Sunday, December 21, 2014

Restaurant Review: Johnny Noodle King

From the Fine Folks who brought us Green Dot

This isn't a burger joint if you couldn't discern that from the title. Rather this is a new concept from the owners of Green Dot Stables and is very close to their other restaurant.This place is much smaller than Green Dot but on a Friday night (about 10PM we were able to snatch a table right away). The inside was very cool, with kind of a diner meets industrial/retro look. Wood and concrete, inside with an awesome neon side outside.

Johnny Noodle King is about noodles. . . ramen noodles to be more specific. I love Asian inspired food in all sort of varieties - Thai, Vietnamese, Sushi, Chinese. . . , really all of it, but I guess Ramen noodles is not really my thing. Pho is also a noodle soup (and featured on this menu) but I don't want all my dishes to be the same noodles with a broth-like consistency. I think that the idea is good for some dishes but I think I was envisioning a little more of a "sauce" with some of the choices even if the menu was pretty upfront about the broth.

We tried Curry, which included red coconut curry broth (not sauce!) with pork belly, zuchinni, cauliflower, lime, shallot and fish sauce. The flavor of the broth was very good and the bowl was very generous (it's a rare occasion when I actually pack up something to take home for later). The noodles were a wonderful consistency - this isn't microwave ramen noodles. . . I just really would have liked a thicker broth/sauce for my dish and think I would have liked it better with rice than noodles. I know it's unfair to compare this to a Thai dish but I would ave liked it that way. By the way, the pork belly is awesome and I made sure to eat every last morsel. It was tender, with a nice balance between fat and meat, and just  a touch salty. Good stuff.

The other noodle bowl we chose was Shoyu. Again, noodles in broth but with this one I think the thin broth worked. The broth tasted like a miso soup and had pork belly, nori, egg, bamboo, scallions, kamaboko and bonito. This dish was lighter than the curry and featured the same wonderful pork belly. I should add that you have the option to add all kinds of additional ingredients into these bowls (like more pork belly!) such as extra noodles, rice, seafood, etc. You probably could customize your bowl to your exact liking.

There are other offerings on the menu, including a rice cake with shredded pork, duck egg yolk, kewpie mayo, scallion, tagorashi and garlic oil. The rice cake resembled a sushi roll to me and was a nice consistency but didn't really make me think I had to try it again.

We also tried the octopus cucumber salad which featured several generous pieces of octopus. I should say that I really like octopus and have had octopus salad at several restaurants and this did not taste anything like what I am used to. I really didn't enjoy it and left it behind. The octopus was not the chewy texture I really like and it seemed like it might have been cooked with a liquid to simmer for quite a while. It was also very fishy. The sauce was not the usual cucumber dressing. Maybe what I eat is typically more Americanized but this didn't do it for me.

I did enjoy a really great beer while we were there. They have several Hatichino offerings and I tried the ginger beer. Good stuff. Cool bottle.

So final verdict? If you like ramen this probably is a good place for you. If you are looking for more variety and envisioning dishes with rice and sauce, it may not be. I will definitely go back to Green Dot instead when we are on that side of town. This didn't do it for me.

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