Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle opened in Irvine last year. It’s a chain of restaurants opened by Chef Hung, who apparently has won several awards for his beef noodle soup at the International Beef Noodle Soup Festival held annually in Taiwan.

I was curious about it, yet mediocre reviews kept me away. However, I passed by it about a dozen times as its located in the same plaza as 85C, and every time I passed by I was curious. Finally, on one visit to the OC, I suddenly decided it was time to find out once and for all how it was, even though we technically had just finished dinner.

Inside, the restaurant has a very clean and sleek design. It’s quite spacious and much nicer than most chinese restaurants in the area. There is a display case that shows some of the beef noodle soup offerings.

Even though the restaurant’s signature dishes are the beef noodle soup variations, the menu is actually quite expansive, offering many other Taiwanese favorites like dumplings, side dishes, rice dishes, milk tea, shaved ice, etc.

One thing we immediately noticed was that the beef noodle soup offerings were very similar to the ones offered in the shops in Taiwan. Most of the ones in the US offer three variations: braised beef noodle soup, braised beef tendon noodle soup and clear beef noodle soup. However, in Taiwan, it’s common to find a beef and tripe variation, a tomato broth variation, and a few others. And we saw all of these offered here.

The second thing we immediately noticed was the price. I’ve already complained that the price of beef noodle soup keeps getting higher as it’s become more popular. Most places now charge $8 a bowl. But at Chef Hung, they were charging $10 a bowl, making it the most expensive beef noodle soup I’ve had to date.

DH pointed out that it’s about how much we are charged at ramen shops, which is true. But still. When compared to other beef noodle soup prices, $10 is a little hard to swallow.

Champion Beef Shank Noodle Soup

We decided to stick to the original beef noodle soup. We ordered it with the handmade noodles.

I found the noodles to be quite slippery, making them difficult to eat. I prefer the thicker handmade noodles and these were thin and flat. They used thin slices of fatty beef, along with beef chunks. I didn’t care for the thin slices.

The beef soup had a nice flavor to it. It’s probably the best tasting beef broth out of all the places in the OC area that I’ve tried, but I didn’t think it was so significantly better than some of the other decent ones like A&J, so it wasn’t really worth the extra $2 in my opinion.

Pork Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)

We also wanted to try some other items since we were already here. The XLB were actually pretty good. The skin was quite thin and didn’t break and each one held a lot of soup. Most places make their XLB too thick because they are trying to prevent them from breaking, but the skins here were actually quite thin. This is actually one of the better versions of XLB I’ve had. It’s not quite Din Tai Fung, but it was still pretty good.

I made one other Baileys inspired dessert this week before deciding I needed to save the rest for drinking. I wanted to make some fudgy brownies and decided instead to make blondies.

In my rush to finish baking though, I did make one mistake. I should have baked these in a 9 x 13 pan so that they’d be thin and chewy. Instead I baked them in a smaller pan, causing them to be more cakey than chewy. I still enjoyed the flavor though and I’ve adjusted the recipe below for the thinner version.

The popular Royal India recently opened a second restaurant location in Carmel Valley. We’ve enjoyed the downtown location but are often too lazy to deal with the parking. We were excited by the new opening, especially since we enjoy the lunch buffet.

Unfortunately, the lunch buffet is only served during the weekdays at this new location. We learned this the hard way when we showed up one Saturday to find it closed. On weekends, they are only open for dinner. However, we were fortunate to be invited to come check out dinner.

The menu is the same as the downtown one. It’s in a nice plaza with plenty of parking. The interior has a nice shiny new feel to it, complete with their signature waterfall.

Mixed Tandoori Grill

We’ve tried a lot of the curry dishes here, so I thought I’d mix things up and try some of the tandoori grill items. Since I couldn’t decide on one, I opted for the mixed grill, which gives you a little of everything.

My favorite was the chicken. Chicken usually gets so dry when grilled, but their marinated yogurt chicken was incredibly moist. I found the minced meat to be a little dry though.

Masala with chicken
Spicy curry sauce of onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and spices

Not to be mistaken with the Chicken Tikka Masala which has a sweeter tomato cream base, this is a savory curry, heavy on the onions, garlic and ginger.

Garlic Nan

I adore nan bread and no meal is complete without it for me. Royal India makes some of the best nan I’ve had in San Diego. It has just the right amount of fluffiness and is never burnt. I usually opt for the garlic nan.

Onion Kulcha