Friday, January 13, 2012
A & J Restaurant--Cupertino, CA
For Jenny and me, A & J used to be a favorite spot whenever we were at Cupertino Village, especially when we wanted a hot bowl of noodle soup. Not able to eat there Christmas Day with my in-laws due to the overflowing crowd, we tried again with my dad last week. The best dish of the night came first, which was the smoked chicken appetizer. The intense smoke flavor was terrific; it made me feel like I was at a summer barbecue cook-off.
Tyler loved the noodles in his beef noodle soup, which was our must-have item back when Jenny and I would meet at A & J for lunch. I got the spicy beef noodle soup, which unfortunately wasn't very spicy and there wasn't a lot of beef. Jenny's minced pork noodles, however, came loaded with meat. The noodles were chewy and clearly homemade. However, although the item was listed in the soup column it didn't really come with soup--the liquid was much more like gravy.
As for our sides, onion pancakes were soft and fluffy. The kids couldn't get enough of them. The beans were good, too, and let me believe I was getting my veggies and therefore eating healthily. The disappointment of the night, though, was the xiao long bao. The skin was firm and lacked elasticity, a sure sign it was not made to order but merely heated up. As such, the skin broke easily. It was a bad sign that the froth bubbled up through the top of the dumpling. A close look at the photo shows not only the foam atop one of the dumplings but also broken skin on another. It was especially disappointing because the staff was speaking Shanghainese, getting our hopes up.
Obviously A & J is doing at least some things right. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been in business for so long and they wouldn't have customers lining up outside on holidays. However, overall the visit was a downer. The spicy beef noodle soup used to be invincible but during this last visit the soup was more dull and lukewarm than spicy. Even more unforgivable was the xiao long bao. Oh, my goodness. I commend the server for being able to keep a straight face when delivering that travesty.
A & J Restaurant
10893 N Wolfe Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014