Noodle City (San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles)

Noodle City SGV Exterior Shot

Noodle City
Address: 848 East Garvey, Monterey Park, CA 91755
Date & time of visit: July 14th 2014 + 7:45pm
Price (only one size): $6.05 USD

Ratings:

Jason

Broth: 7.5 | Beef: 7.5 | Noodle: 8 | Condiment: 7 | Service/atmosphere: 8 | Overall: 7.6

Mikey

Broth: 8 | Beef: 7 | Noodle: 8 | Condiment: 8 | Service/atmosphere: 8 | Overall: 7.8

Overall Rating: 7.7
Quality per dollar (based on large pho): 1.27

Write-up from Jason:

IT’S BEEN an exercise in acclimatization getting back into pho after my grand trip to Vietnam, where I had the best pho of my life. Soon after, my family went to a favorite pho haunt of ours during the holiday season and it just wasn’t the same. I had learned what the broth of a true pho auteur tastes like and there was no going back.

Noodle City SGV condiments 2.0

Time has passed and like a broken heart, sometimes just forgetting is the best medicine. By way of analogy, imagine dating a person you deem to be perfect in every way. For me, that’s star of stage and screen, Kristin Kreuk.

Kristin Kreuk

What happens is you go on a couple of dates, leaving your head spinning over how perfect she is. The worst case scenario has occurred – instead of just enjoying yourself and showing her how great you are, you’re singularly motivated to simply not mess up. This type of behavior, as we all know, is definitionally anathema to him or her liking you back.

Sooner or later the inevitable happens – you get dumped. How do you go back to dating normal girls? How do you go back to paying $8.50 US for a bowl of pho at Pho 75 in Arlington, Virginia?

The answer is simple: you don’t. You can’t. At least not right away.

Time is the only answer.

Noodle City SGV Pho

You reconnect with your friends. You tell your story about how you flirted with perfection. You ruminate on where things went wrong. Could you have been wittier? Was she feigning interest in your obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer the whole time? What kind of guy is obsessed with BtVS anyway?

Then you start to forget. At first maybe you don’t want to. You kind of like being the sad guy and maybe you feel like there is still hope as long as you don’t forget. But then you realize you have to. You stop following her on Facebook and eventually unfriend her. You replace thoughts of her with rosier ones: Neil Gaiman books; days at the beach; Felicia Day. Eventually days go by in which you realize you didn’t think of her at all. At then, maybe, it’s time to go back to Pho 75.

Well, over the past week and a half I’ve been visiting my Chin-to-Chin traveling partner in California. The other night we decided to go out for tacos at one of his favorite joints, Colonia Taco Lounge. We drove about half an hour to get there only to find out that it’s closed on Mondays. After a bit of haggling, Mikey informed me that he thought pho would settle his stomach and guess what(?), one of the San Gabriel Valley’s best phos is not far away! I agreed.

It was time to start moving on.

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.

Mikey and I agreed very closely on this pho so the review will be rather streamlined. First, the service was tight. We were greeted warmly and the server was vigilant throughout the meal, taking orders, delivering the pho and refilling waters. Noodle City’s condiment game was similarly strong, but not without its holes. My main gripe was that they teased the presence of peppers and saw-tooth but never went all the way. We got two measly leaves of saw-tooth and one sliver of jalapeno. If you are going to go for it, go all the way Noodle City!

Noodle City SGV condiments

Keeping with its namesake, this restaurant’s noodle program was its strength. Mikey and I both thought that the noodles came out al dente and without a hint of clump, albeit with something of a powdery undercooked taste we couldn’t quite identify. The broth was underwhelming, but above-average for a North American joint. The dark color was discomforting, but there was a hint of richness and coherent spicing. Finally in terms of beef, it wasn’t very fresh but was generous, especially with the flank and tendon.

Overall, this was not a great pho, but it was an important one for me. I’m ready to start moving on.

Goodbye Vietnam.

Goodbye Kristin.

Easy Restaurant (Little Italy)

Easy Restaurant @ 713 College Street Street in Toronto Ontario, call them @ (416) 535-2222

Easy Restaurant Little Italy

There are presently two Easy Restaurants – one in Parkdale and one in Little Italy. I lived directly above the Little Italy permutation this Spring and regularly witnessed long lines of soon-to-be patrons eagerly waiting to worship at this altar to Southwestern-inspired diner food. So when my mom came to visit, I was primed to take her for an approximate Mother’s day brunch and see what all the fuss was about.

Easy is a reference to the movie Easy Rider. I suppose the unifying theme of this restaurant is the aesthetic of that movie, along with similar films from the 70s. There are also a bunch of movie posters from the Easy Rider era. The cuisine, on the other hand, is composed and pricey (by breakfast standards), belying the grittiness of the movie.

Easy could also be a reference to the service at Easy Restaurant. The servers, exhibiting a high level of experience and professionalism, move fluidly through the room taking orders, refilling coffee, and chatting with customers. They get everything done quickly and well, with a cool and easy vibe.

Breakfast Tacos w Chorizo at Easy Restaurant

Easy is certainly not a reference to Easy Restaurant’s impact on your pocketbook. I ordered the weekday special, which is three breakfast tacos for about $10. It didn’t seem much like a special, as it essentially consisted of three tortillas, eggs, cheese and sauce. The food cost couldn’t be much more than a quarter of the price. The server offered the tempting upgrade of chorizo in the tacos, which I accepted, but bumped the price to $15. I know tacos are expensive in this city, but three breakfast tacos with no sides for $15 is excessive by any accounting. They were good: expertly scrambled eggs, tangy sauce, and fresh (but not house-made) tortillas. But for $15 they needed to wash my car and take out the garbage to be worth the price I paid.

I’m on the fence with Easy Restaurant. On the one hand it’s a fun restaurant with a cool vibe. On the other hand, I’d rather just buy some tortillas at La Torilleria, fry some eggs, and save myself $8 + tip. You know?