Noodlevana

Does Noodles & Company have a cure for the chain-restaurant blues?

Chicken was a logical complement for "Indonesian Peanut Sauté" from the "Asian" menu. The breast is grilled separately from the rest of the dish and served on the side, so I had to mix it with the rice noodles, vegetables and sauce to finish the dish. First, though, I tried the chicken by itself. It was (as it would be each time I tried it) slightly overcooked, the caramelized surface stringy. Still, the sauté was a satisfying, if simplistic, take on Indonesian cuisine. Which is to say it tasted like peanuts. A lot of peanuts. The dish also featured carrots, cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts and cilantro, but while these did provide texture, only a squeeze of fresh lime juice made a dent in the sauce's cloying flavor. The menu describes said sauce as "fiery," but the heat's pretty low.

"Pad Thai," which I also had with chicken, wasn't much different, aside from a less-peanuty sauce and the addition of bits of scrambled egg. "Bangkok Curry," though, was a rich, sweet delight. The sauce could have used less coconut milk and more curry, but onion and red bell peppers helped cut the sweetness. It was here, however, that I made my first mistake. Bored with chicken, I went for beef. Sliced into bite-size pieces and grilled medium-well, the beef (top-round sirloin or a similar cut, I'd guess) was a little tough, and it clashed with the bright flavors of the coconut curry.

The beef went much better with "Mushroom Stroganoff," from the "American" menu. It's a lighter stroganoff than you might expect, the cream sauce spiked with sherry rather than sour cream. The dominant flavor is black pepper, and the beef helped smooth out the pepper's edge.

Noodles, noodles, everywhere and cheaper than you think: Noodles & Company steps up and fills in the area's fast-casual gap.
Mark Gilliland
Noodles, noodles, everywhere and cheaper than you think: Noodles & Company steps up and fills in the area's fast-casual gap.

Location Info

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Noodles & Company-Creve Coeur

10925 Olive Blvd.
Creve Coeur, MO 63141

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Creve Coeur

Details

Noodles & Company
10925 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-997-8804.

18 South County Center Way
(in Westfield South County); 314-416-4004.

1784 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield; 636-728-1580.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Wed.,
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat.

"Wisconsin Mac & Cheese" (small) $3.75
"Trio" value meal $6.95
"Bangkok Curry" $5.75
"Mushroom Stroganoff" (with beef) $7.75
"Pasta Fresca" (with shrimp) $8

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Noodles & Company offers soups, salads and a few side dishes. I thought the chicken-and-vegetable potstickers were bland, but I was impressed by the thick "Tomato Basil Bisque," which contained chunks of tomato and plenty of fresh basil. The salads were basically greens from a bag, heavily dressed. I didn't mind the Caesar when it was a small part of a "Trio" value meal — half a portion of noodles, a protein and a small salad for $6.95 — but I wouldn't order the salad by itself. The dressing was exceptionally garlicky.

That reliance on simple, strong flavors is Noodles & Company's bread and butter. More often than not, it works. That was the case with "Wisconsin Mac & Cheese." Nothing fancy here: just macaroni in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with shredded cheddar-jack cheese. Stir it together and you have a dense, decadent dish. It's remarkably good, considering how cheap it is ($3.75 for an ample "small" serving). I don't see how you could improve it. You could deep-fry it, I guess.

Fortunately that's one thing Noodles & Company won't do for you.

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