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