Monday, March 8, 2010
Culinary InterventionPrint this post
Oh Noodle Ranch...I want to like you again. I really really do. But you leave me no choice, with your reheated and earlier prepared ingredients, that I can no longer see you anymore. I remember when we first met, your grilled meat atop freshly prepared Vermicelli noodles accompanied with pickled Daikon and carrots made me throw back my head in ecstasy! I bragged about you to all my friends how you had one of the best curries in town, cool decor, the best wonton soup in Belltown, and noodle bowls that rivaled the International District. But no more...the honeymoon is over. I can appreciate your new smaller menu but it doesn't seem to be helping you in making your way back into our hearts.
Despite the friendly accommodating waiter, who was able to seat all 10 of us, I sure wish our food reflected the good intentions I'm sure the owner and chefs have there. The shrimp in my Mekong Grill noodle bowl was so rubbery it was as if it was pre-cooked, skewered, and then reheated for 2 seconds on a grill. The noodles were completely overdone and too soft. Vermicelli should have a nice bite to it and remain super thin. Not get as thick as spaghetti and mushy! Note to Noodle Ranch: It takes 2 minutes to cook Vermicelli. Have a pot of boiling water on the stove at all times, throw in the pasta, wait for it to boil again, take it out to drain, and put it on the plate. The supposed time you might save pre-making ingredients is worth nothing when people won't go back because the food tastes like it's out of a box! So, being that it was called a "noodle bowl" I also expected way more noodles than I received. I swear 3/4 of the bowl was shredded lettuce, 1/4 vermicelli and just smothered in an onion and peanut topping. I said "topping" people, not the main ingredient! It's all I tasted the whole night, just lingering and hanging around like a third-cousin-once-removed who's overstayed their welcome. OUT, I SAY OUT! Oh, and I can't forget the sauce they had for dipping. It was SO hot, SOOOOO HOT, it was inedible. Is anyone tasting anything back there in the kitchen?? Something this hot should have a warning on the menu, but the ratio of rice vinegar and fish sauce to chili's was astronomical. Vinegar 1: Chili 100. It really isn't supposed to be THAT hot...trust me.
Anyway, I thought maybe it was just my dish that was bad, but I looked over at the other table's Fresh Roll appetizer and it was barely touched. You could see the rice wrappers used to roll the ingredients inside were so thick they didn't even look real. It was like the rolls were wrapped in a calamari casing. No, seriously. I don't see how the wrappers could have been "fresh" in any way. Note to Noodle Ranch: Before rolling the ingredients (yes I mean right when someone orders it) dip the wrapper in hot water for 30 seconds, remove, and voila! Instant freshness! People will love you! They will come back, giving praise to the noodle gods!
I think the only real positive thing I heard about the food was for the dumpling soup (I believe it had such ingredients as pork, green onion and mild Kimchi), which one of our Chinese friends said was petty good. The curries looked okay, a bit on the thick side (not in a good way), but nothing too special.
So what can we take from this experience, Noodle Ranch? I almost want to call Gordon Ramsay of Kitchen Nightmares to swoop in and save you! Belltown needs a place like yours, where a person can go for a bowl of authentic Asian dishes. But if you continue on your current Shortcut Path, you probably won't be seeing very many please faces on your journey.