Our party of three seems to be of three minds about Noodle Bar, a no-nonsense but stylish eatery on Xueyuan Lu: EXACT ADDRESS PLEASE.
As their name suggests, NB is indeed in the noodle business, though they offer some rice dishes as well. In addition to a (bilingual) menu featuring a dozen or so selections, daily/weekly specials are posted on a board – these being in Chinese at the time of our visit. Beverages on offer include wonderful fresh-squeezed juices, served in bottles (between 10RMB and 15RMB each).
A word about design and décor.There are seven tables in all, each with seating for four normal-sized adults.An especially waifish bunch could probably cram three to a side. There are also two dining bars with six stools each – one along the front window(to the left of the entrance), and one looking over into the cooking station. Our trio was at the table closest to the entrance, and your correspondent was facing the bar by the front window. This was not the best of views, and from that vantage point NB was aesthetically unexceptional – clean and modern, but no moreinteresting than a nice cafeteria in an upscale commercial complex would be.This isn’t the sort of establishment that one comes to for a sense of place, of course (workday lunch, yes; epicurean meditation, no); but the visual appeal of this nudorubais contingent upon where you park your pigu. We recommend a table deep inside, or a perch at the bar opposite the prep-station, otherwise diners are likely to miss or overlook NB’s lite urban chic.
As for the noodles which are NB’s eponymous raison d’etre, we need to distinguish between the noodles themselves, their preparation, and the broth in which they are served. We sampled four noodle dishes in all. We were in unanimous agreement that the broth for the Tom Yum Noodle (28RMB) was divine: the coconut slammed into our taste buds like a locomotive and left on the palate the kind of delicate but unsubtle spiciness that makes one eyelashes twitch and lips curl into a grin. If the broth was available by the bowl (or mug!), we would have ordered a round. The Thai-style Grilled Cod Noodles (28RMB) was also rendered with surprising delicacy, and our own plate of River Shrimp Noodles (15RMB)was pleasantly seasoned, andnot a sloppy oleaginous muddle of tawny pasta. The Salted Pork & Bamboo Shoots Noodles (23RMB) is the classic Hangzhou style, good as it is. In each of the fourvery different dishes the noodles were cooked to perfection; but the noodles themselves were to our thinking quite basic: rather than an especially enjoyable element in their own right they were more of a slithery, gluttony platform for the wonderful soup, spices, and garnish. Our position on the matter seems not to be shared with our companions, one of whom has schlepped to NB a half-dozen times at least within the past 30 days.
For an enjoyable lunch when time is of the essence (service was very quick), we’d recommend Noodle Bar; but during weekdays it gets chockablock full just past 11.30am, and seats are likely to be in limited supply. We think this would also make a nice destination for a cheap first-date or a friendly mid-day pow-wow. Currently they lock-up at 9pm, which is a pity. Given all they do well and right, this would be a nearly ideal place to stumble into on the other side of midnight – or would be if they had their own WC, which they do not.
POS-compatible cards accepted. Paid parking on the sidewalk (yes: the sidewalk), but this might not always be available. English menu available.