Monday, November 26, 2007

Viet Noodle Bar, Atwater Village - Hello Noodle Bar, Goodbye Soy Cafe

Viet Noodle Bar Atwater Village

When I first heard of Silver Lake, I was told it was a haven for artists, musicians, screenwriters and of course, hipsters. On any day, you can drive by the cafes and shops and see people dotted along concrete like tacks on a bulletin board. You might see about thirty people outside the shoe-fiend hangout, Undefeated, waiting for the new $150 pair of artist-endorsed Nikes. You might see a lady with two dogs at Eat Well enjoying the sunlight and smog while reading the freshest copy of LA Weekly or The Onion. You might see a crazy person yelling at a telephone pole, maybe even punch it. You might see a man strumming his guitar for some change outside of the Intelligentsia coffeeshop. You might see a couple on a morning stroll, with arms completely tatted up like sleeves. This is the area I live in, and everyday is more interesting than the next. And although there's a salad bowl mix of personalities here in this postage stamp area called Silver Lake, you might find that there is one thing that a lot of Silverlakites do have in common. On top of the artists, musicians, screenwriters and hipsters here, vegans and health-freaks can now be added to the list of usual suspects.

Being a carnivore, I paid no attention to any of the healthy restaurants. That was until J dragged me along to the Viet Soy Cafe on Hyperion. When I walked in that day, I wasn't hungry at all. When I walked out, I was enlightened and hungry for even more. Two hours after, I thought about heading back over for some of Viet Tran's tasty soy mcnuggets and Hanoi-style fish noodles. Unfortunately, Viet Soy Cafe now rests in the abyss of oblivion, with only my photos to remind me of how nice a cup of fresh soy milk and vegan food can be on a Sunday morning.

Viet Tran first started his ambitions of opening a restaurant with a simple plan: start out small and simple. Selling chicken and tofu soup noodles at the Silver Lake Farmer's market to the hungry and curious, he eventually made enough to move on. At Viet Soy Cafe, a restaurant with no more than 7 bar seats and 3 tables, he served up some light and fresh Hanoi-style food. And within a year, he's on his latest project: the Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater Village.

Last Sunday, J, Pizza Snobs and I headed over to what would be an exciting day for both Viet Tran and us. This would be the 3rd week in a row that J and I have eaten his food on a Sunday morning. We headed towards a non-descript brick building with no signage, and only orange lettering on the window identifying the establishment. We found ourselves surrounded by tall white walls in a long and narrow cavity. There were two, long communal-style,wooden tables that extended from the front to the back of the restaurant. Old, beaten-up book lined the right side of the wall – over 250 books. It definitely had a subtle library effect, which was nice. There was a light hum of downtempo playing, yet this place was very peaceful and serene; lit mainly by natural light.

Viet Noodle Bar

Viet Noodle Bar

We were seated and new exactly what to order. I was hoping to see the Hanoi-style noodles on the menu, but it wasn't available until December.

Viet Noodle Bar Sesame Soy Milk

Sesame Soy Milk
We started out with a cold glass of soy milk, flavored with sesame. This version had sesame paste unlike the ground sesame paste from the Cafe. Still very light, and good.

Viet Noodle Bar Soy Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Soy Milk
I like this because it's not as sweet as the original version made with condensed milk. God knows how many calories one cup of cafe sua da packs in.

Viet Noodle Bar Jicama Rolls

Jicama Rolls (Bo Bia Chay)
A fresh, vegetarian take on a popular spring roll appetizer. VNB's version includes jicama, carrots, sliced tofu, basil and fried shallots with a hoisin/peanut butter sauce. Very light, and easy to eat.

Viet Noodle Bar Banh Ram

Steamed Rice Cakes in Banana Leaves (Banh Nam)
This is a Hue-style dish. Rice flour, dried shrimp, fried shallots and green onions are poured into a piece of banana leaf, then folded over neatly into a small 'envelope' and wrapped with saran wrap. After steaming, you've got sort of a Vietnamese-style 'tamale'. The texture reminds me a lot of one of my favorites, banh beo, which are steamed, circular rice cakes. Served with fish sauce and sliced red chilis.

