UPDATE: THE NOODLE SHOP HAS CLOSED AS OF 6/16/2008. READ MORE ABOUT IT.
This new-ish neighborhood spot is nestled in a small string of shops just west of Rockhill road. I actually think the block-long strip mall is one of the early JC Nichols projects, but I could be mixing it up with someplace else. Anyhow, the location is great, mostly because this residential area between main and troost really needs some more interesting places to eat. Noodle Shop is just far enough away from UMKC that it will likely attract more professorial types who live in the area south of the campus, rather than students. But it might be a nice change of pace from Einstein’s, Planet sub and Kin Lin which are the sad options for the struggling student.
I was really pleased to see that this is a noodle shop in the purely asian style. I despise those places that specialize in all things noodles–spaghetti, asian, mac and cheese–it’s just silly. Thankfully this place is a real restaurant, run by people who know what they are doing, and do it well. The menu is short and simple: Pickles and noodles. The pickles come in a variety of permutations, from cucumber pickles, to traditional kim chee, to daikon radish. They all have a distinctive appeal and are clearly homemade.
As for noodles, you can concoct your own assemblage from the list of ingredients or choose a specialty. The menus are essentially checklists, you just check off what you want, hand it to the server and they put it together for you. The best part of the whole experience is sitting at the counter and watching the guys assemble the meals. The two giant vats in which they cook noodles are always in action, and the chef in constantly running around slicing and dicing various ingredients that seem exotic but probably aren’t.
As far as I can tell, Noodle Shop does not have a grill or an oven. I think all the cooked ingredients are steamed, boiled, poached or similarly prepared. This is somewhat of a downer since grilled meats go so well with noodle dishes. But the pot roast style beef I had was delicious, almost the equal of the comparable noodle place Blue Koi. The pork and chicken have consistencies that may not be immediately pleasing to the palate, but if you just roll with it, you won;t be disappointed.
The chalk board behind the counter lists a dizzying array of condiments available for your dining pleasure. Everything from sriracha to yellow mustard to fish sauce to stuff I’ve never heard of are represented. There must be 20 condiments. Wow.
The best part of the whole experience is the laid-back and friendly atmosphere. The staff is extremely helpful and efficient. They are more than willing to explain various dishes, and food comes out quite quickly. The space is small and tasteful, certainly not over-pretentious. The clientele is the usual assortment of Brookside lame-o’s. As the review over at Give in to Temptation put it “the place was peppered with 30-somethings that looked like they had money.” I concur. I was the 30-something without money sitting at the counter.
Anyhow, this formerly useless strip mall is now a place where I will actually go from time to time. It’s the sort of spot that probably needs some help getting off the ground and staying viable, but if they get a liquor license any time soon, I can help them out with that.