The Noodle Bar
Miss Knedlíkova reviews one of her Prague favorites
It’s been a good year or more since my last visit to The Noodle Bar in Nové Město.
I really don’t know why -- the place has been one of my long-standing Prague favorites since it first opened back in 2007, on account of its friendly service, funky interior, and delicious range of pan-Asian noodle dishes.
Still, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say. As it stood, the Noodle Bar and I were long overdue a reunion, so I invited new friends M and B to accompany me there on a recent visit.
Food-wise we all found it hard to choose -- the menu at the Noodle Bar is pretty varied, incorporating noodle, soup and curry dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Hong Kong and Japan, among others. Handy symbols for chili and coconut content make it easier to tailor the dishes to your personal tastes in terms of sugar and spice.
In the end, M went for a small portion of Tom Kha Kai (110 CZK), with chicken, mushrooms, coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal and coriander.
Her praise here was high indeed. M’s gauge for any good Thai restaurant is apparently always their rendition of the Tom Kha Kai, and this version rated up among the best of them on her personal scale. Like me, she also welcomed the fact that The Noodle Bar doesn’t shy away from spice like so many other places in the Czech Republic, and even features additional pots of dried chili flakes, crushed peanut and soy sauce on every table for those that wish to top up the heat levels -- a welcome change from the usual bog-standard sweet chili sauce bottles usually on offer, that’s for sure.
To accompany her soup, she also had a pot of Mighty Leaf Vietnamese tea, which came served in a tie-off bag with real tea leaves -- at 65 CZK deemed expensive but nice.
B opted for the Pad Sen with pork (195 CZK), a large dish of wok-fried noodles with pak choi and beansprouts.
Another satisfied customer here -- B commented that these tasted like noodles from a local Chinese food stand, i.e. fresh, delicious and (unlike most faux Asian food in Prague) not at all greasy. It was an enormous portion though, and despite his best efforts, B couldn’t quite get through it all.
As for me, I went for one of my traditional favorites in the Prawn Laksa (255 CZK), which consisted of rice noodles with spicy coconut soup, prawns, fish balls, bean sprouts, shallots, chili and Thai basil.
This was practically as good as any versions in all my years in South-East Asia, and even better doused in the additional dried chili flakes and crushed peanut. Not that my laksa wasn’t already sufficiently spicy by most people’s standards as it was -- I just have a particularly high heat threshold, and don’t feel happy with a noodles / curry dish unless my lips are tingling afterwards. If I had one minor criticism to make, it would be that the cucumber here was slightly out of place and a bit on the dry side.
So two Noodle Bar converts down, another two to go with my next visit a week or so later with Liverpudlian mates, Prague Ginge and Mr T.
Prague Ginge was immediately won over by our shared starter of Corn Cakes with sweet pepper and coriander with spiced cucumber pickle (85 CZK).
Mr T and I also partook, and both found them to be pretty crispy and fresh, though not necessarily something we’d go for again. I did think the cucumber pickle was a bit on the bland side, but maybe that’s just me.
For her main, Prague Ginge pushed the boat out with the Seared Tuna on Soba Noodles, at 275 CZK one of the most expensive items on the menu.
I have to say (and Prague Ginge more than agreed), the price was well worth it. As you can see from the photo, the tuna was perfectly rare and coated with two-tone sesame seeds, with fragrant sesame and sweet chili sauce to the side to jazz it up further. The noodles were also very flavoursome too -- slightly on the claggy side maybe, but (and don’t tell anyone here) actually that is just the way I like them.
Mr T scored another success with his vegetarian Thai Green Curry (180 CZK) with coconut milk, tofu, sweet potato, aubergine and Thai basil. Jasmine rice had to be ordered separately at 45 CZK (sadly they didn’t have the more traditionally Thai sticky rice option on the menu).
All three of us had a taste here and unanimously declared this to be one of the best Thai curries we’ve had in Prague, with a thick, creamy sauce infused with the flavor of copious amounts of basil and coconut milk. It’s a shame they don’t do a chicken or prawn version of it, as with some of their other dishes, as personally speaking I’m not really into tofu type ingredients. I’d be persuaded to go for it again in this case just on the basis of the sauce alone, however.
Seemingly more acquainted with my dietary preferences than I ever knew, Prague Ginge had secretly bet herself a glass of wine already that I would go for the Chicken Pho option at 185 CZK. In actual fact I was very much torn here between the pho and my other traditional favourite here of the Chiang Mai noodles, but ultimately proved Prague Ginge’s confidence in my apparent culinary predictability justified. She got her additional glass of wine out of it at any rate, and naturally I insisted I also do penance for unwittingly losing by also partaking in another glass myself.
I’ve had this pho before, and -- aside from it being chicken rather than the more typically Vietnamese beef variety -- with its generous quantities of rice noodles, beansprouts, fresh chili, coriander and lime, always found it to be pretty authentic. Not quite on the level of Holešovice market perhaps, but with the compensatory advantage of eating it in a nice warm restaurant with glass of wine in hand rather than shivering on a cold wooden bench at a chilly market stall.
We did um and ah over Noodle Bar’s range of sweet sticky rice and coconut based desserts, but in the end decided we were already more than content with our delicious dinners so far.
With food and service so consistently good, I’ve often wondered why The Noodle Bar is practically empty on weekday and weekend evenings alike. Given that the kitchen closes at 9pm (earlier or later depending on the whim of the chef), I can only imagine it is more frequented during the day, when I am across town at work. On both visits, I did note quite a few customers coming in to pick up take-away orders, so perhaps the lack of bums on seats of an evening is deceptive in terms of the place’s true popularity.
Either way, me and my fellow four visitors (all Noodle Bar first timers) were all well and truly impressed with our experiences there, and one things for sure at any rate -- I definitely won’t be leaving it another year until my next visit this time round!
The Noodle Bar
Phone: (+420) 602 370 984
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