Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Viet Noodle Bar: My would-be neighborhood spot

It’s the perfect local’s spot. Reasonably priced, healthy without compromising flavor, and casual enough to come in jeans and a t-shirt, but not in a sticky table and disreputable bathroom kind of way.

It’s a sparse, yet homey space – the product of kitschy touches and a smiling staff. There are books lining the length of the communal dining room – a boon for single diners looking to slurp up cauldrons of pho or nosh on banh mi sandwiches without feeling self-conscious or out of place. I can easily imagine stealing a book from the wall to pretend to read while I eat a quick dinner. I can easily imagine the sanitized Vietnamese restaurant becoming a haven for me after a long day at work or on an evening when I don’t have the energy to cook even quinoa. I can easily imagine developing a rapport with the eager to please staff and the waiter who made my party and I feel welcome enough to stay considerably longer than the time it took to consume our noodles.

I can easily imagine Viet Noodle Bar becoming my noodle bar – my neighborhood spot.

Except it’s not in my neighborhood. It’s in Atwater Village – a 45 minute drive in rush hour from my West Hollywood apartment.

Last Wednesday night, however, I had an excuse to make the trek to someone else’s neighborhood spot. Cathy from Gastronomy Blog, Anjali from Delicious Coma, and Laurie from G-Ma’s Bakery and I were meeting for an Eat My Blog committee meeting to discuss the event on Saturday, June 19th. The effort demanded sustenance in the form of fresh fare and brain-fueling carbohydrates. Viet Noodle Bar’s offerings fit the bill quite nicely.

We started with the jicama spring rolls filled with tofu, crispy carrots and basil ($5). The rather standard rolls were bright and fresh on the palate, but needed the thick peanut sauce served on the side to elevate them above ordinary. It was a tasty bite, but I was more impressed with the jackfruit served with fried shallots, tofu, shiitake mushrooms and black sesame crackers for scooping ($5). While the appetizer didn’t look all that appetizing, I loved the nacho-esque quality of this decidedly healthier dish. The meaty texture of the jackfruit, crispy shallots and crunchy sesame crackers were a winning combination for me. Cathy and I happily hogged this plate on our side of the table.

For my main, I ordered the restaurant’s most famous dish, the tumeric white fish noodles with dill ($8.50) (Cha Ca Thang Long). While the thick web of vermicelli noodles and chunks of pan-fried fish appear bland, the tumeric, dill and cilantro pack a potent kick of flavor that is further amplified by the addition of fish sauce. It’s decidedly healthy tasting, but also soulful – a way to assuage the day’s wounds without resorting to a cheese-laden, calorie-intensive bowl of macaroni and cheese. I loved the purity of the flavors and easily polished off the appropriate-sized portion with the chopsticks that I am finally learning to use correctly.

While Viet Noodle Bar no longer offers dessert, Cathy was kind enough to bring the triple-cherry streusel bars she will be baking for Eat My Blog. The cherry pie-esque bars were the perfect sweet end to a productive and delicious evening in Atwater Village. In my ideal world, the bars would always be available at the restaurant. And the restaurant would, of course, also be located a half mile from my apartment.
Viet Noodle Bar
3133 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 906-1575


Gastronomer said...

Maybe 9021PHO could be your neighborhood noodle spot? We'll have to check it out soon.

Ashley said...

hahahaha. i love that cathy suggested 9021pho. i laugh every time i pass by that place on my way to your neighb.

Bianca said...

It's so tough to get out of our bubble. Good food is always a good reason. Great description. I hope to see u on the 19th.

Esi said...

Tumeric, dill, and cilantro? Sounds like an interesting combo, but Cathy is right...Maybe 9021pho could be your neighborhood spot...or Absolutely Phobulous.

Anna A. said...

Whoa jicama rolls and the Gastronomer's jackpot cherry bars? Psha totally worth 45 minutes of traffic coronaries!

bagnatic said...

eat my blog woot!

Diana said...

Cathy - We'll check it out pho sure! ;)

Ashley - I know, me too! Some day... some day...

Bianca - I will definitely be there on the 19th! Can't wait -- looking forward to actually meeting you this time! ;)

Esi - It's interestingly delicious! I've already been marinating about how I want to replicate the dish at home! Yum!

Anna - I'd drive any distance for Cathy's cherry bars! Friends are worth a commute.

Amy - I hope you'll be there!