Mr. J Hand-Pulled Noodle

A month or two back, I found myself in Ocoee, an area of West Orlando I never end up in, so I invited a work colleague who lives out there to meet me for lunch at Mr. J Hand-Pulled Noodle (  I had heard lots of praise about the new Chinese restaurant, one of the only ones in Florida to offer Lanzhou-style hand-pulled noodles called lamien, served in halal Chinese Muslim beef noodle soup.  I was excited to try it, and so was my foodie friend.

Mr. J (which I can only hear in Arleen Sorkin’s New Jersey-inflected Harley Quinn voice) opened next to a Publix in a little shopping plaza at 1688 East Silver Star Road in Ocoee.  The sign for the previous restaurant, Crab & Wings, was still up when we visited.  It is a relatively small dining room, with are four tables for parties of four, three tables for parties of two, and a counter in the back with four additional seats (stools), where we sat.  You order at the counter, and they bring your food to you when it is ready.

There are eight different noodle shapes to choose from, all made by the chef-owner, Jiqing “James” Meng: flat, thin, small flat, normal, triangle, leek leaf, thick, and thicker.  I half-expected him to be putting on a show for the diners, pulling and twisting and whipping and winding noodles, like a scene out of Kung Fu Hustle, but all the action was taking place in the kitchen, out of sight.  You should definitely come to Mr. J for an awesome lunch or dinner, but don’t expect a show.  That was fine with us — it should end up getting hype and praise for the awesomeness and authenticity of the food, not for any kind of performative aspect.   

The Mr. J’s Hand-Pulled Noodle Soup ($15.95) was a clear, consomme-style beef bone broth that reminded me more of Vietnamese pho than the familiar wonton soup I have ordered countless times at countless Chinese restaurants in Orlando, Miami, and Gainesville.  I could not begin to identify all the herbs and spices that gave it its complex yet subtle flavors, but I know coriander and garlic leaves are involved.  It was not as spicy as I was expecting or hoping, despite knowing a bit of chili oil was in there, but that allowed me to focus more on the thin slices of tender beef and the perfectly soft and chewy “small flat” noodles I ordered.   

Here’s one of those noodle-pull action shots all food bloggers try to do.  I always try to be a cool man of the world and eat my noodle soups with chopsticks, but that just means I splash my shirts, no matter how cool I try to look.  The noodles were much softer than Italian “al dente” pasta, and because they are made with wheat flour, they were also softer than the rice vermicelli in bowls of pho.  But even when I couldn’t finish all of mine and took some home, they kept their shape and firm, springy chewiness.  Note the thin slice of crunchy white daikon radish in the bowl with all the diced leeks, a nice addition.

I figured the noodle soup would not travel well, so I also ordered stir-fried hand-pulled noodles to go ($16.95), to share with my wife at home.  This dish included more of the sliced beef, stir-fried with either “thick” or “thicker” noodles.  I chose “thicker,” because I love ’em thick, and the only thing better could be thicker.  Onions, green and red bell peppers, tomato, and even pumpkin (according to the menu) are stir-fried in the mix too, although I admit I couldn’t identify the pumpkin in with all that other goodness.  The red sauce was tangy and mildly spicy, and it was topped with fresh cilantro.This was another tasty dish, but I would definitely advise first-time diners to go with the soup if they are dining in, if they have to choose between the soup and the stir-fried noodles.  The soup is definitely the house specialty, and it is the most unique dish.  You also have more noodle shape choices if you go with the soup.

I neglected to take a close-up, but in the background, you can see the tea eggs I ordered for my colleague and I to try ($1.50 each), since I had never had a tea egg before.  They were delectable hard-boiled eggs dyed a rich brown hue from tea once we shelled them, and they took on some of that unique flavor.  I eat hard-boiled eggs a lot at home and in my boring work lunches, and the tea eggs inspired me to do more exciting things with them in the future, like this.  There were also “thousand-year-old eggs” on the menu, another kind of egg I’ve never tried before, but I figured I would not push my luck.

Like I said, I am never this far west in Orlando, so I have no idea when I will return to Mr. J, so I’m glad I tried everything I did when I did.  If you make it to Ocoee more than I, you owe it to yourself to try it for yourself.  Chef Meng is a master of his craft, elevating noodles to an art form.  I can safely say you have never tried noodles like these or soup like this in Orlando.  Even though it feels like 2023 has skipped spring and gone straight to summer, get some of his beef noodle soup with these fresh, hand-pulled lamian noodles before it gets even hotter out there, and don’t let the heat and humidity stop you even in the epicenter of August’s armpit.


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