I want to recommend my two favorite noodle places on
the west side of LA, one low-end and the other medium
Noodle Planet (1118 Westwood Blvd, 310 208-0777) is a
big place, maybe forty tables, with big windows and a
high ceiling. Don't be put off by the cheesy mobile
of planets gathering dust in the middle of the air.
Though the owners are Thai, the menu lists all of the
items in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai, and
this is one of the reasons I find the place interesting:
the customers are largely Asian and Asian-American UCLA
students, and it seems like a place where Asian kids in
the US are making an "Asian" identity as opposed to the
specific ethnic identities of their parents.
In any case, the food at Noodle Planet is cheap and
good. I tend to get the Spicy Laht Nah, flat rice
noodles with ground chicken and green chilis etc in
gravy. But they've got the full range of noodle soups,
pad thai, fried noodles (not my favorite), and so on.
They also have interesting drinks like red beans in
milk, and next door they have a boba place where you
can get the complete range of strange boba drinks.
Portion sizes are a little inconsistent and the
waitstaff turns over about every other week, but
the place is full of positive energy.
I do not recommend Noodle Planet at lunch. They go to
cafeteria format, and office workers line up to get
greasy and sometimes inedible Thai food. And the place
often smells like ammonia from the morning cleaning.
Wait until lunch stops (at 2:30pm I think), and then
it becomes very pleasant throughout the afternoon, with
a full menu. At night it can be packed, especially on
weekends, and take-out is pretty much hopeless in those
conditions. But it stays open late. I've attached the
URL of their home page.
For a more ambitious noodle experience, I am wildly
enthusiastic about Yabu (11820 W. Pico Boulevard,
310 473-9757). It's been mentioned here in passing,
but in my opinion the published reviews have really
underestimated it, both in quality and (unfortunately)
in price. I've been to Yabu maybe ten times, and
everything I've had has been not just perfect but
fascinating. They have very fresh noodles (I am an
udon partisan), and they also have sushi and other
standard Japanese stuff. But on top of that, they
have unique specials. I've had barracuda, for example.
It was perfectly prepared. They have a bar as well as
tables, but I like the bar because I can watch the
stuff being prepared. Tremendous skill, thought, and
effort goes into everything. Everyone is friendly,
and the place feels intimate, like just by walking in
there you've been admitted to a secret club.
I think of Yabu as Japanese tapas. Dishes range from
maybe $4 to $10, plus or minus, and you can calibrate
your meal to your stomach and wallet. Despite what
the reviews say, to really get dinner you're going to
part with $25-$30 after tax and tip etc before you walk
out of there. But because you can just get a couple of
items, the place is perfect for grabbing something
early or late in the evening. I do wish that they would
stay open later -- I'd often be interested in swinging
by there after midnight -- but given the location I
guess I can understand.
Okay, those are my west side noodle favorites. I've
been silently poaching restaurant recommendations here
for a few months, so I figured I should give something
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