Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Noodles 28 (on 29th)
Murray Hill, NYC
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo

It's nice when a restaurant does well and it opens another one, but it's kind of confusing when the restaurant is called Noodles on 28 (because they are on 28th Street) but the one opened down the avenue on 29th Street is also called Noodles 28 ... It's even more confusing because the second restaurant doesn't really serve the same food as the first one ... the new one specializes in Vietnamese food, rather than Cantonese Chinese food. We were so confused that some of us didn't want to go to the real place. But we had planned to have dinner at the first place, but they were too busy to deal with us, and feeling cranky we decided to walk down the block and try the new place ...

It really is very different from the first. It's more of a boutique restaurant with "decor" and the kitchen is hidden in the back of the space, unlike it's predecessor which has a kitchen at the front and dining at the back, in the NYC Chinatown style. It's quieter, with the servers not squawking as much (though the customers are loud!). It's quite frankly kind of Japanese-restaurant-looking, with its odd tree sculptures around the space (we especially can't figure out the squirrel on a fountain shaped like a trimmed tree stem or somesuch, but we think it's special!) including a wysteria. It was rather soothing, in comparision to the more typical Chinese restaurant look of the first place.

The manager is the same as from the first place and he recognized us from our semi-frequent trips to the other place. He couldn't give us much guidance through the menu; neither of us is much of an expert on Vietnamese food. So we decided on two orders of mixed appetizers (they come for one), which included crispy springrolls, chicken satay, beef satay, fried dumplings, grilled vegetables kebabs, and lightly picked cucumbers. These were served with a fish sauce (like Thai nuoc nam), a peanut-butter based dipping sauce, as well as plum sauce and hot mustard. We had to ask for crispy noodles and chopsticks.

Everything was grilled and fried really nicely and the food was really tasty! We traded off appetizers bites, and even used the lettuce bed to roll the grated carrot and pickled cucumbers for a fresh-tasting veggie roll. We think we were meant to do that, because no one looked surprised.

For dinner, we remembered the Noodles on 28 has really good vegetarian duck — a seitan and tofu based marinated protein/carb thing pressed and flavored to resemble duck (really!). So we got stirfy eggplant with other vegetables and vegetarian duck, which is served with a bowl of white rice. We also got Pho Bo, which has "ox tail" as its first ingredient, but that just means its a rich and meaty tasting broth. It's served with thin rice noodles, slices of beef and vegetables, and on the side is delivered a plate of bean spouts and royal basil, as well as squeeze bottles of hoisin sauce and Saracha, a smooth chili pepper purée which has a hot, fruity sting to it without being brutal. You dump as much as you'd like into the soup; the herb is incredibly fragrant and imparts its essence into the broth, so you taste it with every spoonful.

Both main courses were really delicious and despite ourselves, we finished it all, even the broth in the Pho Bo! The portions were quite large — certainly big enough for sharing. All the vegetables were really fresh and cooked really thoughfully and we can't say enough about the vegetarian duck! We know it sounds like a weird concept, but you really should try it here. The soup was over a liter in volume, but still, we drank it down and wished for more.

With such an effort to eat every delicious morsel, we had no room for dessert, but really, we don't know enough about Vietnamese food, and suspect that sliced fruit is the appropriate meal ender. But it was wonderful as is.

Another nice touch was the use of beautifully crafted pottery instead of standard Chinese and diner restaurantware. The teacups, plates, bowls, etc. were beautiful in and of themselves and gave mood to the presentation that made one feel like an honored guest. The ceramics here certainly qualify as art, and we hope they consider selling sets so we aren't tempted to pocket any!

The meal, including tax and tip, came out to under $20 per person, and it really was a lot of food, prepared very well, as well as a couple of sodas, tea, etc. Their bathrooms are roomy and clean, too, and decorated as highly as the dining room. It's a very pleasant oasis type of feel.

We're so glad we came in here! But we still don't understand why they called themselves by the same name as the other restaurant down the street? They aren't even on 28th Street! And they really aren't the same place. Well, no matter ... we're glad we figured it out! (Though we still don't understand the squirrel ...)

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