Alright! Nothing planned for a Sunday! Peace and quiet... What? A noodle thingy event? Yup, Sean and Alvin were wondering if I'd like to join them for Noodle Mania (presented by Vancouver Foodster). Um... rest and relaxation versus eating lots of noodles... Decisions, decisions... Fine. Eating wins (but doesn't that always win?). I gotta admit, at first I was a bit hesitant to commit because these type of tasting events can be hit and/or miss. After all, some restaurants take it seriously while others do not and it is the luck of the draw if the experience turns out to be good or bad. But I went in with an open mind and an empty stomach and low blood sugar levels. (and thank goodness I did...).
We met up at Shak Tea, where all participants presented their vouchers for the event. Single tickets went for $45.00, however, the cost was significantly lower when purchased in packs of 6 ($22.50). The transportation to and from the participating restaurants (which was 10) would be up to each individual or group. I was driving, so that made for speedy travel times, but parking would boil down to dumb luck (which we had). I was supposed to receive a cup of tea to start, but we wanted to get a head start over everyone else, so we took off to our first destination - Hai Phong. There were 2 choices for noodles here, either the standard Pho or Shrimp & Crab Paste Noodle. I had neither as Sean and Alvin pestered me to order off the regular menu. So from my past experience the Pho is pretty solid with a fragrant broth and well made ingredients. I had a similar item as the 2nd choice and the broth was indeed flavourful, aromatic and fishy (in a good way).
Looking over our plan of attack, it was prudent to head over to Chau Veggie Express since it was the Eastern-most destination. We were given 2 items including the Soft Tropical Rainstorm (shredded beancurd, crispy shallots, peanuts, coconut creme, pickles and herbs) and Sliding Down the Sand Dunes (Lemongrass & ginger, peanut spiced broth, assorted tofu, lotus root & greens). As much as I am not thrilled at eating vegetarian cuisine, I found the 2 offerings to be flavourful and texturally pleasing. The sweet coconut essence really shone in the tropical rainstorm while the sand dunes could've benefited from less salt. We hit the last East Van eatery (Fet's) before heading into Downtown. The offering here was a plate consisting of Cajun Cream Chicken on Linguini and Makers Mac n' Cheese. I liked the toothsome linguine as it was spicier than we would've guessed. The mac n' cheese was cheesy, but due to the serving temperature, we couldn't gauge our opinions properly. We understood that serving so many plates of mac n' cheese would make it impossible to make it to order.
So far, so good with the eats and the parking (as we were never more than 1/2 a block away). However, in Yaletown, we had to take the first space available. Luckily it was across the street from our next stop - Urban Thai. Probably for logistical reasons, the 2 items were kept in chaffing trays and hence, not in the best of shape. The Pad Thai and Pad See-Iw were both lukewarm and a touch soft. In terms of flavour, the pad Thai actually had a slight bite and some tang. It was a fairly bare bones version where I needed to add some hot sauce. The pad see-iw, being a mild-tasting dish (normally), was pretty much flavoured with soy, but then again, I added hot sauce to that too. Leaving Urban Thai, we took the short stroll to Yaletown L'antipasto. I've been here before and it can only be described as "small". Great for a romantic dinner, but not-so-much for a food event. We were able to snag a small table though and were served a "to-order" plate of Spaghetti in Pinot Grigio and Pappardelle Rosse. This, my friends, was my favourite of the event. By virtue of being prepared immediately, it was served hot and "the way it should be". Therefore, the pasta was al dente while the flavours were pronounced. I particularly liked the pappardelle as the meat sauce was full of depth, meatiness and body.
After our 2 Downtown stops, we made our way to Soho Tea Room on Cambie. This bustling restaurant was a bit behind in their orders, thus we wasted more time than we would've liked here. We covered the 2 choices which were Lobster Bisque Broth with Rice Noodles and Satay Veggie Ham & Enoki Fried Rice Noodles. Honestly, we weren't huge fans of the offerings here. The lobster bisque broth didn't taste like its namesake while the ingredients were cold. The stir-fried noodle was okay, but didn't taste like satay. Barely escaping the meter maid, we made the drive over to the new location of Bob Likes Thai Food (former location of Go Fish and Bin 942). Once again, we were served items from a chaffing tray which included Kanom Jeen and Pad Thai. I tried to make the Chinet plates look as sexy as I could in the pictures... Anyways, the kanom jeen was almost refreshing with the mix of rice noodles, sprouts, onions and pickles with a peanutty sauce. The pad thai was lukewarm, yet did have a nice spice level.
Continuing on with our almost perfect routing, we made the quick drive over to Novo Pizzeria & Wine Bar. Unlike the other restaurants, they decided to serve a "test" dish instead of a regular menu item. In our opinion, the Spaghetti Campana (hand-made with EVOO, garlic, chili flakes and grape tomatoes) should be best left off the menu and/or rejigged. Although the pasta was nicely al dente, there was practically no distinguishing flavours. I was personally disappointed since from my last experience, the food should be better than the dish they served us. And finally, our last stop was way, way out in Kerrisdale being the Mac Shack. I was hoping that this visit would be better than my previous 2, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Our 2 samples were Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and The Veggie. Maybe it is personal preference, but I'm just not a fan of their mac n' cheese. I find it wet and the flavours not really that developed. However, the bacon cheeseburger was okay while I didn't really like the veggie (but then again, I'm biased). By now, we were in a carb coma that would make Atkin's look like a joke. We were lucky with our parking spots as we got rockstar parking every time. However, not everyone would be so lucky and people who took transit could never make it to all of the restaurants (only 4 hours for the whole event). But, in the end, I felt that for the price, there was more than enough food and novelty to make Noodle Mania a good value.
- More food than you can imagine
- Novelty factor
- Make new friends
- If you don't have a car or you have bad luck with parking, don't expect to hit all of the restaurants
- Due to the nature of the event, some food is prepared ahead of time and thus, not representational of what it should be like
- With smaller restaurants, you might have to wait for a table which eats up valuable time