Don Bauder 6:30 p.m., Jan. 20
Pink Noodle Hillcrest
Pink Noodle on University Avenue has cuteness to spare and, as a bonus that sets it apart from the majority of its competitors, a full liquor license and a fun menu of mixed drinks.
Thai restaurants can be kings of the takeout scene, but Pink Noodle has the ambiance to warrant a more casual visit. Guests may want to sit awhile and have a meaningful conversation rather than simply dine and dash.
The aforementioned cuteness, in the form of brightly colored accents and a distinct sense of levity in the decoration, isn't so over the top that it breaks into the comical territory of Hello Kitty or other such kawaii. The look is cute, but not overdone; pink but not saccharine. Overall it's good and the place is surprisingly big inside with two levels of seating.
The specialty martini menu is lengthy and contains novel cococtions--some of which even contain gin, a wonderful discovery which instantly legitimizes the bartender in the eyes of many martini fans. At $7.95 a piece, they're not expensive, either.
One standout, the Jasmine Green Tini, has King George Gin, green tea, and jasmine syrup served up in a rather large martini glass. It's not strong because of the tea and syrups in the mix, but the size of the drink indicates that there's probably a full drink's worth of liquor inside.
The play between the botanical elements in the gin and the floral notes of the tea is definitely quite elegant.
Happy Hour from 3-6 means $6 martinis, $5 appetizers, and $4 glasses of beer and wine!
To start, an order of Krispy Crab ($8.95) is a smart take on the old standby of crab rangoon. The portion is a bit miniscule for almost nine dollars, but the texture and flavor are quite fine since the ratio of crab to cream cheese is much higher than the typical fried dumplings.
The large portion size on the noodle dishes does a lot to offset the small starters. The signature dish, "Pink Lady," smothers bright pink noodles (beets are strongly suspected in the preparation of the noodles) in a rich coconut milk sauce. Dressed with chicken, tofu, and sprouts, it's a remarkably filling dish.
"Knock Out," another noodle dish, is a little heavy on the smoke flavor, especially considering the chicken and mushroom elements that characterize the dish are heady enough already, but the texture of the Udon noodles is very fun and the bright, herbal flavors of the basil lighten the overall intensity some.
Though denoted as "spicy," the Knock Out is hardly a scorcher and should be acceptable to just about any palate.
There are some more elaborate (and more expensive) preparations on the menu, but the noodle dishes are uniformly priced at $9.95 and are quite excellent main plates.
Overall, the execution of the food in its preparation and serving, is above average and Pink Noodles manages to convey a sense of refinement beyond the norm. Other Thai shops may serve equally tasty food, but Pink Noodle seems to do it with a bit more panache.
406 University Avenue
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