Donuts and fried chicken are common American add-ons in small-town Chinese dives. Pizza, burgers, or Mexican food sneak their way onto menus, too. The oddest combination we’ve seen is American-Chinese fare served next to hof brau tavern cuisine.
Noah’s Hof Brau serves the sort of carvery dishes found in such vintage American cafeterias as Tommy’s Joynt in San Francisco and Philippe’s in Los Angeles. Carved to order ham, turkey, and roast beef are presented on jus-soaked French rolls or on plates with bland gravy, doughy mashed potatoes, and canned green beans. Honoring tradition, Noah’s keeps the old flame lit for such lovably regressive cafeteria food; but today the really good eats come from the hands of the Chinese proprietors who have kept Noah’s Hof Brau alive.
Chinese BBQ pork is superb — the core of all the best dishes. Cleaved to order from whole tenderloins, it is pink throughout, leaps ahead of that grey meat with a red ring you’ll see on lesser BBQ pork. The restaurant’s hof brau sandwich is made with this pork, a curious fusion in which the char-siu pork subs for beef on a French dip sandwich. To celebrate the bizarre culture clash, we recommend plenty of Chinese hot mustard.
We sought Noah’s just for the oddity of a small-town Chinese hof brau, but we were smitten with the quality of its Chinese-American food. The cafeteria line boasts tasty fried rice and chow mein, both improved by the good BBQ pork. These starchy classics form the base for some towering combination plates. #13 piles sweet and sour pork with golden fried shrimp atop rice and noodles. The pork is very crisp and freshly fried with melted streaks of pork fat in some of the cubes. Its bright red, sweet and sour sauce is ladled on right before it is served in the cafeteria line, thus insuring pork that stays crisp. It’s perhaps the best version of this dish we’ve tasted. Shrimp are good, too: pump inside with a soft batter, but not overly doughy. #27 offers a heap of the excellent BBQ pork with crisp orange chicken that is well fried and sauced to order like the sweet and sour pork. The sweet orange sauce is sweeter, and with more actual orange flavor than most we’ve had.
Maybe the best thing is wonton soup with BBQ pork. The broth tastes more like Hong Kong than a corner take-out joint. Boiled cabbage gives it sharp aroma. The already tender pork gets even juicier in the broth, and the wontons are plump, flavorful, and not at all waterlogged. One order is sharable among at least four people.