Noodle Doodle

The name Noodles Kitchen is a jarring composite of a plural and singular noun. It sounds more like a culinary lair for a Dick Tracy nemesis than a peddler of doughy strands. The décor takes that tiny jar and amplifies it: art deco new age Asian contemporary with a huge golden Shiva statue thrown in to keep the "huh?"s flowing. The bar has a red surface with black trim. The black and white tiles cladding the base are trimmed in bright red grout. Walls are washed in green, blue and papaya. The ceiling is an ascending pagoda layering system drenched in red and rising up to a dramatic skylight. The front of the house is dotted with lighted display cases on pedestals containing geodes, those rocks with layers of radiating crystals.

Instead of brisk and energetic, the effect is kind of grating and fatiguing. Service is the same way, with erratic pacing, abrupt execution and scant menu knowledge.

There's a trickle-down effect to the menu. Curry puffs, chalky half-moon turnovers allegedly stuffed with minced chicken, potato, onion and curry, tasted suspiciously like Underwood Deviled...something. Far from "minced," whatever protein substance was injected into these things had been pulverized into a paste with fishy overtones. They were served with an engaging, if searing, cucumber salsa.

Shrimp roll-ups looked like a collection of scrolls. Five shrimp swaddled in a greasy, crisp, egg-roll-like coating were arranged on a bed of soy vinaigrette-washed greens. The greens were flaccid, with significant browning along the edges.

Entrées were a mixed bag. High notes include the peculiarly named dish "seafood lover's," a mix of scallops, calamari, minced shrimp and mussels in curry sauce. The seafood specimens were all firm and tasty, even the large slice of creamy surimi edged in Day-Glo magenta.

Pad Thai worked well, too. Sautéed rice noodles were separate and supple, bean sprouts were crisp and the sauce contained a restrained sweetness. The top of the dish was scattered with fried egg and tofu scraps.

Though alluringly fragrant, steamed salmon ginger with snow peas, peppers and Chinese mushrooms in rice wine was overcooked, with dry flesh that refused to flake.

Chef's favorite duck basil was a generous dispersal of juicy boneless duck pieces in a delicious basil-chili sauce over spicy pan-fried lo mein and a warm snow pea salad. But the duck was afflicted with an off, sweet and sour flavor.

Noodles Kitchen is a vexing dining experience with laudable ambitions and frayed details. This could be a terrific noodle hut. All it needs is some fit and finish. Dumping the apostrophe on seafood lover's might be a good start.


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