A FEW HUNGRY LOCALS - Napa Noodles
Napa Valley is home to more restaurants than we can count. Who hasn’t spent too much time wondering where to go when you’re hungry? Anyone can go online, read restaurant reviews and then make a decision based on what someone else thought. This bunch of friends has decided to go in person. We’re going to eat our way to the answers––that suit our tastes––cook up an experience and serve it to you, through this series. Take the trip with us!
Our first excursion brought us to Napa Noodles, conveniently located downtown at 1124 First Street. The restaurant was created by the owners of the ever popular Eiko’s, and has been open about a year and a half. Featuring noodle dishes from around the world, and mouth-watering currys, BBQ meats, braised pork belly, soups and more . . . the items on Napa Noodles menu are like a global cuisine geography lesson we can’t wait to take.
Our group was cheerfully greeted upon arrival. The hostess invited us to sit wherever we’d like. This was quite a surprise, as one of our guests said, “Napa Noodles is counter-service”. Not anymore! A long line of barstools were filled with guests discussing the beverage list. The tables were neatly set, the restaurant was immaculate, and diners enjoyed their meals. It was sunny and warm outside, we chose to eat on the patio, in the shade. Before we stepped outside––we noticed––the aromas inside were intoxicating.
Water was brought promptly to the table by the hostess, and menus followed without delay. We lucked out when it came to our server, the young man displayed genuine hospitality, and was very knowledgeable about the menu. Making selections from the sumptuous variety of starters, and global-centric entreés was not easy for this hungry group. The menu boasts noodle dishes from around the world. We wanted to choose one of everything, our mouths were watering! The waiter answered all of our questions and gave great suggestions based on our conversation.
We decided to share the meal family style, and have been known to have eyes bigger than our stomachs, this time we asked ahead, “Are we ordering more food than we need?” The server noted an item or two from the children’s menu would fill out our choices, and give the variety we desired. What a welcome switch, many restaurants restrict the kids menu. This young man embraced our needs and made sure we got what we wanted. The manager made an appearance to check in with us and ask how our experience was. The whole team was very attentive without hovering. There’s that Napa hospitality, we felt right at home.
The beverage list is extensive, from coconut water to Japanese marble sodas, Thai iced tea, and juices, you’ll find something to please everyone. The wine list is precisely what we would expect in Napa Valley, familiar labels and varietals are abundant, served by the glass, or by the bottle. You may also bring your own bottle of wine, corkage is $15 (if you buy an additional bottle with your meal, corkage is waived). Their selection of beers, from around the world, is impressive. Sakes and ciders round out the choices.
Tasting plates were set and the food began to appear within minutes of ordering. The first item brought to the table was glistening Chinese broccoli ($7.95), drizzled with a savory hoisin sauce, delicate enough for the fresh flavor of the vegetable to come through, and topped with sesame seeds.
Who would eat here without ordering noodles? Not us––we choose two. The Tokyo Ramen ($13.95) a Japanese dish made with ramen egg noodles, which were cooked to perfection, and bathed in Chef Tateki’s ten-hour savory chicken broth, braised pork belly, scallions, pickled bamboo shoots, and a soft boiled egg, which was expertly prepared, and added a luscious viscosity to the dish. There was not a drop left in the bowl. The Yakisoba ($11.95), another Japanese style dish, was favored of the two. Wok-fried egg noodles, peanuts, fresno chilies, oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts, a house-made sweet soy sauce, and seasonal veggies rounded out the dish. Don’t worry, the amount of spice was not overpowering. The scent of soy on the fried egg noodles had our cravings in overdrive. Every bite got better and better.
Our favorite was the Da’kine Special Fried Rice ($10.95). It’s blooming aromatics and flavors set this dish apart. The precise cut of the vegetables unveiled the chef’s fine knife skills. With its braised pork belly, roasted duck and chicken ––a touch of pineapple for sweetness––scrambled egg, and a sprinkle of scallions on top to comple this dish, made it a ten out of ten. It was divine.
Others we would easily recommend were the Shrimp or Pork Gyoza ($7.95) which had a flavorful, and tangy, tagarashi citrus soy on the side. The “KFC” Korean Fried Chicken ($9.95) was delicious––crispy, plump wings with a maple chili gochujang glaze, toasted sesame seeds, micro wasabi, and maple salt. Yes, we licked our fingers.
Only one in our group left room for dessert, she got the Sweet Strawberry Smoothie (16 oz - $3.75 & 20 oz - $4.75). A generous portion of fresh cut strawberries, mixed with ice and milk, blended together, made for a healthy, yet sweet, finish to her meal. She was very satisfied.
As another diner left the patio, she made a point to look at everyone’s meal while she passed by, making note of what to order next time she visited. “It all looks so good!” That’s the same way we felt––we will be back.
Each item we selected was brought to the table steaming hot. The servings were more than generous, all prepared, and plated with great care. That old saying of ‘You eat with your eyes first’, was true here. The efforts Napa Noodles has put into the cuisine, service, and customer satisfaction will not go unnoticed. Way to go Zaslove Family!
We found the prices standard for Napa. There are choices for children ($6.95 - $8.95), and side dishes ($3.95 - $7.75) of vegetables or rice. Gluten Free options are clearly marked on the menu, which is available online. Some dishes can be prepared without meat for vegetarians.
Parking was not a challenge when we visited, right around the corner is street parking. City parking lots (at no charge) are within easy walking distance. With the beautiful weather we had, and our great lunch, everyone enjoyed the walk back to their car.
Keep an eye out for our next dining excursion, it will be sure to whet your appetite!
1124 First Street, Napa | 707.492.8079 | napanoodles.com
Open Wednesday through Monday 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM