Causing a fuss on Weibo after having been recently recommended by local celebrities, Sanlitun Soho's Longxiaobao has, at its height, allegedly had lines of over 200 people in front of it since its opening.
With a mere 55 seats spread across two floors, the restaurant looks more like a museum than a noodle shop. Iron noodles and lightbulbs hang over the racks on the ceiling creating a dreamy atmosphere. We only waited 10 minutes to get in during the lunch peak, so the fame might be wearing off slowly. Similarly to Taoyuan Village in the north of Sanlitun Soho and my recent trip to this food festival, I started to think, “do people really just like lining up, no matter what?” Of course, as with everyone else, we had to to see whether the noodles lived up to the hype to know for sure.
There are eight noodle soups and three dry noodles (RMB 19-39) on the menu. After you choose your noodles, you have the option to add beef, dumplings, ribs, or sausage, and decide how spicy you want the broth to be. As for snacks, you can order the brown sugar sticky rice cake (RMB 5) or some chicken feet (RMB 15) on the side.
We ordered the recommended beef noodles (RMB 35) and asked for a little less chili oil. Surprisingly, even though every single seat was taken up in the restaurant, the food was served within 5 minutes, leaving you wondering whether they have a chef or a magician in the kitchen. Digging in, we felt the thick sliced beef was not bad but the rice noodles were no different from the version you might find in any old dirty Guilin rice noodle joint. However, RMB 35 for a bowl of noodles around Sanlitun doesn’t warrant any complaint, no matter how boring the eventual taste.
The brown sugar sticky rice cake was average, too, made of sticky rice, obviously, deep-fried dough and a spoon of melted brown sugar on top. Without stuffing and served cold, I didn't really understand why this dish came recommended.
The canteen-style restaurant is cozy for the people who are dining alone, especially the line of tables facing the wall. The music and atmosphere are nice, and decoration is pleasant; in fact, it almost feels like dining at Eslite Bookstore in Taipei, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, or even at Muji Cafe in Hong Kong. But really, why would you want to if the noodles are nothing special? In the case if Longxiaobao, we realized that people may be lining for the noodles above their heads rather the servings in their bowls.
Daily 10.30am-10pm. Bldg 1-122, Sanlitun Soho, Chaoyang District (5785 3096)
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Photos: Longxiaobao, Tracy Wang
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