We were noodling on the internet recently, looking for places we haven’t eaten yet, when we came across a new(ish) place in Concord that sounded intriguing. We’ve explored much of the capital city’s refurbished Main Street, but rarely venture off it. Our bad.
Noodles and Pearls, which opened in December, is on Pleasant Street, a block west of Main, almost to the corner of State Street. With a brick facade, it looks inviting from outside. Inside, this little spot is unassuming, with a smattering of four-seat tables on one side and a counter where you order on the other. A few bar stools adorn the front, with most of the menu handwritten on the walls behind the counter. A checkerboard floor is surprisingly worn, given this spot opened less than a year ago. Noodles and Pearls is likely busy during workday lunchtime, but we were here on a latish Sunday afternoon. Only one other group was inside.
The simple menu focuses on ramen and bubble tea — both growing Granite State trends. Sesame Noodles ($8) also are featured, as are a couple of sandwiches, including a hero ($7) that could be made vegan to satisfy the Dining Companion.
Our Gourmet (OG) and the Fussbudget (FB) were here for noodles ($9), with mixed results. We ordered a chicken ramen bowl for the boy. He turned 9 the day before but getting older hasn’t changed his Fussbudget ways. He liked the tender, shredded chicken and the fresh, crispy bean sprouts atop, but it turns out he isn’t a fan of ramen noodles for some reason, although he loves all sorts of others. The boy also was turned off by the half pickled egg in the bowl, enough so that we’re not sure he made it down into his broth.
The OG ordered a similar bowl, substituting soba noodles and adding pork instead of chicken. We liked our bowl, although shredded as finely as it was, one couldn’t really distinguish the difference between our pork and the boy’s chicken. The soba noodles, buried beneath bean sprouts, cilantro and the pork, were nicely cooked. The broth had a nice, salty bite, becoming creamy as the egg yolk mixed with the hot broth. It was a bit out of context, but we added a few drops of Mexican hot sauce available on our table to kick things up and we were full by the time we finished.
For drinks, the FB ordered a bottle of organic orange soda, which he loved. OG, who is not a fan of tea in any form, tried one when we saw that chocolate bubble tea ($5) was available. At our server’s recommendation we started with green tea, which he advised was sweeter. Mixed with soy milk and chocolate, it was more chocolate milk than tea (which was fine with us). Bubble tea is served with a wide straw to accommodate the “bubbles,” tender tapioca balls. We availed ourselves of cherry “popping pears” instead, which exploded with cherry flavor after reaching our tastebuds through the straw, making this a liquid cherry cordial. Delicious!
There were some glitches with our meal. The Dining Companion ordered a Hero Sandwich with tofu ($7), which was supposed to be served slathered with guacamole and aoli and contain red onion, sprouts, basil leaves and tomato. When her sandwich arrived on fresh Italian bread, the “slather” was a faint green smear on the top portion of roll. Missing entirely were the vegetables. No sprouts. No basil. No tomato. She also ordered a side of steamed vegetable dumplings ($5.50). These arrived after her sandwich, and somehow were pork instead of veggie.
It’s hard to explain two errors when there were only eight patrons in the restaurant, but to their credit, the folks at Noodles and Pearls were quite apologetic, immediately bringing a side of the sandwich fixings and correcting the dumpling order while leaving the pork dumplings with us on the house. That was a good thing, as it turned out the FB loved them, eating five of the six. OG borrowed one and found the pork filling nicely spiced and finely ground, the dumpling wrapper carrying a nice chew and the peanut/sesame coating quite tasty.
We had a second Dining Companion (DC2) with us this afternoon, who ordered the Spicy Sesame Noodles. DC1 also ordered these to try later. Served cold, the noodles were tender while chewy, with nice sesame-oil flavor. Our companion reported they were not very spicy, however.
Despite a few misses on our order, and the slightly worn appearance inside, we expect Noodles and Pearls gets a steady lunch business from the Concord crowd. If we worked in town, we know we’d given them a visit whenever a ramen craving came on.