“Spicy?” asked the server at 1919 Lanzhou Beef Noodle in Arcadia. It was the final question to my requests for two noodle soups, and the tone in her voice made it more of a statement than an inquiry. I was having my soup spicy, as intended.
First, though, there was the matter of choosing which of the nine variations of lamian — hand-pulled wheat noodles — I wanted. There didn’t seem to be wrong choices in this category. Options ranged from angel hair to regular, thick, flat, prisma (a twisted variety) and wide. Regular for the soup with sliced beef shank, please, and wide for the soup with melting hunks of braised beef shoulder and greens.
Beef noodle soup is a ubiquitous breakfast dish in Lanzhou, capital of the central Gansu province. Its position along the Yellow River made it a vital center on the Silk Road trade routes, which likely accounts for the far-flung mix of spices in the clear broth: Sichuan peppercorns fire up with cloves, cinnamon, star anise, ginger and white pepper. The chile oil my server rightly urged cast a scarlet sheen over the soup’s surface.
I watched the cook quickly stretch the dough for my noodles behind glass; my meal was in front of me less than five minutes later. The regular-width noodles had textbook bounciness. Their wider counterparts were frillier and toothier, and, though they’re less orthodox, I preferred them.
1919 Lanzhou Beef Noodle opened last fall; for comparison try Lan Noodle, also new and a mile away. I showed up at 1919 Lanzhou at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, and it was empty. I worried for the place as I sat waiting for soup. As soon as the clock hit noon, though, the place filled so quickly and completely that one woman nodded at the empty seat at my table; I gestured for her to please join me. The server began to jog through the small room. I was glad I’d arrived at a moment when she could offer me some welcome guidance.
148 E. Duarte Road, Arcadia, (626) 447-8686.
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.