Guilin is a city in China’s southern Guangxi province that’s most famous for its scenery: Arrowhead-shaped mountains jut from the land among lakes and snaking rivers. The city is also known for its rice noodles — an extension of the rice terraces that are integral to the landscape and local culture.
Zhou’s Guilin Rice Noodle in Monterey Park joins a few SGV-area restaurants focused on Guilin-style noodles. At Zhou’s they come dry or in soup, with garnishes of red chile and pickled green beans. The biggest decision is the toppings: sliced beef, pork belly, hog maw, pork liver, fried egg and tofu skin among them. Our server nudged us to start basic: Combination No. 1 (beef and crispy pork, which is skin fried to the texture of croutons) for dry noodles and the No. 7, with roasted beef, for soup.
If you’re at all curious about China’s regional noodle variations, Zhou’s will be a gratifying addition to your SGV dining itineraries. The light broth in the soup tingles gently with spice — pho’s more retiring cousin. A small bowl of broth comes alongside the dry noodles; if you dine solo I’d probably start with Combo No. 1 to most directly experience the chewy-soft, medium-thick strands. I ordered a side of pork belly to add at will, and its richness was a welcome presence.
Small side salads round out the menu. Before delivering them to us, we could see our server hack garlicky cucumbers in the kitchen through the dining room door.
Wall murals and grainy woods decorate the small, modern space. At a recent lunch the smattering of customers sat absorbed in rice noodle bowls, occasionally glancing up to watch the mounted television. It was tuned to a Chinese-language station; the segment was about the construction of face masks and how to properly wear one.
206 S. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park.
This mini-review was originally published in an issue of the Tasting Notes newsletter, written by Times restaurant critics Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega. Subscribe to the free newsletter here.