Opening a new restaurant and preserving a historical building are two tough tasks on their own. Carol Chen and husband Max Soloviev decided to do both at once with the opening of Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More in San Jose’s Japantown. To say Chen and Soloviev were dedicated to the building—once a boarding house and then a chop suey restaurant—would be quite the understatement.

They spent 40 months renovating the inside, which had bad fire damage, while maintaining the original façade and balcony to preserve the historic landmark. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as patrons are pleasantly reminded that such interesting architecture exists in our city.

The restaurant has more substance than a rebooted exterior and modern interior, though. During the long renovation, the owners had a chance to fine-tune a menu that features Chen’s native Wenzhou cuisine and some of their chef’s ideas as well. The result is a broth base for their soups that is delicate and light. The Wenzhou Fish Ball Noodle Soup ($12.99) and the Wenzhou Silky Knocked Fish Soup ($14.99) are their two most popular dishes. The silky knocked fish noodle is available until it sells out for the day, which has already happened several times since the restaurant opened last month. Wenzhou cuisine is defined by its signature use of seafood, which the owners felt would fit in well with Japantown’s sushi offerings. The fish noodles here are made by pounding market caught grouper filet, mixing it with potato starch, then rolling and cutting the mixture into thin ribbons. The fish noodles are thin and silky, pairing well with the broth and house made noodles.

Wenzhou cuisine is also known for an impressive list of appetizers. Here, the most popular items are the house made pork dumplings with chives—also known to sell out quickly. The pan-fried pork dumplings with daikon ($6.99 for 6 pieces) and the Salt and Pepper Tofu ($8.99) are good alternatives. Both are fried until flawlessly crispy.

By giving a fresh coat of paint and more to an old building, the owners have joined in the revitalization of Japantown and introduced a new cuisine to San Jose. Thanks to the owners’ patience and dedication in navigating the many obstacles and legalities that come with renovating a historic landmark, we can hope that this city’s dining scene moves beyond corporate cafeterias and trendy eateries that fall out of favor with the seasons.

Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More
625 N 6th St, San Jose.