June 26. 2018 9:33PM

Our Gourmet: A first (and final) look at Noodle Bar


The Noodle Bar on Lowell Street in Manchester will soon be reopening under new ownership as a Vietnamese restaurant. 

Noodle Bar

36 Lowell St., Manchester; 232-7059; www.facebook.com/noodlebarnh/

Hours:
Closed.

Cuisine: Ramen, Bao, Sake & Dumplings

Pricing: Appetizers, $6-$10; Dumplings, $8-$14; Bao Tacos, $8-$9, Ramen, $10-$16 (additions, $2-$4); Dry Noodles, $11-$13.

Scores for Noodle Bar
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 17/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 17/20
TOTAL: 87/100



We’ve had our eye on Noodle Bar, the latest restaurant to open at 36 Lowell St. in Manchester, since before it opened in March. We gave it a while to work out any kinks.

Turns out, we almost gave it too long.

Announced on its Facebook page Tuesday (and after Our Gourmet and family finally visited last Thursday), Noodle Bar has been sold by owners Stacey Murphy and chef David Spagnuolo, and will no longer focus on ramen, dumplings, bao and sake.

Following up on a June 21 post saying they were closing for vacation until July, Tuesday’s post said the place has been purchased by Trumin Nguyen, and will soon be serving up authentic Vietnamese, Asian fusion and pho. The Facebook post says, “If you have ever been to Than Than 2 in Portland, Maine then you might recognize some wonderful dishes.”

The little brick building at Lowell and Koskiusko streets has been home to fine dining for years, including Richard’s Bistro, which gave way to the Gale Motor Company, which made way for Noodle Bar, with a revamped layout, hip new colors, art with an Asian flare, and a menu focused on ramen, dumplings, bao and sake.

Noodle Bar was empty when we arrived about 5:30 p.m. The L-shaped dining room features black tables, a sleek bar and burnt orange walls. While we were there, only two other parties came in — a couple with a child in tow, and a solo diner.

Promptly seated at a corner table by our server, we ordered drinks. OG opted for a Pepsi ($3), while the Dining Companion (DC) chose a Junmajito, Noodle Bar’s version of a mojito ($10), comprised of Gekkeikan Sake, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves, prosecco and lime juice. It was refreshing. We chose a Shirley Temple ($3) for the FussBudget (FB), who promptly declared it “good.” He wondered, given the Asian theme, why they didn’t call the drink a “Ninjago Temple.” He’s 8, very into Legos and considered this a no-brainer.

We left the boy to his drink while the DC ordered the Mushroom Bao Tacos ($8). Mounds of braised mushrooms, topped with truffle aoli, pickled vegetables, sriracha and scallion came tucked inside a couple of very soft, pillowy bao — steamed, bread-like cakes. The DC enjoyed this treat with her drink, marveling at the chewiness of the “tacos.” The sriracha added a small kick, but these were fairly tame on the heat scale and were gone in minutes.

OG went for the spicy tuna ($10), likely a holdover from the Gale Motor Co.’s tapas-style menu. Three crisp, rectangular rice cakes were topped with creamy, small bits of raw, tender tuna, drizzled with truffle oil and a swirl of spicy aoli. These were tasty, the soft tuna comforting and the aoli offering a sneaky afterburn.

With few choices friendly to young fussbudgets, we veered off the menu to entice the boy to actually eat, asking for a bowl of wavy ramen with snow peas, cabbage and fried chicken in Noodle Bar’s mildest, most kid-friendly broth. As ordered, the FB was served wavy ramen noodles ($4), topped with the peas ($2), cabbage ($2) and chicken ($4), making it a $12 bowl of noodles. It was served sans broth, and quickly became a sticky tangle that frustrated him. We could only get the boy to pick at it and we deemed our attempt an epic failure. Live and learn.

The DC ordered the Tempura Shrimp Soba ($14), but asked that the shrimp be left out and two sides of cabbage ($2 each) added. The DC snuck several dollops of the Thai Chili Puree OG had with his entrée to keep things interesting.

OG’s eyes were bigger than our stomach. Liking spice, we ordered the Tonkostu Shoyu ($15), with extra noodles ($4). Our bowl of ramen wasn’t huge, but was deceptively rich, with straight ramen noodles swimming in a tonkotsu broth tasting of charred pork and slippery from rendered fat. At first the broth’s pork flavor came across as both strong and bland, but as we dug deeper and mixed and stirred the garlic around, it became tastier and tastier until we’d call it delicious.

We enjoyed Noodle Bar, but now eagerly await what Mr. Nguyen will bring to the space. We’ll be keeping an eye out for an opening date.