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  1. I've been meaning to try 101 Noodle Express for a while, since it specializes in some of my favorites items in Chinese cuisine - noodles and dumplings. I had passed it over in favor of trying other places because the flagship item, the Shangdong-style beef roll, isn't my favorite. BIG MISTAKE. Turns out I didn't like them as much at other places simply because they weren't as good. Here, they are the highest expression of the snack, consistent and omnipresent at every table for a reason. The crepe-like bing is thin, flaky, and rich, but not oily. The beef is high-quality and sliced uniformly thin. There is just enough cilantro, scallions, and salty-sweet bean sauce to bring balanced flavors and textures. In case you aren't familiar with the beef roll (I think A&J recently put a version on the menu, but I never tasted it there), here's a nice description. The balance and uniform thinness of the layers, as well as tight wrapping, is key. We ate most of our roll at lunch and promptly ordered another to go (they travel really well!). We also got some dan dan noodles, which had a tiny kick but weren't particularly spicy (which we were expecting, since this is decidedly not a Szechuan place) and the hand-torn noodles were pleasingly chewy. We didn't have room for dumplings, but the many plates of pan-fried dumplings we saw scattered about the room were plump and had golden, crunchy-looking bottoms. We were at the Alhambra location, which is a casual strip-mall spot serving budget-friendly, simple, snacky food until late night (1 AM). They have a few other locations in Arcadia, Culver City, and Irvine. I learned one thing about their operations from their website that I find very promising for visiting other locations: 101 Noodle Express boasts a central, factory-like kitchen to secure quality control of its franchises.
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