Saturday, January 15, 2011

Noodle Cafe

I’ve covered a few topics in the last two months but have woefully neglected one of my true loves and the sort of thing I should be opining about more often- good food.

What I’m obsessing about right now is a small restaurant in Newport, Oregon called Noodle CafĂ©. We were in Newport for 3 days over the holidays and ate lunch there every day but Sunday (they aren’t open for lunch on Sunday).

Let me summarize in case you're too ADHD to read the details: I am STILL thinking about this food 3 weeks later and rationalizing that 4 hours is not too far to drive for lunch.

A key piece of information before I get to food specifics- all of the noodles are made fresh in-house which is critical. I’m not stating this categorically (and please feel to contradict me!) but I have yet to find an Asian restaurant in Portland that makes its own noodles. It is a dying art mostly because it is so labor intensive and difficult to do well. Lisa Cheng and her brother, Han are masters.

Now to the good stuff. Perfectly pan fried pork dumplings, not too greasy with just the right amount of pork inside. Soba noodle soup, with a clear beef broth that is both rich and filling and perfectly complements the lightness of the noodles and the zing of the thinly sliced scallions. Crab and corn soup (photo below), a light delicate broth with whole corn and large pieces of fresh crab. Served egg drop style with a lovely froth of egg white stirred throughout.
Pho with ribeye steak slices and meatballs- light rice noodles, bean sprouts and as much or little spicy heat as you want. DH did everything but lick the bowl. Shao mai (photo below), lovely little steamed packets of shrimp.

Finally, in a paragraph of its own, fried rice noodle buns. I have never heard of anything like this and have never seen them. Again, if I’m mistaken and everyone makes these tell me where you get them because I will move there. This is the same finely milled rice flour used for the noodles but it is shaped into a small roll and deep fried. The dough is so light and has the most delicately sweet flavor that, meshed with the thin crispy exterior, it is an almost perfect food. The only reason it is not is because it does not travel which I know because I attempted to purchase a dozen to take home and reheat. Lisa kindly told me she would not recommend that even though it meant losing a sale. In fact, she is so kind she gave me one on the house (my crying and refusal to leave might have had something to do with that).

There you have it. This restaurant has it all- a charming atmosphere, friendly and knowledgable owners (Lisa is also the waitress), and food that is well portioned, very reasonably priced, made with care and mouth wateringly delicious. Writing about it has been a selfless act on my part because it has induced extreme hunger pangs and longing for something I can't have but that's the kind of person I am. You're welcome.

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