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Noodle Central


rhubarbd
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After watching construction on the space for awhile - and (despite) reading lots of mixed comments on Baristanet.com - we headed here for an early dinner tonight. Anyone else been?

The building is handsome and the restaurant itself is terrific looking. But for experienced restaurateurs ... i have to say, some of the lapses were rather surprising. I believe the folks behind it are also the owners of Aozora.

Water had to be requested, as did plates. Though the dining room was pretty empty, there was only one person on the floor - and he was waiting on guests, answering phones, and disappearing into the kitchen. Throughout the meal, people got up from their tables to locate *him*.

Food was only so-so. Duck is served with a coconut curry sauce, which was dark & murky looking and had an off-putting aftertaste. Dumplings were fresh and delicate - but overpowered by a mountain of peanut sauce. And the veggie spring roll - which was perfection - was accompanied by something that tasted exactly like chunky applesauce. Huh?

Interestingly ... no breaks on the price while they work out the kinks - on us.

When we asked for the check, my husband noticed that someone else's credit card was still in the little pocket of the check presenter. The solo FOH guy hadn't noticed he gave us someone else's bill - along with their credit card. SIGH.

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Since my bro and family live in Montclair, I was excited to read about this place on Baristanet, especially the part about their having the noodle-making in full view--knew that would be great fun for my niece. But when I called to ask if there were specific times for the noodle making, the man who answered the phone said "Oh no...we're not doing that now." Reported to Barista, who changed the info in her article. Even so, it was one of the recs I gave to my folks when they were in town this weekend with my other niece and nephew. I went to friends for Christmas Eve, and they took the kids.

Let's just say it wasn't a great report. Here is part of what I put on the Baristanet thread...

I heard a report that included comments such as "the waitress was too busy trying to be a supermodel" and "we ordered trout but got salmon." They wanted food that the kids would eat, so on one dish, they asked for a non-spicy sauce and were accommodated (and I'm told the black bean sauce was great), but the pad thai (PAD THAI!) was so spicy that even my dad thought it was hot. Who serves spicy pad thai?!? More especially, after a discussion about having a couple of bland dishes for the kids, couldn't the waitress have mentioned that the pad thai was hot? Again, this was just some of what they told me about the place. Between that and rhubarbd's post, I'm not in a rush. Anyone else been?

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I have to disagree with Curlz, which is unusual. I visited Noodle Central last night and loved most of the experience. The service was the weak point admittedly, but the food rocked.

The worst? We waited about 5 minutes by the door to be noticed and seated. This was AFTER I'd already poked my head in about 5 minutes earlier to read the menu, and was ignored for the 2 or 3 minutes I was in the lobby area doing that.

Water refill service was okay, if not excellent during the meal and we had no mistakes in our order. Yes, we also had to locate our waitress once or twice, but when she realized we were getting annoyed she stuck close to the table.

The food, though, was both original and well done. While the selection is overwhelmingly standard comfort foods, the actual execution featured little tweaks which set them apart from the same items elsewhere. Yes, the Pad Thai was spicy, but it was fresh and vibrant, with huge shrimp as well. This is hardly the first Pad Thai I've had this way, although I agree that it's uncommon.

On the appetizer side, we tried both the gyoza and the scallion pancake, and both were as good as I've ever had. The pancake in particular, because it was light and fluffy and not greasy in the slightest (a problem with most scallion pancakes).

I was also pleased with the Mixed Green Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing--a relatively light dressing and a large quantity of very high quality greens for the price ($5).

The Seafood Linguini Sauce Rosee was interesting--a kind of east meets west dish. The "Linguini" seemed to actually be some kind of udon noodle, topped with mussels in a red clam sauce.

One really interesting thing about the menu is that price-wise it's (deliberately) all over the place. You can get a Vietnamese Pho, or a Japanese Tonkatsu and Ramen soup for $6, or on the other end you can get a Duck Whole breast with Coconut Curry sauce for $19.

Admittedly this was a first visit, and we only tried half a dozen items, but we felt they batted 100% on what we ordered.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Disagree away, Jon...it's not all that surprising, considering the completely mixed reviews I've read/heard! Just note that I didn't go--my folks did, and it was on Saturday night. Perhaps weeknights are better, perhaps not. But the service issues they mentioned seemed pretty major, and they went without any prior info other than the name of the place and my saying that the owners' other place gets raves. My dad did say that the food that was good was very tasty (i.e. the black bean sauce that was substituted on the mussels), but the overall experience didn't sit well with any of them.

