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Noodle Ave. in Tustin - A Review

elmomonster | Feb 1, 200510:14 AM

Tried Noodle Ave. last night. This is the place next to Dosa Place in the Drug Emporium plaza, and was reviewed by a couple of hounds recently. I ordered the House Noodle Soup with Thin Yellow Noodles ($4.50) and a side of Crab Ball (5 pieces for $2.50, I think).

The first thing I noticed about the House Noodle Soup was that it was chock full of meats. From what I can remember, it had; white fish balls, sliced pieces of soft chicken breast, ground pork, a slice of brisket (I think), sliced fish cake, and boiled shrimp (I told them to hold the liver). While the meats were very good, the broth lacked flavor. The little flavor the golden broth was slightly bitter. Perhaps it was the browned bits of garlic that they sprinkled on top of the soup that added this bitterness. In any case, it was a decent bowl of noodle soup for the price, but not on par with or as satisfying as, let's say, Pho Bac in Irvine's similar egg noodle soup.

The crab ball, as others have pointed out, was more like crab roll, sliced into chunks and deep fried. It was served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce and a side of pickled cabbage and carrots. This was a good dish, and reminded me of something my mom makes. The outer skin, was made with tofu skin, something akin to the Japanese yuba, but the dense filling had no discernable presence of crab meat, more like pork mousse, hence adding to the mystery to why they would call it Crab Ball - it didn't taste of crab and it was not a ball. If they had called it "pork roll", it would have been more believable.

Another thing that was puzzling to me was the fact that Noodle Ave. serves it's noodle soups with a small metal ladel. It makes for an awkward time in spooning the broth to your mouth. After two minutes of this, I put the ladle aside and took the bowl to my lips and sipped.

The restaurant was dead last night, save for a few Indian twenty year olds who I suspected had originally planned to dine at Dosa Place next door and ended up at Noodle Ave. when they found out it's closed on Mondays.

I am not sure Noodle Ave. will survive for very long. They are located in the wrong plaza for the model they are attempting. The restaurant is set so far back in the huge parking lot that you'd miss it driving by on Redhill if you didn't know it was there.

The concept they are trying to copy is Pei Wei and Cafe Chin Chin. Like Pei Wei, you can order any permutation of a stir fry dish with different meats, starches, and veggies. My friend ordered a shrimp and snow pea stir fry that was served with a side of steamed rice. I didn't taste it, but eventhough it looked fresh, it still looked quite ordinary. And like Pei Wei, there's even a place in the back near the beverage dispenser where you could help yourself to fortune cookies. I was under the impression that Noodle Ave. is an experiment by an established Asian mom and pop noodle shop to get a cut of what I call "the soccer mom" market that the Pei Wei model has managed to capture, yet also retain traditional noodle shop clientele by offering these Chiu Chow Noodles. Nevertheless, it was an interesting place, with arguably inexpensive prices. I'll probably be back, but won't go out of my way to do it.

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