Soul in a bowl
Familiar healthful fare at brand-new Noodle House
It is a well-known fact in the food world that diners will often become pretty much addicted to the taste and style of a good chef, and will follow his or her trail from one restaurant to another.
I have made such a move with Chau Do, the diminutive, hard-working owner of the new Noodle House. Do formerly owned and cooked at north-Chico Vietnamese restaurant Pho C&C before opening Noodle House in April. The new place advertises its Asian-inspired fare as “fusion cuisine,” and it’s the first eatery in The Shops at Mangrove strip mall (across from Chipotle) that I have found compelling enough to visit.
My first meal was a small-sized take-out order of Vietnamese-style beef-meatball soup (“P7” in the Healthy Soup Special section of the Noodle House menu; $4.95 for small, $5.95 for large), accompanied by a sweet, Thai iced tea.
I got back to the office and unpacked the hefty container of steaming soup, and dumped in the entire accompanying to-go cup of cooked rice noodles and plastic bag of fresh produce-goodies—basil leaves, bean sprouts, sliced fresh jalapeño peppers, cilantro and squeezes of lime. I added a dose of spicy sriracha and some hoisin sauce (which was packed in the bag as well), and dug in with my chopsticks.
Oh yeah!—Do’s soup was just as delicious as I remembered. The fresh crispness of the sprouts, the tongue-tickling tastes of the peppers, cilantro, basil and hot sriracha sauce are such a refreshing complement to the mild broth, delicate angel-hair noodles and firm, comforting, quartered meatballs. (If your mouth burns a little on a particularly spicy bite, just take a sip of Thai iced tea, the perfect antidote.)
On my second visit, I decided to check out the range of Noodle House’s offerings by bringing three other hungry adults with me.
We snacked on shrimp summer-rolls ($4.25 for three, each cut in half) and deep-fried calamari ($4.95) for appetizers, sipped on our drinks (I had a wonderful “limeade iced tea,” $2.50) and listened to modern-sounding Vietnamese music on the overhead speakers while we waited for our main dishes. The Vietnamese-style summer rolls—fat, cold, pink shrimp, lettuce and rice noodles in a semi-translucent rice-paper wrapper—dipped in a peanut sauce were simple yet exquisite. So clean-tasting. The battered calamari rings, which came with a sweet mayonnaise sauce, were crunchy and satisfying.
I ordered a grilled shrimp dish ($6.95) from the Healthy Grilled Dishes section. It came with brown rice (Noodle House does not serve white rice), a pork “crunch roll” and a mixed green salad. Fellow diner Mr. B. ordered grilled chicken and shrimp, rice noodles, pork crunch roll, and shredded lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts and crushed peanut, which came nicely arranged in a large white bowl.
Ms. S. opted for the grilled chicken “wrap & roll” ($5.95), choosing a spinach-herb wrapper to enclose her grilled chicken, shredded lettuce, julienned carrots, cilantro, bean sprouts, brown rice and tangy house dressing. Grilled pork or beef are the other wrap-meat options, sun-dried-tomato-basil is the other wrapper option, and one can add avocado for an additional 50 cents.
Mr. D., the fourth diner at our table, went with a large bowl of chicken noodle soup (basically the same idea as the meatball soup, only with sliced chicken).
Mr. B and I agreed that our lunches—with an added dousing of flavorful fish sauce from the bottle our waiter set down with our food—were delicious. We both enjoyed the hot, crispy pork-crunch rolls (similar to Chinese egg rolls), and the heartiness of our grilled shrimp and chicken, and robust brown rice. Ms. S. was pleased with her wrap, and Mr. D. loved his soup.
Eating the fresh, healthful fare at Noodle House (which includes vegetarian options) leaves me feeling satisfied and refreshed, and like I have treated my body kindly. I look forward to future visits.