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Sometimes a Restaurant Rater comes along who exudes authority. Veteran Rater mcclive is such a person, particularly when it comes to Asian cuisines. When mcclive speaks, you should listen.
Check out his take on Bob’s Noodle 66 in Rockville:
Whether you’re used to Americanized Chinese menus or to more authentic dishes, you still may need to retool for Bob’s Noodles. This is Taiwanese food seemingly drawn straight from Taipei’s famous Shilin night market, where food booths offer small dishes often called xiaochi (“small eats” more or less). People go there for particular favorites, not high dining, and it channels a sense of place better than any area Chinese eatery, since so many of its offerings mirror Shilin. Plus it’s noisy (boisterous, even), crowded, casual, quick, cheap, cash only, and fixated just on the food. Two canonical xiaochi choices are the oyster pancake and the stinky tofu. The pancake is made from sweet potato starch with eggs, cooked with lettuce and oysters and covered with a tomato-based slightly sour sauce. The tofu (diplomatically “crispy smelled bean curd” here) is deep-fried and served simply with cabbage. They are both like Taipei’s versions, though the fermented tofu smells stronger here. It’s one hell of an acquired taste, here or there. I finally liked it on my fourth try. No other dish will better mark you as an insider. The oyster vermicelli is another insider choice. It’s a soup, highly and deliberately cornstarch-thickened to produce an unusually dense mouth-feel, almost gelatinous, to pair with the thinness of the noodles. Another item with a cult following is the Taiwanese hamburger, a small thick version made with peanut power. Taiwanese food is not spicy and you shouldn’t expect Bob’s to do that well. Ordering “Szechuan shrimp on rice” gets you a mild white sauce, not fiery heat, and a “seafood combo hot spicy soup” is more Korean style, with ground red pepper in the broth. Then again, the hot and sour soup (enough for two) is really hot and sour. The soups are often not merely starters (split them). Some are a bit bland, just vehicles for their ingredients. The truest to street food is the Taiwanese wonton soup; the authentic pork-filled wontons are smaller, with thin, almost see-through skins, the way they should be. A good entrée-style dish is the ginger chicken casserole, called “three cup chicken” in Chinese. Traditionally made with a (smaller) cup each of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil, it’s complimented here by Taiwanese basil and lots of ginger. For dessert, Bob offers another Taiwanese standard, shaved ice covered with condensed milk and your choice of toppings such as grass jelly or various fruits. Some love it, but I think it’s only good when it’s 90 and you’re eating outside. And you’re in Taipei.
Do you have a different take on Bob’s Noodle 66? Then let us know what you think!