That's Using Your Noodle

Posted on February 23, 2009

Stir-friend chicken noodle bowl from Lemon Grass Asian Grill and Noodle Bar
Stir-friend chicken noodle bowl from Lemon Grass Asian Grill and Noodle Bar Photo by Gabriel Teague

Epicurious magazine predicts noodle bars will be one of the top food trends of 2009, and who are we to argue? It’s really just a spin on the old Top Ramen/starving-student angle: Noodles are cheap, filling and comforting—perfect for these recessionary times. Here are a few places we found while noodling around.

Restaurant: Davis Noodle City 129 E St., Suite D-1, Davis   
The Dish: Dan dan noodles ($4.75)    
Noodle Notes: Deep bowl of delicate egg noodles swimming in a warm bath of Szechwan sesame peanut sauce, with green onions and crushed peanuts.    
Side Notes: Charming little spot whose claim to fame is its housemade noodles.   
The Verdict: Tender noodles, but sauce was more wan than Szechwan; next time, I’ll try the kim chi noodle soup, which a fellow patron says “rocks.”

Restaurant: Lemon Grass Asian Grill & Noodle Bar 945 Howe Ave., Sacramento   
The Dish: Stir-fried chicken noodle bowl ($7.25)   
Noodle Notes: Rice noodles with grilled chicken strips, a field of colorful vegetables (snow peas, cabbage, carrots and more), chopped peanuts and a mildly spicy nuoc cham sauce.   
Side Notes: A busy, bustling spot; be ready to wait for a table (or sit at the bar).   
The Verdict: Super-fresh and full of fun textures: Soft noodles + crunchy veggies = happy mouth.

Restaurant: Noodle House Restaurant 5800 Madison Ave., Suite X, Sacramento   
The Dish: Barbecue pork with lemon grass, peanuts and salad with rice noodles ($6.25)   
Noodle Notes: Skinny, short-cut noodles with thin-sliced pork and a salad of iceberg, bean sprouts and carrots, sprinkled with peanuts and served with chili and plum sauces.   
Side Notes: Family-owned restaurant with slow but gracious service.   
The Verdict: So-so; pork was a bit on the chewy side, but other patrons (and there were many) seemed happy slurping the soup.

Restaurant: Shoki Ramen House 2675 24th St., Sacramento   
The Dish: Shoyu ramen soup with chashu pork ($6.90)     
Noodle Notes: Perfectly cooked noodles in a soy-sauce-flavored broth, topped with bamboo shoots, seaweed, green onion, spinach and thin pork slices.    
Side Notes: A tiny place with a big heart; they work hard to get it right.   
The Verdict: From the soothing housemade broth (said to take 6 to 8 hours to prepare) to the bouncy noodles, the emphasis here is on quality and authenticity.

Restaurant: T.M. Noodle 4110 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael   
The Dish: Combination over pan-fried noodles ($6.99)     
Noodle Notes: Lightly crisped rice noodle patties accompany a mélange of tender meats (pork, shrimp, chicken) and mixed veggies in a rich brown sauce.   
Side Notes: Small, family-owned restaurant where everything is served with TLC.   
The Verdict: Unusual dish, beautifully executed and full of flavor, exceeded all expectations. I’ll be back.

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