More modern, new age Vietnamese…this time in Atwater Village.
Look, I don’t know what to say about this one.
Vietnamese cuisine, is kinda extraordinary. It’s an amazing blend of flavors, textures, and sensations. On top of that, as it’s taken from the French, as well as the numerous tribes, cultures and regions within Vietnam, makes it’s food culture all the more mind-blowing and expansive.
And yet for some reason, it’s the cuisine that Chefs, who are not Asian, seem quickest to want to emulate or copy.
It’s California, so I can’t really be all that amazed at the prospect of there being a number of restaurants in the area that are Vietnamese in origin, yet have mostly white guys in the back cooking and coming up with the menus.
Blue Hen, Gingergrass are just a few of the places I’ve been too where Ive seen this phenomenon in action. O Banh Mi, with the most expensive Banh Mi I’ve seen, like…ever…is a place that seems to be a blend. There’s someone Asian behind the scenes, but the restaurant seems to be catering to a non-Asian crowd.
So, what then of Viet Noodle Bar?
Well, let’s get one thing out of the way. Where it is and how to find it.
You’re not going to recognize Viet Noodle Bar when you walk up to it. Sorry, you’re just not. And seeing it from the street? Forget about it.
The restaurant is a complete brick face, with a couple of wide open windows with no easy to see, easy to spot markings, revealing it as a restaurant. The picture you see? The lettering for the sign Viet Noodle Bar are all so small that you’d be forgiven if you missed it entirely. I only knew I was there when stopped, looked the address of the place up on my phone, and confirmed it by the Address numbers…which were decently large and easy to read.
Seriously, I thought the place was a Boutique at first. It just didn’t read “restaurant” when I waked up toward it.
I walked inside, and it was pretty calm. Then again, I’d come in ahead of the lunch rush. Things filled out as I sat there and ate. The decor inside was…well, a bit austere. It’s got that new age, woodblock with a futuristic edge thing happening. Again, nothing that necessarily radiates “Vietnamese place” but then again, what does that mean anyway? Of all the Vietnamese places I’ve been too, that cater to local Vietnamese-American community, from the former convenience stores to the shops they were in a past life, only Ha Tien Quan seemed to wear Vietnam on it’s sleeve.
Then there was the matter of all the Children’s Books along the wall. Seriously. Left to right, under a big chalkboard on the wall (empty, but painted using that new-flanged chalkboard paint).
I’m…really not getting what energy they’re trying to send off here.
Hope the food’s okay.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: I opened with the Jicama Chicken Meatballs. So, seasoned, tasty balls of Chicken, broiled up, and left sitting in a tasty, and decently thickened broth. Cilantro, onion. A bunch of flavors and textures, all adding up to a pretty enjoyable little dish. Pretty good, all things considered. The only thing was, even though it’s an appetizer, it was a little heavy for me. I almost did not have room for the main course which was coming up next.
The main course was Lemongrass Beef Noodle. Now, this was a dish that I both liked and didn’t. It’s really some uninteresting cooked beef heaped atop a pile of fresh noodles, and sprinkled with pepper. But the thing of it is, it’s a really, really fresh bowl noodles. By themselves, they were amazing.
The Beef…kinda grew on me over time, but it was pretty bland, unseasoned…except for the pepper which was over everything. In a way, the Beef got int the way. I probably should have gotten some Pho, but the only thing on the Pho menu that looked interesting was their Organic Chicken Pho…and…sorry, to me, Pho is about Beef. Chicken stock might be too light a taste to bring in…
…again, at least for me.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: As I mentioned above, you’re number one concern is going to be finding the place. It doesn’t have a big sign, and it doesn’t read restaurant when you first look at it. That’s why I took the pictures I did, so you’d recognize it when you see it. Once you find the place, all’s good. Business as usual.
PARKING: Another tricky thing. Coming in to Atwater Village is always a bit of a challenge parking wise.
The first thing you’re going to try is the Meters along Glendale Blvd. Good luck with that. They’re almost always full. You might get lucky with a couple of orbits to and fro, but odds are you’re not going to find anything. Bring some change with you just in case.
Second, if you’re on Glendale Blvd., heading away from Glendale and into Los Angeles, you are on the south side of the street. That side has a long strip of public parking behind the businesses on that side of the street. They’re usually full too, but they’re a better bet than the Metered parking along Glendale Blvd. See if you can find something there, before trying the residential parts of Atwater Village, which will require you to walk back to the main drag.
Be careful, as with all Residential Blocks, make sure you look at the signs, and be sure it’s okay to park there. Some residential areas are by permit only. You just want to park there. Don’t get a ticket or piss off the residents.
Viet Noodle Bar
3133 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Tel: (323) 906-1575
Daily: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm