BEST ‘FANCY NOODLES’
IN LOS ANGELES
Food trends come and go, and while our obsession with favorites such as burgers, tacos, sushi and pizzas have been long lasting, more recent food crazes include poké, fried chicken sandwiches, spicy fried chicken, and the most recent one I’ve become hip to is noodle dishes. And I’m not talking about regular noodles, no, these are high-end noodles often prepared with lobster or crab or some other fancy ingredient.
Most of these noodles dishes tend to be Vietnamese cuisine, which I find ironic because I don’t imagine people in Vietnam eating such rich dishes of noodles filled with lobster or uni on the street. Just like rice, noodles are pretty simple dishes that can aptly sustain people. It’s a simple carb-based food; hearty and filling.
One of the first times that I discovered these delicious and decadent noodles was at
Crustacean in Beverly Hills where the An family celebrates Vietnamese cuisine with global flavors paying homage to Vietnam’s five fundamental elements—spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet.
While I love exploring the delicacies and nuances of dining, I truly believe that eating is a communal experience that we share with those dear to us. Sure, at it is core, food is sustenance and serves as the fuel we need until our next meal but on occasion, it can be a great experience, almost a grand event where we come together with people we’re fond of and together share or indulge in a fine meal that not only satisfies but satiates. I found that to be the case when I tested some of the city’s tastiest noodles dishes where I bonded with good friends over some rich food always paired with Junmai Dai Ginjo sake.
It should be noted that sake was our (well, my) beverage of choice. Sake has long replaced white wine for me when eating seafood and I thought it’s clean and clear flavor would complement the savory noodles, which often were cooked with seafood.
The noodle dishes we first pitted one against the other included Crustacean; The District by Hannah An (the eldest daughter of the famed An family has now gone solo offering her own contemporary take on traditional Vietnamese dishes); ROKU; and Serafina. Later, we included Katana; TAO LA; and Neptunes Raw Bar (famous for its floating noodles) among others. The following is a list of my favorite fancy noodle delights, based on taste but also bang for your buck.
Crustacean…The O.G. noodle joint
You can’t have a conversation about ‘fancy noodles’ in Los Angeles without talking about Crustacean in Beverly Hills. An’s Famous Garlic Noodles have been a foodie favorite for years. A simple dish, it doesn’t really get any better and it’s a bargain at only $12 an order. The plain garlic noodles are the measuring stick for noodles dishes in town. If you want a more sophisticated dish (and who doesn’t?), go for the XO Wok Noodle with scallop, shrimp, chicken, bird’s eye chili, shallots and Hennessy Cognac. It is rich and flavorful yet light with a great garlic taste. It manages to find a fine balance of spice and orgasmic flavor. It was just announced that Crustacean will has closed for major renovations and when it reopens in the fall, it will be two restaurants run by the An family. Rest assured those garlic noodles aren’t going anywhere. The garlic noodles are $12 and the XO noodles are $16.
Crustacean is located at 9646 S. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills.
ROKU…Rockin’ noodles on the Sunset Strip
While ROKU comes off as an all too hip scene on the Sunset Strip, it’s known for its Teppanyaki and sushi and its lobster noodles are pretty damn spectacular. A flat noodle dish, the combination of lobster garlic noodles with Nova Scotia lobster and black sesame is fantastic. The richness and buttery taste will wow you. I really liked the thickness of the noodles and lobster was fresh and plenty. The Lobster noodles are $22.
ROKU Sunset is located at 9201 Sunset Blvd. Call 310-278-2060.
The District by Hannah An…Where noodles are the family business
It shouldn’t be a surprise that both Crustacean and a restaurant by a member of the family would be on a best of noodles list. Hannah’s Signature Noodles with handmade egg noodles and Hannah’s Signature Sauce is zesty and somewhat similar to Crustacean. This is a great base noodle dish. But if you really want to take things to the next level, go for Hannah’s Dungeness Crab & Uni Noodles with lump crab, chive uni butter, nori and fresh uni sashimi. The noodles are egg-based and so rich and flavorful. It’s eggy and decadent and so buttery (and that’s a compliment). Hannah’s Signature Noodles are $12 and the Crab & Uni Noodles are $34.
The District by Hannah An is located at 8722 W. 3rd Street. Call 310-278-2345.
TAO Los Angeles…Asian bistro gets clubby
Whether you’re talking about Las Vegas or New York City, TAO is a scene like no other
and its brand-new Hollywood outpost is stunning. Along with Edison in downtown, I
can’t think of better eye candy when it comes the look of a restaurant in LA. Hot and
chic, the noodles at TAO were definitely among my favorites. The Drunken Pad Tai with
lobster, brandy and cashew is out of this world rich and flavorful. They don’t skimp on
the lobster and it’s just plain badass. The highly Dan Dan Noodles with crispy duroc
pork, Szechuan peppercorn and peanuts are tremendous, especially if you like spice.
The Drunken Pad Thai is $34 and the Dan Dan Noodles are $28.
TAO Los Angeles is located at 6421 Selma Avenue. Call 323-593-7888.
Serafina Sunset…Noodles Italian style
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Serafina’s decadent and delicious Tartufo Nera (truffle pizza) but their Spaghetti Al Ricci Di Mare (sea urchin spaghetti) is also a dynamo dish. This is the first of the noodles dishes that I tried that was spaghetti based. It’s also the first non-Asian restaurant I had noodles at. Either way, the tasty sea urchin spaghetti with a touch of white wine and garlic olive oil, like the truffle pizza, this is another rich and decadent dish that simply fantastic. The Spaghetti Al Ricci Di Mare is $29.
Serafina Sunset is located at 8768 Sunset Blvd. Call 310-659-9130.
Katana…star studded noodles
Just like ROKU, Katana is part of the Innovative Dining Group and both Sunset Strip locations offer impressive robata and sushi dining experience. Eating on the outdoor patio at Katana overlooking busy Sunset Boulevard is a trendy thing to do. Here we had the Lobster Noodles with a Nova Scotia lobster tail, sesame and garlic. While it may not be as rich as the noodles from ROKU, they are delicious. But I feel that I really have to give a special shout out to the miso marinated black cod at Katana, which melted in my mouth like butter. Solid noodles but it was the cod that left the lasting impression.
Katana is located at 8439 Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood. Call 323-650-8585.
Neptunes Raw Bar….The noodles are floating!
Sure, the floating noodles at Neptunes Raw Bar in Artesia are a total gimmick but what foodie won’t make the trek in order to capture a cool Instagram pic? And floating noodles really help pump your street cred. The story goes this noodle dish originated in Singapore with soba and somen noodles. If you’re not in the know, the noodles are presented on floating chopsticks, making it look like they are magically floating in mid-air. In other words, ‘they be floating!’
From the former chef partner of Roy's and protégé of Roy Yamaguchi, executive Chef Nathan Payo’s Neptunes Raw Bar offers three kinds of floating noodle dishes: garlic shrimp, deep-fried soft shell crab, and chicken katsu. Instead of soba or somen, Payo uses the popular garlic noodles. The floating noodles are a must-have at least once but I really liked the Uni pasta. That dish just offered more flavor. The basic garlic noodles are $10, which is probably the way to go. It’s $16 if you want shrimp. And the Uni Pasta is $22.
Neptunes Raw Bar is located at 11612 South Street in Artesia. Call 562-402-0770.
Lono Hollywood…Where noodles meet tiki
I have to give a special shout out to the brand new Lono Hollywood, a tiki-inspired bar and restaurant. Offering first rate cocktails from the trusted brain trust at Melrose Umbrella Co., Lono offers its own noodle dish with its Yakisoba Madripoor—a ramen noodle stir fry with golden chive, charred gai-lan, and Sichuan style kimchi topped with itogaki. While it’s not as rich, decadent or fancy as these other noodle dishes, it is very satisfying and a good item to have when drinking plenty of tiki cocktails. There’s no sake pairing here so it’s really not in the running for my Best of but it definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Lono Hollywood is located at 6611 Hollywood Blvd. Call 323-848-4475.
While there was no unanimous winner, the consensus saw ROKU as our favorite noodle dish. The District by Hannah An Crab & Uni noodles and Crustacean’s garlic noodles were neck and neck for top honors too. And TAO was a solid winner on the podium as well. My personal taste is fond of the richness of the noodles so I gravitated to the ROKO lobster noodles as well as Crustacean’s XO Noodles and The District’s crab and uni dish.
The bigger debate--I’d say discussion but there was a lot of sake had in the name of research—saw The District by Hannah An’s Signature Noodles and Crustacean’s classic garlic noodles as the best value, and ROKU was best bang for your buck with its lobster noodles.
Story by Jose Martinez
Lono Hollywood Photography Courtesy: Genevieve Marie Adams all others courtesy of restaurant