When the tiny, obscure Champion Gourmet Chinese deli closed in April, you could almost hear the sighs coming from fans of its rich noodle soups and dumplings. Champion was so off the radar — tucked upstairs in a Spring Mountain Road mall — only fellow travelers and adventuresome lao-wai (non-Chinese) knew of its existence. Service was always perfunctory, and English a rare commodity. If you asked for water, you were directed to a cooler and a stack of Styrofoam cups. If you wanted a soda, you pretty much grabbed one from the fridge and pointed to it so your waitress would know to add it to the bill.
I was still mourning this gastronomic loss a month ago when I heard a Taiwanese joint had just opened on Jones near Spring Mountain. No one told me it was owned by the same folks. All I could tell upon entering was that it looked like a new, nicely decorated Chinese noodle parlor. Then I asked for some water, and a nice, semi-bilingual gal pointed me to the Styrofoam cups beside the water cooler. The clouds parted on the spot, and angels started singing as I realized rumors of Champion's death had been greatly exaggerated.
The official name is Yi Mei Champion Taiwan Deli, and every day it's packed with Chinese tourists and Chinese-American locals, who come here for a taste of Taiwan at criminally cheap prices. You might feel a little like a rabbi at an Arkansas pig roast when you first walk in, but the staff is welcoming and the menu well-translated and easy to navigate. You'll want to go directly to the beef or pork rolls (and maybe to a green onion or leek pancake) to begin your meal, then to any of the dumplings or pot stickers. From there proceed directly to the soup noodle/dry noodle page, then pick and point. You can't go wrong with any of them, and the spicy peanuts or spicy sesame-sauce noodle will make you wonder what you ever saw in fettuccine Alfredo.