Viet Noodle Bar Banh Ram

Viet Noodle Bar Bun Chay

Soyskin with Shitake (Bun Chay)
Rolled sheets of soy, shitake mushrooms and fried shallots are sautéed and served over noodles that remind me of a skinnier form of banh canh, noodles made of rice and tapioca flour. The seasoning for the dish reminds me of Maggi sauce, which I whore over.

Viet Noodle Bar Bun Ca Thi La

Dill & Turmeric Fish Noodles (Bun Ca Thi La)
The main reason I've come to VNB was for these noodles. White sole fish is marinated in soy milk, dill & turmeric over night and then sautéed in a frying pan. This dish is garnished with cilantro, fried shallots and green onions, then served over the banh canh-like noodles. The taste is light, and even for myself, a little bit of fish sauce can knock this up. But I understand that the food served here at VNB is of the Hanoi-proper, which I've been told is typically lighter and not as bold as Saigon-style food. I love all vietnamese food, so it doesn't bother me.

Viet Noodle Bar

Overall, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning. The upgrade from the cafe to the new location was huge. And although the noodle bar is stylish in its own form, I truly miss the charm and coziness of what was once a small cafe on Hyperion. I was a bit disappointed to see that a few of my favorite dishes were not on the menu: the soy mcnuggets and the lemongrass chicken sandwich (banh mi). I'll be back to add in the photos of the soup noodles when it debuts in December. Thanks for reading.

Viet Noodle Bar
3133 1/2 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 906-1575


Jeni said...

Hey Granola boy. I'm gonna miss the sweet little cafe. But I'm glad you can get your Bun Ca Thi La fix during the week.

Anonymous said...

When I was at the soy cafe last week, there was a sign that said they would be closed for two weeks while the new place got up and running. They're not closing the soy cafe indefenitely....dry your tears! Love the noodle bar, by the way, went last night and it was hopping!

t o n x said...

damn that looks good... great light in there. Clearly I will need to venture out of SL and into Atwater more often.

Bon Vivant said...

Ha, ha, I too was there on Sunday morning; we were probably there at the same time.

I loved the Soycafe (damn! I always took it for granted that the sardine banh mi would always be there!) but was a little disappointed in the Noodle Bar - the food was lacking that certain je ne sais quoi but I chalk that up to first day jitters.

My pix look a lot like yours especially the one taken outside.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Hi Mrs. Kim, shut up. I am not a granora boy, i am korean!

Anon, thank you. If it weren't for your news about VSC, i would still be crying in naked fetal position with black socks on. I'm sure VNB will do just fine.

T O N X, yeah the lighting is nice in there. Sometimes I don't feel like soaking up the sun on a weekend morning. Check it out in December, he'll have more items on the menu.

BV, I thought you're korean. now you've morphed into a vietnamese person?

Chubbypanda said...

At least Viet Soy Cafe will be back at some later date.

Settle something for me here. Is Maggi sauce a type of soy sauce or not? I've had numerous friends get into debates about it.

Passionate Eater said...

Dang D, you are getting all "Silver Lake" on us! These nouveau Vietnamese places sound really intriguing though. I can't wait to see your take on this kind of food.

xie said...

i went to Viet noodle with my husband the other day, and i was disappointed by the portions. i'm used to Vietnamese food being generously dished out. i did enjoy what i ordered- jicama spring rolls and veggie pho. the soyskin is great. i wish that every Vietnamese cafe had that. my only complaint was the portioning.

Melissa said...


melissa said...

Monday-Sat... 11-3 (new hours)

Anonymous said...

I just visit recently and notice that the hour has change to 11AM-10PM
and look like they are expanding
to next door...does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

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i hope him like it. i will buy twelvesky Gold for him
as birthday present. i like the 12Sky Silver Coins very much.
I usually buy 12 sky gold and keep it in my store.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog~

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