Lake Bluff’s Noodle Bar: Warming Soups and Lotsa Noodles

Four hungry people on a mission: to fill our bellies with tasty grub at a good price.

The outcome? Partial success. The Noodle Bar’s menu promises a bit more than it delivers (figuratively, not literally… they do, in fact, deliver with a $10 minimum and a small delivery charge!).  

Their were a few items on the menu that I hadn’t seen before, including the Taro Spring Rolls ($5), crispy taro shreds wrapped around a shrimp and crabmeat filling, which were wonderful and easy to share.

But the Kimchee Pancakes ($5), a play on the more traditional scallion variety and a mash-up of Chinese and Korean cultures, could have used more kimchee, while the pork and chive-filled, Pan-Fried Dumplings ($5) were on the boring side, wanting a bit more time in the sauté pan and a little more seasoning for the filling. A sprightly ginger-soy dipping sauce helped to perk them up.

The Sesame Peanut Noodles ($6) were another combination of styles, with the Chinese-style peanut sauce coating Japanese Udon noodles. I was a fan of the toothsome udon, but the sauce needed a bit of soy sauce to counteract the sweetness. That little addition made a big difference in taste.

Entrees were more even. The Bee Hong Goreng ($10) featured thin rice vermicelli noodles stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts and Chinese chives, available with beef, chicken, shrimp or veggies (for $8), prepared on the less spicy side as requested. Our teens loved it. And the Thai Basil Fried Rice ($7.50), with egg, tomato, Chinese broccoli, onion and chicken, was delish.

Broth Noodles made up a sizable portion of the menu. While the Shrimp Wonton ($10) was warm and comforting with its steamed shrimp wontons, mixed veggies, egg noodles and broth, it lacked oomph, as the broth would have benefited from reduction to concentrate the flavors.

More to the point was the Broth with Roast Duck and Chinese Broccoli ($10), filled with shiitake mushrooms and egg noodles. While it was most likely the same broth as the other soup, it picked up flavor from the duck.

Don’t forget a side of the Stir-Fried Gai Lan ($5), an Asian green that’s full of flavor – try throwing some in with the soup! And the Szechuan Fries ($1.50/3), a special that week, were worth ordering, crispy and plentiful and dusted with Szechuan pepper. Spicy!

We finished up with the 5-Spice Cheesecake ($4.50) and the Fried Ice Cream ($6), because dessert must be had, right? The cheesecake was more like a mousse, and while we liked the exotic flavors of ginger, clove and star anise, I couldn’t get past the weird texture. The Fried Ice Cream was coated (not battered, as I expected) with poundcake (weird texture, again) and deep-fried, served with our choice of mango, lychee or green iced cream. Ice cream = yum, deep-fried poundcake crust, not so much.

Apparently there is an extensive drink menu (which we never saw), but there is a nice selection of Asian beers available, and many nights one side of the restaurant becomes an intimate live music venue, which is fun.

Prices here are extremely reasonable, and if it seems like I’m nit picking, it’s only because, 1) hello? It’s my job; and 2) the menu sounded so yummy the reality was a bit of a let down. Still, if I lived in the area, I’d put the Noodle Bar in my regular rotation.

Noodle Bar
Lake Bluff