Having Fun With Noods
Fun Noodle Bar sets perfect example of how to do noodles
Cyndi Lauper made a true name for herself when she created an anthem for generations to come, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” How has one song endured so iconicly for so many years? The underlying message may be that truly, life is made for enjoyment. With so many things going on around us, why not just go and have fun? Forget the problems of life for a minute and run screaming down a beach. It’s a relief many of us want and crave, giving us room to let loose and be our best selves. We’re on a path, and that path is an endless pursuit of wanting to have fun. This was what I began to ponder when I went to Fun Noodle Bar in the Heights.
What truly makes it a fun noodle bar? The interior alone is visually exciting in a subdued way, all modern and clean with a dark color scheme meshing with the large windows that fill it with natural light. The seats around the tables were all full, no small feat for a noodle joint on a Sunday around 2pm. We got set up at a table and hadn’t even had a chance to look at the menu before my attention shifted to the man behind the bar making noodles by hand. These were traditional, hand pulled, twisted, spun and slapped right in front of us. There was precision in his work, a stoic and learned methodology where every movement was measured, perfect, no waste to be found. Rarely do you see someone who is a master at something perform casually in front of you, and it’s mesmerizing.
We ran a simple order, the Pad Thai ($9.99), the Orange Chicken ($11.99) and the Tonkotsu Black Ramen ($11.99). The menu as a whole features a wide gamut of both noodle dishes as well as standard Chinese fare, so if you’re in the mood for either, you’ll be glad to find yourself within their walls. Along with a robust food menu, they’ve got a great drink menu, featuring wine and sake, as well as a decent selection of bottled and draft beers to pair up with your meal. Throw in the fact that they carry Ramune, and you’re set up for all you need.
Let’s begin with the Orange Chicken. It had a perfect crispy exterior, with that hot and steamy tender interior you’re looking for on your chicken. The orange sauce was a little sweet, a little spicy and jam-packed with flavor. There’s fresh slices of peeled orange that decorate the plate, along with your choice of white rice, fried rice ($1 upcharge) or pan-fried noodles ($3 upcharge). It’s a straight-up pleasure to eat, invoking those feelings that make orange chicken so good in the first place. It’s not citrus heavy, it’s not an excessively sticky sauce. It’s a light and flavorful piece that truly dances on your tongue.
The Pad Thai was equally amazing. The stir-fried noodles had a good hint of fire on them, with that nutty peanut taste that makes pad Thai a favorite to so many. It’s a very traditional take on the dish, but it worked in its favor, allowing it to just exist happily as it was meant to be, the familiarity of it carried the brunt of the front taste immediately. What was left was the nice, even layer of flavor from the noodles that contributed to an overall enjoyable experience.
And finally, the ultimate dish, the Tonkotsu Black Ramen. It comes with a pork chashu, spinach, green onion, Shanghainese greens, fried onion, sweet corn and cilantro, all in a massive bowl with a deep, rich broth. I earnestly don’t know where to start. Dine-out ramen is held to such a high standard, considering the alternative is typically a $0.30 bag that you literally spend two minutes making. This is so high above what I expected that I was earnestly left speechless. This broth is equal parts spicy and creamy, which I know sounds strange but it works unlike any other broth I’ve had before. Conversely, you have these handmade noodles in it that are so fresh, it’s a whole new level of eating that you get taken to by them. Add on all these little additions, and suddenly, it’s not like any ramen you’ve had before. It’s an earnest dish that almost feels like it’s being slighted because of the ramen label. It’s so much more than that.
There’s this abundance of flavor that hides beneath that red and oily surface. You manage to find a new combination of flavors every single time you ingest a little more. What keeps this dish going is the fact that you don’t know what to expect bite to bite, and it’s the best thing about it. All these different pieces work in strange ways to cumulate into something that leaves you excited to keep eating. It’s never too spicy, but it does have heat, but that heat takes a backseat when the sweet corn makes it into your mouth with some broth. Any combination of the noodles with another ingredient brings out subtleties in the dish that you weren’t expecting to find. This isn’t a meal that you just casually enjoy. This is a treat. This is an experience. This is fun.
I have no doubts in my mind that Fun Noodle Bar fits perfectly in the Heights. With the University area having the Noodle District comfortably operating at this point, the expansion has to begin in new places. I always think interesting and different restaurants should try their hand in the Heights, because it’s an area starving for growth in that sector. I do believe the residents will be having fun in this noodle bar for a very long time.
5317 Menaul Blvd. NE
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11am-9:30pm Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm Sun: 11am-9pm
Vibe: Modern Asian eatery
Alibi Recommends: Any noodle dish, earnestly.