Before settingfoot in the new Restaurant Guo Cui in Cupertino, go ahead and erase all Chinese dining experiences from your mind—at least ones from this area. The owners have gone to great lengths to breathe new life into what an American Chinese restaurant can be, right down to the ambience, which marries traditional Chinese culture with a flair for modern interior design and a casual atmosphere. The walls are painted in bold singular colors (reds and grays) and are accented with some very cool drawings and photographs that the owners and their friends made.

Most local Chinese eateries, with some exceptions, focus on Cantonese-style food, but Guo Cui offers flavors from northern China, specifically the Gansu province. But rather than a hodgepodge of different traditional Gansu foods, the restaurant serves just a couple of appetizers and clay pot soups. That’s it. Chinese clay pots help to mix flavors, because they can sustain extremely high temperatures. Every region uses clay pots a little differently. Guo Cui makes soups simply with broth, meats, veggies, noodles and some spices. The flavors are basic and wholesome.

The soups come with rice on the side or noodles cooked inside the pot; I recommend the noodles. The rice is cooked with hot tea instead of boiling water, which actually gives it a much more subtle tea flavor than it sounds. The rice isn’t bad, but the noodles are the real treasure. They are thick, spongy and hand-pulled—just simple and hearty. One could easily fill up on these noodles alone. They’re that good.

There are four different broth bases. They are all actually derived from the same pork- or chicken-based broth (except when ordering lamb), but besides the “original,” additional spices are cooked in the broth. I tried the “original” and the “sour and spicy.” Both were tasty, but the sour and spicy was obviously bolder, while the original was meatier. 

The other option when ordering is the choice of protein. I ordered stewed beef cubes ($12.50) and gravied pork riblets ($12.50). The meats were very succulent. The chef cooks the broth and meats in the kitchen for hours at a low temperature throughout the day. When an order is placed, he puts some broth and meat into a clay pot, along with noodles and veggies and brings it to a high temperature. Then they bring the pot to your table and remove the lid. There’s nothing quite like having your own pot of fresh boiling soup.

Since Guo Cui is still new, the owners are working out ideas, like what beverages to serve. On my visit, they brought me a glass of bright-green cucumber ice tea to try, which was quite delicious and tasted a little like fresh-squeezed watermelon juice.

Restaurant Guo Cui
10619 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino; 408.888.9333