I was driving back from a deposition in Newport Beach yesterday, and once I was on the 405, realized it was only the briefest of detours to go to a Taiwanese restaurant off of Jeffrey in Irvine. Beef noodle soup sang out to my soul (or was it Fetus craving something?) and I exited Jeffrey to stop for lunch at A&J Restaurant (半畝園).
I don’t bullshit myself; A&J does not have amazing beef noodle soup and cannot compare to Taiwan, but it absolutely satisfies the craving and it is not possible to eat here and leave unhappy. I have consistently ordered beef noodle soup with the wide noodles, half tendon, half meat every time I come here for the last 19 years, but there are other great things on the menu as well including the green onion pancakes (蔥油餅) and some other carb-loaded fried dough, the name of which I do not know in English (抓餅). One of these days I want to bring husband here for a traditional Taiwanese breakfast/brunch for soy milk soup accompanied with some other fried dough dish (油條). Noodles, fried dough, more fried dough… this is how Asians get the diabeetus.
This place has been around for a long time; it’s been there since probably well before my family moved to Irvine in 1998, and as far as I can tell has employed the exact same personnel since at least then. We used to come here all the time when I was in high school, and it appears that almost 20 years later, with the exception of maybe one extra person, it’s the exact same ladies who seat you and serve you. I don’t know their names, but I know them by face, and I suspect the one random Hispanic lady who’s still there has a decent command of Mandarin by now. I was last here just about a year ago, and one of the waitresses recognized me, commenting that I used to go there all the time with my family. She asked, “Didn’t you used to have a little brother? Where’s he?” I responded that my “little” brother is now 26 and living in New York City, and we laughed about how much time had passed.
After lunch, I spoiled myself some more by walking into Sunmerry bakery for unearned treats (unjust desserts?). Had a pineapple bun and bought two Portuguese style egg tarts for dessert after dinner. I ate the pineapple bun while sitting in traffic on the way back to San Diego and saved the egg tarts for after our carne asado burrito dinner. It was a decadent day, as far as food goes.