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Valley Life | restauramt review

New World Order in the Food Court

Asian cafe delivers sophisticated fare to Glendale Galleria menu.

September 22, 2000|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At the Glendale Galleria, a shopping mall relevant enough for President Clinton to have stopped in for a well-publicized visit, most of what one eats is fast, cheap and filling.

The upper two floors are chockablock with places such as Panda Express, Carl's Jr. and Great Khan's Mongolian Grill. There is a modicum of glitz to it all. But Glendale Galleria is most surely not where one would come in search of a serious meal.

Asia Noodle Cafe comes across as serendipity in this context. The restaurant advertises multi-Asian food and delivers in style.

This is a relatively simple place furnished with black plastic chairs, tables topped in artificial wood veneer and lots of mirrors. You order from the counter, after which the waiters, many of whom are recent emigres from Indonesia, bring the dishes to your table on big trays.

The pan-Asian concept has legs. It has already caught fire in London, in modestly priced places such as Wagamama, and is bound to overrun the Southland sometime soon. The prices at this restaurant are very reasonable--no dish costs more than $6. Condiments such as kimchi, pickled ginger and daikon radishes are $2 or less. Who could ask for more?

Cold salads are a treat. Thai noodle salad is made by combining a pile of wispy glass noodles (extruded from mung bean flour) with carrots, cooked egg, cucumber, shrimp and chicken. The sesame chicken salad is tossed with a piquant plum dressing and topped with lively pieces of pickled ginger.

There are basically two ways to have your noodles here--in soup or fried in a wok. Call it a tossup. The soup noodles are Japanese-style ramen, but the toppings are multiethnic. The best topping is Vietnamese beef, thinly sliced meat laced with mint leaves and fresh lime.

Mabo ramen is Chinese and embellished with spicy ground pork, tofu, peas and carrots. Miso ramen is resolutely Japanese, a salty, bland broth stocked with finely minced pieces of tofu and nori seaweed, plus the rubbery pink tinged fish cakes known as kamaboko.

Pan-fried noodle dishes, though, are what will bring me back to this restaurant. Hong Kong chow fun is delicious--dry, sauteed, flat rice noodles with lots of black fermented soybeans, mouth-numbing fagara peppers and onions, topped with pounded and tender pieces of grilled flank steak.

Cafe pancit is a Filipino dish, thin rice noodles (fun see) tossed with shredded pork, scrambled egg, onions, tomato wedges and bean sprouts. (In Manila, it's eaten for breakfast.)

One of the best noodle dishes in the house is pad Thai--rice noodles with shrimp and crushed peanut in a sweet, spicy red sauce. Pass on the cloying, sticky Szechuan mein, composed of gluey wheat noodles and an overpowering sauce.

If you're in the mood for rice, try curry fried rice, which despite the Indian-sounding pedigree is really a Japanese student dish of rice in a thick curry sauce with chicken, carrots and peas. If you need dessert, hey, you're in a shopping mall. These places are practically built on sugar.

BE THERE

Asia Noodle Cafe, Glendale Galleria, upper level. Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in structure. MasterCard and Visa. Lunch for two, $11-$18. Suggested dishes: Thai noodle salad, $4.75; Vietnam beef ramen, $5.60; Hong Kong chow fun, $5.75; pad Thai, $6. Call (818) 240-9401.

CAPSULE: Asia Noodle Cafe

One doesn't come to the upper floor of a shopping mall for a serious meal, but Asia Noodle Cafe gets the fast, cheap and filling formula right. This is multi-Asian cooking, so expect anything from Japanese ramen to spicy Thai noodles. The Hong Kong style chow fun is a real treat. Main courses are $4.20 to $6. MJ

*

Asia Noodle Cafe, Glendale Galleria, upper level. (818) 240-9401. Lunch and dinner daily.

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