As shopping center restaurants go, you never know if you’re stumbling upon your next favorite place or your next biggest regret. Luckily for us, 9 Dragon Noodle House is the gem of Highland Plaza.
Located on Highland Road next to Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, the small, storefront-style restaurant could easily fly under anyone’s radar, but they’d be fools to pass it by. With a seven-page menu and chalkboard of daily specials, the inexpensive food options seem endless.
We dined around 2:30 p.m. on a Friday, and were immediately greeted, and handed menus and a bowl of perfectly salted peanuts. Our waiter Wei Wei was not only very friendly, but knowledgeable of the menu and assisted us in all of our choices.
For starters, we chose spring rolls with duck sauce ($2) and Thai chicken lettuce wraps ($7). The spring rolls were standard, some cooked a bit hard, some tender, but the extremely flavorful duck sauce sealed the deal on their yumminess. The lettuce for the wraps was crisp and the Thai chicken filling held such a good flavor we used forks to munch up the crumbs that would inevitably fall from the lettuce.
A friend also started with ox tail soup ($6). I haven’t eaten beef in two years, but the look on his face as he ate his soup made me want to try it. His immediate response of “this is pretty damn good” almost made me wince at my fish ball soup ($4).
After listening to him rave about his soup’s nice, savory flavor with very tender mushrooms and strong beef broth, it was my turn to give my soup a whirl. Initially, I was a bit concerned about how to eat the fish ball portion. The first bite ejected fluids that shot across the table at my friend, but once I got the hang of it, I was quite pleased. The broth was reminiscent of that used in wonton soup. The balls had a unique flavor and the texture reminded me of a hard boiled egg, only with a fish surprise inside.
For entrees, we both picked off the chalkboard of lunch specials served with fried rice ($6.99). I had sesame chicken and while there wasn’t much impressive about it, the fried rice was actually some of the best I’ve tasted. It was obviously fried in the perfect amount of oil, giving way to one of the only times that my lips didn’t feel as if lip balm had just been smeared all over them after devouring fried rice. The meal was served with one piece of broccoli, cooked but oddly served cold.
My friend obviously had out-picked me again with his choice of Mongolian beef.
“The Mongolian beef is savory, slightly less sweet than others I’ve tasted, but it has a very good taste,” he said. “It’s extremely tender and the salty, tangy marinade taste is most prevalent.”
Stuffed beyond belief at that point in the meal and having already asked for to-go boxes, Wei Wei definitely appeared to be shocked about us asking for dessert.
There isn’t an extensive dessert menu, only different flavors of mochi ice cream ($2), which Wei Wei explained is a Japanese confection made from mochi (pounded sticky rice) with an ice cream filling. We chose to share the red bean flavor, which we immediately regretted having to split, as it proved a quite enjoyable treat.
The meal ended with a fortune cookie advising me to listen to my friends over the next few days.
While the storefront location of the restaurant is a bit off-putting, the wonderful variety of the menu, and overall friendliness and knowledge of the staff makes Dragon Noodle a place I will certainly go for nearly every future Asian food craving I have. The low prices don’t hurt either.