The Mein Man: An “FU” to E-Fu Noodles at 663 Bistro

bistro_663_500Dish: Braised crabmeat and dry scallop yee mein
Place: 663 Bistro, International District, Seattle
Price: $9.95

On the plate: A mound of soft-looking noodles with slices of shiitake mushrooms, small pieces of crab, and even smaller pieces of dried scallops.

Supporting Cast:
Nothing more than what’s on the plate.

What to do: Just eat the noodles, securing whatever bits of extras can in each bite. The soft texture of these noodles makes chopstick use easier than the previous experience.

Noodling around: The taste of dried scallops, which I love (the extra chew brings out the sweetness), pervades the dish. Combined with the crab pieces, this dish is even more seafoodie (if “foodie” is a bad word, then this is even worse!) than the braised seafood yee mein, which came to my table by mistake.

The portion is large, which partially contributed to my ultimate boredom with the dish. The bigger issue: the noodles themselves. At first I was intrigued by how spongy and stretchy they were, but eventually they struck me as bland, and I found myself reaching for the slick, spicy, and toothsome rice noodles my companion was hoarding. (She sampled some of my noodles, then quickly pushed the plate back to me.)

And that’s when it hit me: yee mein must be another name for e-fu noodles. (Turns out they’re also known as yee-fu, yi, and yifu noodles.) These flat Chinese egg noodles (made with wheat flour) come in a round package, as they’re formed into a patty and then fried before packaging. They’re boiled briefly before the braising, which, according to the server, helps take some of the oil away.

I’ve had e-fu noodles in a couple of other preparations and have been unimpressed, thinking they’re the one noodle I don’t especially enjoy. Now I’ll be avoiding them in all their “aliases” until someone can convince me that I’m truly missing out on something.

But at least my timing was right. Many consider yee mein to be “long-life” noodles, and I managed to eat them right at the start of the Chinese new year.

If still hungry: The “deep fried pepper salted chicken wings” ($6.00) have garnered well-deserved respect. They’re nicely seasoned with a bit of bite to them. I liked having the crispy texture and meaty substance as a contrast to the very soft noodles.

Be aware/beware: 663 refers to the address: 663 S. Weller Street. The bistro/restaurant is open until 3am on Friday nights, and 11pm otherwise, so it’s a good find for late-night eats. The menu is extensive, but keep in mind that the portions are large, so order judiciously. Next time, suitable for “The Mein Man,” I might have to try the baked minced pork spaghetti with cheese just to see what that noodle’s all about.

First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on February 8, 2011.

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