It seems there is a new restaurant opening Downtown almost every week. What’s more, almost every one of them has distinguished itself in short order. Rock ‘N’oodles (1108 S. 3rd St., 522-9953) is the newest entry, a tiny place with two four-tops, two high glass tables with stools and three tables just outside the door. On a good day, they can seat 12 inside, six outside.
Building a menu around noodles is a good idea for a startup: The main component is inexpensive, and there is the potential for versatility, even more so when the chef is talented newcomer Abbigail Byrd. Not a single dish disappointed.
We started with a cheese and ale soup loaded with bacon that had a rich, creamy finish. Then came Born on the Bayou, a hearty jambalaya made with orzo (a barley shaped wheat pasta), and chock-full of chorizo, andouille, chicken and the Cajun holy trinity: peppers, onions and celery.
Want Italian? Try Great Balls of Fire, a spicy take on spaghetti and meatballs, spiked with jalapeños and crushed red pepper. Chinese enthusiasts can enjoy the Everybody Wang Chung Tonite, a fairly straightforward version of Hong Kong-style crispy noodles with chicken, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and oyster sauce. And the tiny chocolate-dipped Bavarian-cream-filled puffs compete for the title of Downtown’s Best Dessert.
I’m sad that Café de Japon (5300 Spring Mountain Rd.) closed recently, but the truth be known, the kissaten (Japanese-style coffee shop) had a tough time from the outset. This was our first real version of what one finds all over Tokyo, a place where the menu features coffee brewed in a siphon, fresh pastas, Japanese-style plate lunches and oddball desserts such as cubes of fruit-flavored Jell-O with whipped cream. Let’s hope another kissaten surfaces in Chinatown soon.
In other news, Chef of the Century Joël Robuchon has dropped his French foie gras supplier, Ernest Soulard, for “animal abuse.” The delicious fatty duck liver has already been banned in California, so I’m wondering: Is there a nice way to force-feed a goose or duck? Maybe he’ll stop using foie gras all together, but don’t count on it.
Finally, is it my imagination or is Sriracha, starting to crop up everywhere? I sampled Lay’s Sriracha-flavored potato chips (thumbs down), Subway’s Sriracha chicken melt (thumbs further down) and Sriracha candy canes from Cost Plus World Market, 12 for $5 (enough, already).
The hot sauce is manufactured in Irwindale, California, at a factory recently in the news because of an attempted shutdown by locals protesting the pungent odors emanating from the facility. It is named for a coastal Thai city, Si Racha. If you’ve never tried it, head for the nearest ramen shop or Chinese buffet. You’ll find a bottle or two on every table.