Knowing that you had a good experience makes me more inclined to give it a try, but with so many options in Montclair, I can't say it's too high on my list at the moment.

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I've been to Noodle Central twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, both meals were during the week.

I too waited at the door to be acknowledged, which was fine with me, as we were able to get a really good look at the wonderful, loving renovation and quirky decor. I think the red "hand" chairs are funny next to the more elegant soon to be open noodle bar. We waited a while for our food, but the server was sincere and friendly. I know this is no excuse, but I think our server was in the weeds, he had six tables, and most of us came in at about the same time, so I was willing to overlook some of the service issues.

For lunch we had the crab cake with spicy mayo, the veggie spring rolls and we shared a chicken dish that I think is no longer on the menu.

The crab in the crab cake was shredded really fine, as if it were put through a food processor. I like big lumps of crab, so I was not pleased with the texture. The flavor was a bit bland, I think the ratio of crab to crumb was off. The spicy mayo was tasty, I think it may have had a bit of chili oil in it.

The spring rolls were crisp and the filling was fresh tasting. The pumpkin dipping sauce was interesting with a nice balance of ginger, spices and pumpkin.

The chicken dish was boring. I can't even remember how boring. But, it is off the menu, so no use trying to describe it.

For dinner we had the miso soup, the hot and sour soup, the downtown dumplings with peanut and chili oil sauce, the scallion pancake, and for our entrees, we had the seafood tepanyaki and the Bloomfield Ave. Bourguignon on Rice.

We ordered way too much food. The portions are generous, we could have had soups, and probably shared an appetizer and perhaps an entree.

The miso soup was lovely. The hot and sour soup was the best I've had locally. It had a nice balance of hot and sour without that heavy glumpy texture that sometimes characterizes Chinese restaurant Hot and Sour soup. The fried ravioli was terrific, I would like a plate of those little devils as an appetizer.

The scallion pancake was light and tasted of fresh scallions. The dumplings were nice and light, the dough was thin, almost see through, and the pork filling was nicely seasoned. The peanut sauce however, crushed the dumplings. Way too heavy, perhaps it sat under the warming lights too long, as it was separated when it was served. I think those dumplings deserve a lighter, simpler sauce.

The seafood tepanyaki was finished table side. The dish was served on a cast iron plate, with the cooked noodles as a bed. The seafood and sauce were then poured over, sizzling the outside edges of the noodles and softening the noodles in the center where the seafood was plated.

I really like the contrasting noodle textures, but I expected more from the seafood and sauce, something like a big dramatic flavor to go with that theatrical presentation. The flavor was very mild, nice, but not the show stopping number I was expecting.

The bourguignon tasted like mom's beef stew. Mom's not the greatest cook in the world, but her stew is classic comfort food. That's the Noodle Central version, yummy comforting stew. I'd sit by the windows with a glass of merlot, that beef stew and watch a snow fall.

Even though we were beyond full, Myra (one of the owners) offered us two fabulous desserts. One was three flavors of ice cream nestled in a warm banana and the other was a trio of filled rice flour balls served with green tea ice cream. Both were delicious. I can't remember much more about the desserts, as I was swiftly descending into a food induced coma.

Overall, my experiences at Noodle Central were, in my opinion, typical of a new concept restaurant during a soft opening phase. I think Myra and Ho would like to use this time to work out all the kinks and continue to refine the menu. I think the days of quiet soft openings are unfortunately over, as more of us try places and then turn to forums like this to voice our opinions.

I think that they have a beautiful space, a great concept for an inexpensive casual restaurant, and a great desire to please their guests.

Overall, I enjoyed both meals at Noodle Central, and will return often. I hope those who had a negative experience will give this restaurant another chance.

I am not affiliated with Noodle Central, although I do know Myra and Ho, as my husband designed the large photo murals facing Gates Ave.

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Overall, my experiences at Noodle Central were, in my opinion, typical of a new concept restaurant during a soft opening phase. I think Myra and Ho would like to use this time to work out all the kinks and continue to refine the menu.

Well the kinks don't appear to be in the menu, they appear to be in the service department. Sometimes that's easy to fix, but sometimes it just never happens (I'll use their very close Montclair neighbor Little Saigon as an example of a place where the food rocks, but the service hasn't gotten one iota better, despite more than a year of complaints),

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I agree that most of the kinks are in the service department. I'm hopeful that the service issues can be worked out, as I've found the service at Aozora to be acceptable.

I've not found a high level of service at most of the Montclair restaurants I've been to, I guess a professional level of service is not a priority to many Montclair diners, as me and my dining companions have been referred to as "you guys" at almost every restaurant we've tried.

For some reason, "you guys" really bugs me. Right up there with a server introducing themselves, or worse yet, touching me.

I'll stop now, as annoying server habits belongs on a different thread.

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........

I've not found a high level of service at most of the Montclair restaurants I've been to, I guess a professional level of service is not a priority to many Montclair diners, as me and my dining companions have been referred to as "you guys" at almost every restaurant we've tried.

For some reason, "you guys" really bugs me. Right up there with a server introducing themselves, or worse yet, touching me.

I'll stop now, as annoying server habits belongs on a different thread.

The phrase "me and my dining companions" doesn't bug you but "you guys" does??? Funny, but it's the reverse for me. :wink:

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

M

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I'm sure you could have resisted Montclairite. Sorry about the slip. 30 lashes with a wet noodle central noodle :) from the grammar police for me.

BTW, my fellow Montclairions and I still don't like to be referred to as "you guys". Lazy slang, while perhaps grammatically correct, is unprofessional IMHO.

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So -- from reading these reviews, I get the idea that Noodle Central is not just about noodles.

I was looking forward to trying it out --- thinking that noodles were the main point of the dishes.

But I guess not. Now I'm not that excited.

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I'm sure you could have resisted Montclairite. Sorry about the slip. 30 lashes with a wet noodle central noodle :) from the grammar police for me.

I have to say this, but I'm telling you up front that I mean it only as a funny, not as a dig...I can't believe you missed the chance to jump on Montcairite for his/her lack of an L!!!

Every time I see posts by him/her, I crack up over that, so it was all the more amusing to see you grammar-slingers at work, but no mention of it. :laugh:

Edit: That was from Curlz--didn't realize that I'm not logged in under MY account! Even funnier, methinks. :raz:

Edited by Ted Task (log)
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Yes, that is pretty funny.

There is a very important reason that I am "Montcairite" and not "Montclairite": When I first joined egullet, my finger slipped and missed the "l". :shock: I tried to correct my name, but was unable to figure out how to do it. As I've posted only a couple of dozen times in the year or two that since I joined, I guess I forgot all about it.

Yes, Montcairite is indeed a Montclairite, and has been since before there were ANY restaurants in Montclair (except the late and unlamented Wedgwood Cafeteria).

UPDATE: Thanks to a note from a member, and the aid of an administrator, I am now "Montclairite" :cool:

Edited by Montclairite (log)
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Congrats on your no-corrected moniker, Montclairite! Glad you could see the humor that I did... :cool:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Just went last night. If i said that I was unimpressed, that would be generous. Service was mediocre at best. waited by the front door for several minutes before someone came over. The entrance is a little awkward as there is no one in the front of the restaurant greeting or handling diners. Service throughout the meal was slow and unattentive. Waitress had the warmth of an iceberg.

Service aside, I can forgive and overlook service issues if the food in a restaurant is good. In fact, unless I am out with friends, clients or family, i don't really nit pick over service and really only care about the food. To start, my wife ordered pork spring rolls that were bland, as was the dipping sauce. I ordered for an appetizer "down town dumplings" with peanut sauce and chili oil. Again, very bland and tasteless. On the menu, this read like a good dish, but was completely lackluster.

For main coursea, I had the shrimp pad thai. This was not pad thai. There was not a hint of tamarind, tofu or nor even any cilantro. Instead it was sauteed noodles with red and green peppers and 3 large shrimp. It had a hint of spiciness, but was not as hot as mentioned before. Really, this dish was a tragedy. I cannot believe that this was called Pad thai. Pad thai is flavorful, this was not. My wife had some japanese Ramen noodle soup with chicken tonkatsu (breaded chicken). Bland and boring, although I'm not sure that even at its best, this would be a great dish.

We also ordered a bottle of Pellegrino and a couple sodas. Total Came to $40 not including tip.

If you can tell, I was extremely disappointed in this meal. I think the conept is a good one, but the execution was poor. It was not a surprise to me that the restaurant was very empty on a friday night. I certainly will not return to this place. In my recent memory, it probably one of the most disappointing dining experiences i have had.

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