Monday, 4 April 2011

Noodle Maker Edmonton - Great pulled pork.. wait, its a noodle place!

Rating: 7/10
Photo courtesy of noodlemaker.wordpress.com
So after hearing some mixed reviews from fellow foodies the past several months, finally decided to try this place out for myself. I've had people telling me ths food ranged from mediocre to comparable to Vancouver, with service also yoyoing around. The verdict - really depends on what you order, and service is ok - the state of service in the resturant industry in Alberta has always been sadly lacking. Chef's been around the block, working in the industry for years, opened up a few resturants in his time, his latest a noodlehouse set in one of the shadiest areas in town... how shady? Had to plow through a group of homeless gents to get into the entrance of the resturant. First striking thing as you enter.. a large old school wood/coal? fired stove at the back of the dining area. Was tempted to touch it, but there was a sign labeled hot on it - perhaps its a quaint way of heating up the room, or just an odd decorative piece the owner hasn't set up quite yet. A dusty metal fountain? contraption sits beside the stove, so maybe both are decorative. Keep in mind this location is a hole in the wall, and so yes, close your eyes to a bit of uncleaniness.. its expected so suck it up.



The FOOD
RAMEN - Its called Noodle Maker, so gotta try the noodles. Should be good if thats thier moniker... right?
1)The Char-siu ramen: Ramen noodles tender chewy and made from fresh noodles (brought over from vancouver), the 5 pieces of spare ribs had a nice red orche glaze that hid the slightly dry though throughly marinated meat underneath. Small quibble - personally, I like my char-siu the traditional way made with boneless pork shoulder or loin so the meat is less dry. Now the broth that some have been singing praises for.. disappointment. The very salty miso based "butter broth" had slightly more particulate matter than the regular miso based broth, and nowhere near the super rich opaque pork bone broth one can find in good vancouver noodle shops. There was a generous handful of bean spouts and a few corn niblets sprinkled on for a garnish.
2) Pork cutlet ramen in light miso based soup. Noodles cooked to a nice tender chewy, 3 pieces of thin seasoned pork cutlets melt in your mouth tender, vegetables an afterthought, though the lighter and very salty miso based broth nicely flavored the ramen noodles.
3) Spicy braised beef noodle - not a ramen, but med-flat rice soup noodle dish... packing a spicy punch, this soup noodle while lacking in vegetables, had a earthy satisfying subtle star anise infused broth with a few slices of medium tender beef flank tossed in. I say subtle, as the heat of the spices build up and subtle flavors are lost after a while.

Avoided the rice dishes as my friends have told me the chef is a bit too creative and uses brown rice - while highly nutritious as the bran isn't ground off like white rice, it really has no place in a be-bim-bap as the mouth feel is totally totally unpleasant.


APPETIZERS
1) Stinky tofu - having another foodie who's tried the tried and true version in numerous places in China and HK, I was a bit surprised it only smelled like... fried tofu. Didn't smell the distinctive pungency as it was prepared, served or when popped in mouth. Essentially small wedges of deep fried tofu served in a spicy sweet-sour sauce paired with a lightly spicy and tangy coleslaw that cut through the grease nicely. I was just glad I didn't have to run away from the dish as the traditional stinky tofu smells like regurgitated sewage with a 3 blocks radius of stench. (Its an acquired taste - if you can get close enough to the real thing). My fellow foodie was disappointed (insane) it wasn't stinky as advertised, but the chef would probably have more people trying it if the name reflected what was served: fried tofu wedges with spicy dipping sauce and homemade coleslaw. Seriously, stinky tofu while traditional, has a really bad rapsheet. Are people truly that ambitious they want to try something that tastes great but smells... well, you get the point.

2) Pulled appled pork bun - okay, technically not an appy, but if its shared it is, so there. Best item tried that night - super moist pulled pork was tender and bathed in a savory, slightly sweet, tangy applesauce with a hint of spicy peppers, served with a chunk of braised apple in a fresh flour dusted sourdough bun. Messy savory goodness... yom. Definetely need a few napkins afterwards - the sign of a good pulled pork sandwich!

3) Avoided the deep fried basa as it seems like a hit and miss dish for other people who have tried, will probably try it next time when we order less food and hope we get a lightly battered version and not a heavy grease brick.



The VERDICT
For Edmonton's currently only noodle house that serves ramen, its ok. Quibble - cleaniness, fear of having car broken into and broth bases, 7/10.  The noodles are fresh and the broth a step above the instant noodles we're all used to having in our college/university years. There is a $7min purchase policy, I think mainly as a polite way to boot out the more unsavory parts of the neighbourhood, as we noticed some patrons were gently suggested to go to HK bakery where there is no minimum purchase required. I'll be back for the pulled pork bun, maybe try the pulled pork ramen, but despite being a noodlehouse, there is nothing in terms of drawing power for its noodles. They're not open late, which is a quintessential element of ramen places in Asia, Vancouver and Toronto - however, it gets the downtown lunch crowd, so I presume the owner's happy with that crew. The shady location isn't super conducive to late night in anycase - he'd be better off paying more rent for a location closer to whyte ave or university campus. If the chef pares his menu down and focus on a few core menu items to perfect them, he would make truly a memorable noodlehouse with great noodles (and soup!), where people would brave the scary neighbourhood at night. Its a noodlehouse.. we don't need rice or kimchee or all the other random glamglut of medicore dishes on the last page of the menu. Keep it simple, focus on your strengths and you'll succeed. The pulled pork is a keeper though. Nom.


Noodle Maker
Address  9653 102 Ave. NW Edmonton, AB
Phone (780) 428-0021

Hours varies, check website 
Noodle Maker on Urbanspoon

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1 comment:

plasterers bristol said...

This sounds really good, thanks for sharing this recipe.

simon

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