Sunday, June 28, 2009
When I heard that one of my favorite Filipino restaurants, Asian Noodles, had closed, I was really disappointed and I had to admit to feeling a bit of an unfair grudge against whatever restaurant took its place. Then I found out that the new restaurant now called Noi, was also a Filipino restaurant and the news put a smile on my face. I could only hope that the food would be as good, if not better than its predecessor. Really happy news finally came my way when a friend of mine told me that Noi was actually still Asian Noodles. Although the restaurant name changed, apparently everything else stayed the same, including the management and cooks.
After hearing the good news, I knew that I wanted to check out Noi as soon as I could and as luck would have it, I was able to have dinner there with a couple of friends before catching the Cirque Berzerk Yelp Elite Event happening at a near by location. With only three of us, we kept it simple with 4 dishes that we shared, but man oh man, there was really enough food there for 3 other people. Before the food arrived, we enjoyed a calamansi drink. Calamansi , which is both naturally sweet and sour, is a popular fruit in the Philippines that is used in a lot of Filipino cooking and can also be made into a "lemonade" type of drink.
One of the dishes we shared was a bola bola siopao which came with sauce that is made up of soy sauce, sugar and other ingredients. The siopao is similar to a Chinese bao and in fact, the siopao is attributed to Ma Mon Luk, a grade school teacher from Canton, who came to the Philippines to make his way. Ma Mon Luk also introduced Mami, a Filipino noodle soup inspired by a similar Chinese dish, to the Philippines. Traditionally, Filipinos will have the siopao as a side to their Mami Soup. Siopao fillings are either chicken, pork or a combination of pork, sausage, chicken and a salted egg. The last configuration is referred to as Bola Bola.
Unfortunately, this bola bola siopao was disappointing. The bread was dry as was the filling. Also, I didn't see much evidence of the salted egg and it's because of that particular ingredient that I'll order the bola bola in the first place. The thick salty/sweet sauce it came with helped a little bit, but not enough.
As for the other three dishes, two of them were seafood based. First, there's the Bicol Express, which is seafood cooked in a spicy coconut sauce. While not that spicy, there was definitely some kind of seasoning that cut into the sweetness of the coconut milk and also added a lot of flavor to this dish. Another bonus is the generosity when it came to the seafood ingredients. Clams, mussels, squid and shrimp all came to the party.
The other seafood item was Pansit Palabok, which had rice noodles, shrimp, squid, hard boiled eggs and was topped with crushed chicarrones. As for the sauce, it is generally made of shrimp juice, flour and atchuete oil. Most Filipinos eat these noodles with a squeeze of lemon or calamansi. I really liked how the squid was battered and deep fried, tentacles and all. Even with the shrimp juice sauce, the flavors weren't erring too much on the seafood side and in fact, the chicarrones added a nice hit of salt while the lemon juice gave this dish a nice tartness in flavor.
Last, but not least, was the Filipino Fried Chicken. When it comes to Filipino Fried Chicken, it's never coated with any type of batter. Generally, it's simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, black peppercorns, vinegar and a bay leaf or two and than it's deep fried to a dark golden brown. Usually, the chicken is deep fried for so long that the chicken itself may seem a little dry, but what you get out of it is the deliciously crispy chicken skin. Besides, the chicken is usually served with banana ketchup. Dip your chicken in that sweet sauce and I guarantee you'll be a happy camper.
Whether Asian Noodles or Noi, I'm glad this restaurant never actually left and I'm already looking forward to my return visit and re-acquainting myself with their wonderful food.
643 N Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90012