Dish: Boat Noodle Soup
Place: OK Noodles, University District
In the bowl: Per the menu: “Small rice noodles, bean sprouts, spinach.” “Small” is written in because “Wide” is crossed out. Beef is the logical choice with boat noodle soup, so I went with that, though chicken, soy chicken, soy beef, and tofu are available for the same price, while shrimp and soy shrimp raise the price to $7.89.
Supporting cast/What to do: This soup comes spicy, but as always, you can ask for extra heat in the way of Sriracha or chili flakes/oil. Stir to mix the ingredients and chili, then eat with a cooling beverage at the ready.
Noodling around: I’ve been looking for authentic boat noodles in Seattle, most recently at Thai Palms. Their version was bland. As I’d heard good things about OK Noodles, I had high expectations that this would be the place. Sadly, high expectations often lead to great disappointment.
While this version had good spice level for heat hounds like me, the soup was simply too sour, as if they squeezed too much lime juice into the bowl. The noodles themselves were okay (I prefer wider ones), and although bean sprouts aren’t normally my thing, they did contribute crunch and cooling effect.
Another problem was the meat, which was one-note. Where’s my tripe and tendon and shank and liver? And where’s the blood? The soup suffered without the pork and beef blood that typically adds a mineral taste that I enjoy.
I remain adrift in a boat noodle-less sea in Seattle. My last chance appears to be Noodle Boat in Issaquah, which I included in our just-released Voracious Dining Guide of favorite restaurants for 2012. They have boat noodles on their menu, but again without sign of meat diversity. If Noodle Boat won’t do a special order, I’ll simply have to go back to Sapp Coffee Shop in Los Angeles for their delicious version.
By the way, my dining companion got the White River Noodle, described as “rice (“egg” was crossed out) noodles, hot & sour soup with coconut milk, mushroom, white onion, lemon grass, lime leaves, and cilantro.” This tasted like thick, sweetened coconut milk with the “hot” there, but the “sour” missing. Maybe OK’s cook squeezed my companion’s limes into my bowl by mistake? Or maybe not. Both bowls were unbalanced, consistent with other bad reports I’ve heard of late.
If you want more: For the name alone, you have to go for the “Diet Soft Rolls” ($5.67, standard for all the appetizers–and do you see the theme of sequential, numerical pricing?). A healthy contrast to crisp rolls, these contain “Soy prawn & tofu, rice noodles, lettuce, carrot, basil, cilantro, and green leave” and are “Served with a sweet & spicy sauce.” Did I lose you at “crisp”? If so, one below on the menu is a crispy onion ring which is “deep fired.”
Be aware/beware: This is a funky place with deep red colors and menus stuck inside of album covers–you know, the old vinyl kind. Mine was A Chorus Line. There’s also kitschy art on the walls made from dried noodles. Dry humor, I suppose.
Many people have reported that OK Noodles never seems to be open. I was a victim of this myself. The story, it seems, is that the previous owners recently sold and moved to Olympia where they’re operating another restaurant. The new owners have kept the original menu and are settling in. Slowly.
There were no real servers during my visit, so when the restaurant got slammed, the couple was struggling to keep things moving–cooking and carrying out bowls and plates as quickly as they could prepare them. I expect a few bumps in the road before things smooth out, and will be interested to see what changes they make to OK Noodles, if any. This includes the quest to raise the quality to what I’m told it was before the turnover.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on March 26, 2012.