You’ll notice even from a distance that Wei Shian Noodles stands out of its neighbors in the predominantly Asian shopping center anchored by 99 Ranch Market, at Jeffrey and Walnut in Irvine. Most of the center’s tenants are restaurants, and to call the majority of them no-frills would be an understatement. This just helps distinguish Wei Shian, whose interior softly glows with the light of crystal chandeliers. Everyone inside is dressed just a little fancier, too. But not too fancy. It’s all relative.
A quick scan of the shopping center reveals a restaurant a few doors away that similarly demands attention: Chong Qing Mei Wei, a tiny Sichuan restaurant that opened several years ago. It, too, radiates with the soft sparkle of chandeliers while all the neighbors are awash in blinding fluorescent. Not surprisingly, the two are owned by the same family.
The menu isn’t particularly intuitive. Not everything listed under the heading “soup noodles” is actually soup noodles, for example. But some are, like the wonderful pork-filled wonton dumplings in a spicy red chili broth. However, there’s so much chili oil in the broth, it’s hard to imagine actually eating it like soup. But as a sauce for the dumplings, it makes perfect sense, and while you probably won’t want to slurp up all the broth, you certainly won’t have any wontons left over.
About halfway down the long roster of “soup noodles,” you’ll notice the dandan noodles, which definitely are not soup. But never mind that. These are probably the best dandan noodles available in Orange County. Dandan are a specialty of Sichuan, and mostly what passes for dandan in California is the tamer Cantonese interpretation, whose sauce is made of peanuts or sesame paste — or worse, peanut butter. But this is the real deal, Sichuan style. The sauce is bright red, slicked with a generous dose of chili oil and an electrical shock of Sichuan peppercorns. Your tongue will go numb. You’ll want to have a glass of ice water handy, because drinking hot tea will only make it worse.
As good as the noodles are, however, my favorite thing on the menu here does not involve noodles. It’s the “cold sliced spicy pork.” It’s not a very sexy name, but trust me when I say this is a truly incredible dish. The chilled, slow-roasted pork but is heaped into a pile and doused with a sauce of roasted garlic and sweet soy along with a handful of dried red chilies. I liked this dish so much I returned the very next day to eat it again, and when I got there, I noticed two other customers from the previous day who had done the same thing, only they had returned for the cold chicken, which I have yet to try.
WEI SHIAN NOODLES
Where: 5408 Walnut Ave., Irvine
When: Daily, lunch and dinner
This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register. To view more of my work for the Register, check out the archives. I also invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.