Far East analogue to spaghetti with meat balls.
The restaurant itself wasn’t as busy around lunchtime, but the parking lot still was. I decided to avoid it altogether. Life on this stretch of Convoy gets a lot less stressful if you just look for street parking a couple blocks away and walk to the Chinese restaurant its customers don’t want you to know about.