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These noods are for nubes

Tourists aren't coming back, so why bother to impress?

Not a lot of lo mein to get excited about
Not a lot of lo mein to get excited about

In military parlance, West Pac refers to the western Pacific, which may include Hawaii, Japan, and much of southeast Asia. As a military brat, I grew up familiar with the term, and ultimately spent time living in West Pac myself, where I recall eating plenty of noodles. Because, regardless of where I’ve lived, a noodle dish has always constituted comfort food.

Place

West Pac Noodle Bar

1166 Orange Avenue, Coronado

So when West Pac Noodle Bar opened in Coronado, I could get behind the concept. Heck, I was willing to look past the restaurant’s tendency to refer to its noodle dishes as “noods.” (Just to be clear, if the place were called West Pac Noods Bar, I promise I would have never made it through the front door.)

A tourist friendly location keeps the noodle bar hopping

I did make it inside, though, and found a good looking dining room, built around a bar backed by white subway tiles and colorful fish scale artwork. Though happy hour had concluded, most of the bar seats were full, and plenty of tables as well. A patio section, parallel to the Orange Avenue sidewalk, proved equally busy.

Whether undermanned or overtasked, the wait staff didn’t seem to have a moment to spare to seat one more, and I was forced to hover for ten minutes before an alert busboy offered to set me up at an outside table. He would prove my saving grace throughout the meal. Though unable to take my order, or issue my check, neither of these transactions would have taken place had he not been vigilant about tracking down my harried waiter, time and again.

To be fair, that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I don’t exactly make it easy on restaurant staff. I’ve got questions about the menu, and if you’re unlucky enough to have answers, I’ll have follow-up questions that will probably require consultation with the chef. For example, what is the idea behind “velvet chicken?”

Apparently, that’s West Pac menu speak for chicken breast poached in a broth seasoned by cardamom, ginger, and anise. It’s a feature of the lo mein I ordered — at my server’s recommendation — over options ranging from ramen to dan dan noodles.

Whereas everything else moved slow, delivery of the food came quick. The “Shanghai noodles” described by the menu turned out to be thick wheat and egg noodles, stir fried with scallions, carrots, onions, sesame seeds, and Shitake mushrooms. For $13, it wasn’t a large portion, but a reasonable amount of food considering its Crown City location.

That said, I detected nothing velvety about the chicken, which had the generic taste and texture of having been reheated rather than cooked fresh. The noodles had a rubbery elasticity that might have been all right had the dish not been dominated by sodium and overcooked garlic. The bar part of the formula works: I was grateful to have a crisp local beer to wash it down.

Based on the combination of uninspiring food and less-than-stellar service, what does this place have that its crowd was so lively on a Thursday night? Location. West Pac Noodle Bar seems to have touched upon that magic formula of a tourist restaurant, designed to serve mediocre food at favorable price points to a customers who aren’t worth impressing because they’re just going home to Seattle, or Saint Paul, or Virginia Beach anyway. It may sound cynical, but there will always be a new set of tourists arriving next week, in search of comfort food. Maybe in search of noods.

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Not a lot of lo mein to get excited about
Not a lot of lo mein to get excited about

In military parlance, West Pac refers to the western Pacific, which may include Hawaii, Japan, and much of southeast Asia. As a military brat, I grew up familiar with the term, and ultimately spent time living in West Pac myself, where I recall eating plenty of noodles. Because, regardless of where I’ve lived, a noodle dish has always constituted comfort food.

Place

West Pac Noodle Bar

1166 Orange Avenue, Coronado

So when West Pac Noodle Bar opened in Coronado, I could get behind the concept. Heck, I was willing to look past the restaurant’s tendency to refer to its noodle dishes as “noods.” (Just to be clear, if the place were called West Pac Noods Bar, I promise I would have never made it through the front door.)

A tourist friendly location keeps the noodle bar hopping

I did make it inside, though, and found a good looking dining room, built around a bar backed by white subway tiles and colorful fish scale artwork. Though happy hour had concluded, most of the bar seats were full, and plenty of tables as well. A patio section, parallel to the Orange Avenue sidewalk, proved equally busy.

Whether undermanned or overtasked, the wait staff didn’t seem to have a moment to spare to seat one more, and I was forced to hover for ten minutes before an alert busboy offered to set me up at an outside table. He would prove my saving grace throughout the meal. Though unable to take my order, or issue my check, neither of these transactions would have taken place had he not been vigilant about tracking down my harried waiter, time and again.

To be fair, that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I don’t exactly make it easy on restaurant staff. I’ve got questions about the menu, and if you’re unlucky enough to have answers, I’ll have follow-up questions that will probably require consultation with the chef. For example, what is the idea behind “velvet chicken?”

Apparently, that’s West Pac menu speak for chicken breast poached in a broth seasoned by cardamom, ginger, and anise. It’s a feature of the lo mein I ordered — at my server’s recommendation — over options ranging from ramen to dan dan noodles.

Whereas everything else moved slow, delivery of the food came quick. The “Shanghai noodles” described by the menu turned out to be thick wheat and egg noodles, stir fried with scallions, carrots, onions, sesame seeds, and Shitake mushrooms. For $13, it wasn’t a large portion, but a reasonable amount of food considering its Crown City location.

That said, I detected nothing velvety about the chicken, which had the generic taste and texture of having been reheated rather than cooked fresh. The noodles had a rubbery elasticity that might have been all right had the dish not been dominated by sodium and overcooked garlic. The bar part of the formula works: I was grateful to have a crisp local beer to wash it down.

Based on the combination of uninspiring food and less-than-stellar service, what does this place have that its crowd was so lively on a Thursday night? Location. West Pac Noodle Bar seems to have touched upon that magic formula of a tourist restaurant, designed to serve mediocre food at favorable price points to a customers who aren’t worth impressing because they’re just going home to Seattle, or Saint Paul, or Virginia Beach anyway. It may sound cynical, but there will always be a new set of tourists arriving next week, in search of comfort food. Maybe in search of noods.

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For low-price (and no ambiance) noodles, teriyaki, salmon, rice bowls, BBQ, etc., check out Junz Teriyaki & BBQ at 30th & University in North Park. Lots of menu items under $10. http://www.hanaoka-restaurant.com/page/junz-menu

July 6, 2018

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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