14805 Jeffrey Road #D
Irvine, CA 92618
After my delicious Dim Sum adventure at Sea Harbour, I ventured down to Irvine where I went to college and my brother currently lives and work. There is plenty that I miss about Orange County, including the number of delicious Asian food establishments (which was supposed to be the original intent of the blog). For dinner, I decided to take my brother and sister to one of my old favorites in Irvine, A&J.
Despite the numerous Taiwanese restaurants around the Walnut and Jeffrey intersection in Irvine, parking is always difficult and there is almost always a line at A&J. Fortunately, I found parking near the end of the lot and got a table of three with just a 10 minute wait. We sat down and I promptly started marking the menu sheet of items. My brother mainly wanted noodles, so I decided to get a couple noodle dishes (beef noodle soup, noodle soup with pork and preserved vegetables), some small plates (scallion pancakes and wontons in hot chili oil), as well as a bowl of marinated minced pork and tea smoked egg on rice.
The food came out at a decent pace, with the scallion pancakes and rice bowl coming out first. All of us loved the scallion pancakes, but only I ate the rice bowl as my brother complained that the marinated pork didn’t look appetizing compared to the same dish at Guppy’s. Regardless of the look, the rice bowl was good, even if it lacked some of the refined flavor and texture across the street at Liang’s Kitchen or Yu’s Garden. The noodle soup bowls came next and, as usual, the beef noodle soup was a definite winner. The pork and preserved vegetable noodle soup was good too, but it’s lighter flavors and textures could not compare to the bold richness of the beef noodle soup. The wontons were a hit as well, with the hot chili oil matching perfectly with the beef filled wontons.
While the food was great, the service was lacking. This A&J typically only has 2 servers, and with such a constant demand and flow it is hard for them to do everything well and to focus on the customer experience. It took us flagging down a server twice before she gave us cups of ice water and it took forever til either the teapot or cups of water were refilled. The service here is noticeably worse than there locations in Annandale, VA and Rockville, MD which consistently have at least 3 servers who are very courteous.
However, it’s really hard to complain when you can feed 3 young people 5 dishes within $32, tax and tip included. Of course, it’s a cash only establishment, which means you should go to the ATM beforehand. I personally prefer the Rockville branch, but the Irvine location holds its own against fierce competition across the street.