Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Noodle Box (Kitsilano)


After a delightful mini lunch at Thomas Haas, we headed to The Noodle Box a short 4-minute drive away for some free noodles thanks to Janice. She had a couple of gift cards that entitled us to 2 food items up to $14 each. We probably never would have visited the place if not for the gift cards, because none of us believed in Pan Asian cuisine prepared by Western chefs. We knew we were in for an unauthentic experience when we saw that there wasn't a single Chinese customer in the store apart from us. We spent a long time studying the menu above the food counter. I decided to try the Singapore cashew curry with prawns ($14) because I was curious about how close it would come to the real thing. Needless to say, I was disappointed by the lack of flavour. The so-called curry tasted worse than instant curry from the supermarket. The sauce was spicy (much spicier than the mild+ I requested), but that was all I could taste along with an extremely grainy texture. The amount of sauce in the dish was somewhat awkward as well. There was too much sauce for dry noodles and too little sauce for wet noodles. It tasted like the dish had been cooked with lots of sauce, then set aside to dry for a few hours.


Janice and Kirby wanted the spicy peanut noodle box with prawns ($14), which is one of the most popular items here. The sauce was smoother and creamier than the curry, but there was similarly no depth to the flavour. I found it pretty sad that this was supposed to be the signature dish. I could get better noodles at almost any Chinese restaurant.


We didn't like the food much, so we packed most of it to go. The cute takeout cartons look really small, but surprisingly they can each hold an entire order of noodles. Our leftovers filled up only half the box.


The main issue with the dishes was that they lacked wok hei (鑊氣), literally translated as "wok's air". Wok hei is the texture, flavour, and character of the dish produced by the action of cooking at high temperatures on an open flame with quick tossing and stir frying techniques. From what I saw in the open kitchen, the flames were rather tame and the tossing and frying wasn't very professional. Considering the less-than-desirable taste and lack of table service, I find the prices absolutely absurd and have no plans to come back. But it seems like they have an established clientele with tastes catered to their cooking, so I think people who buy into the whole pseudo Asian food concept would enjoy the food here.

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