Noodle Nook is a great idea, in theory. With a small menu comprised of various noodle-based dishes from Japan, China and Thailand, Noodle Nook aims to fill a void in downtown Halifax for people who want cheap, healthy take-out. It’s also a lighter alternative to the main dining attractions on nearby Pizza Corner.
You can peer into the window of the Nook and see the kitchen because it is positioned at the front of the tiny, narrow restaurant. Go up a couple of steps, in through a door and you’ll find the kitchen to your left, while a small dining area, painted a vibrant red (leftover from the short-lived Chambre Rouge), stretches past a counter and to the right. Black stools provide seating for the counters that run along the walls.
We place our order at the counter and decide to take the food out since there is no table service to rate.
All the food at the Noodle Nook is prepared in full view of the customers and my first inkling that all might not be great is the array of commercial-brand sauces lined up atop a half-wall—nothing is prepared from scratch, it seems.
Our meals are placed in square, white take-out boxes with little handles (very cute). Chopsticks are provided and so are plastic forks when we express some concern over our chopstick dexterity.
For starters, we decide to try a spring roll ($1.99) and three fried dumplings ($2.99). Neither the spring rolls nor the dumplings are made in-house. Outsourcing a product on a menu is not always a bad thing: Time, labour and space constraints can mean a restaurant relies on an external supplier for a particular item, and this can be a functional option. But it’s not a good thing when the product in question is just not that great, as is the case with these appetizers. The spring roll contains green peas and carrots that might have seen the inside of a freezer bag and cabbage is the overwhelming flavour in the dumplings.
We’re trying three noodle dishes: the Bangkok Pad Thai box ($7.49), the Sweet Chile Plumb box ($7.49) and the Chaing Mai Green Curry box ($7.99). We’ve added shrimp ($1.50) to the curry, and chicken ($1) to the chile.
Unfortunately, by the time we are halfway through our meal, the sauce has pooled in the bottom of each of the boxes, making the remaining noodles in each an unappetizing mush. Too much sauce is the bane of all three dishes. No matter how much we stir and how quickly we eat, we just can’t keep the sauce-to-noodle ratio at an acceptable level.
And sadly, too much sauce isn’t the only problem. The Pad Thai is bland and flavourless, with plenty of tofu and green onion but very little else. The Sweet Chile is overcooked in every way, from the floppy sprouts to the rapidly disintegrating noodles. The green curry, labelled on the menu with three boxes for “really spicy,” is nothing of a sort. Although it does have more taste than the other two, it’s anything but “really spicy” and has so much coconut milk it’s sickeningly sweet. I don’t think the Hungry Chili needs to worry about any competition from this spot.
At once too expensive to be relying on bottled sauces and not good enough to warrant the price, the great theory behind the Noodle Nook does not translate into great reality.
Noodle Nook5239 Blowers Street422-6665Mon - Wed 12pm to 9pmThu 12pm to 12 amFri - Sat 12pm to 4amSun 12pm - 6pm
Liz Feltham keeps it real online at: www.foodcritic.ca
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