Take out: yes
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating: no
Food Quality: 4 out of 5
Decor: 3 out of 5
Service: 3 out of 5
Overall: 3.3 out of 5
Recommendation: A bowl of no nonsense beef noodles.
Meandering around the streets and alleyways of Gong Guan, I stumbled upon the Lao Dong Beef Noodle shop right next to the (Gong Guan MRT Exit 4) Starbucks. Beef noodle soup has been a long-time interest of mine, and I have been trying different restaurants for a while now. This chain store has its humble beginnings as a noodle cart operated by a Shanghainese migrant from the mainland. It has a history of around 60 years. In 2006, they won an award for their Consommé Beef Noodle Soup, and in 2010 Lao Dong Beef Noodle was showcased at the Shanghai Expo in the Taiwanese Cuisine Exhibit. Although the store is named Lao Dong Beef Noodle, they offer a wide variety of foods such as dumplings, beef wraps, Chinese tamales, and meat pies. The prices range from 100-240, so you can expect to pay around 150 per person. The beef noodle soup was not particularly impressive, but it is a solid bowl of beef noodle soup with firm noodles, lightly flavored broth, and tender braised beef chunks. This is potentially my "go-to" beef noodle shop in Gong Guan.
This is half of the menu items shown at the storefront. I didn't feel like barraging the store with pictures, since I'm still trying to get over the little self-consciousness when I point and click in public. Anyway, I have tried the 140 NT braised beef noodle soup and the 150 NT Tomato beef noodle soup. I have yet to muster the bravery to attempt the Curry beef noodle soup, since that sounds really repulsive to my tongue.
The service was not so good because they may be either understaffed or the workers do not have an efficient handle on customer flow management. The host's attention was divided between servicing take out orders outside, and ringing up dine-in customers. Thus, I had to seat myself and wait a moment before the host rushed back to ring up my bill. I also had to flag down my server to order instead of being asked. Besides these little annoyances, their service was polite and punctual, so they deserve a 3 out of 5 for providing quintessential Taiwanese service.
The braised beef noodle soup presented is very simple. It has 4 simple elements: stock, meat, noodles, and garnish. Unlike other beef noodle shops, Lao Dong requires you to pay an extra 40NT for vegetables. That fact did not affect my rating of the noodle soup. The stock was on the lighter side of braised beef stock. They probably did not add too much soy sauce,oil, or peppers, which is a refreshing touch as each slurp did not taste too salty or overwhelmingly oily. The chunks of beef were tender and infused with the gravy it was braised in. The noodles were amazingly firm yet chewable. They snap easily with each bite, which is a common characteristic of noodles with a high Q factor. The noodles were seasoned or cooked with the broth long enough to carry on the flavor of the beef noodle soup with each strand. I rarely finish a whole bowl of beef noodle soup. Usually, it's because they provided too many chunks of beef and I just got sick of eating beef chunks. However, this restaurant provided the right amount of high quality beef chunks so that I did not get sick of it by the end of the meal. Also, I do not usually drink the rest of the soup, but I made an exception to this bowl because the broth was refreshing and flavorful. Lao Dong Beef Noodle Soup found a good balance between quality ingredients and reasonable quantity, and serve each bowl with that formula. Try to stay away form the tomato beef noodle soup though, because they used green tomatoes in my bowl. The soup became too acidic without the pleasant flavor of a fresh ripe tomato. Despite that mishap, they deserve a 4 out of 5 in food quality.