Restaurant: Viet Noodle Bar
Location: 3221 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA90405. (424) 299 6360
Date: August 18, 2015
Rating: Good, but not typical
Santa Monica has had a lot of openings recently, and in multiple classes of restaurants. Viet Noodle Bar is a lunch focused (at least to my mind) casual Vietnamese “Pho” place. Except not exactly.
The frontage on pico (right near Valentinos) is almost invisible.
The interior is minimal and as you can see in the middle of the lunch rush, not exactly crowded.
While very Vietnamese, they seem to eschew the “classics” like regular beef Pho. They even note that they DO NOT offer the regular garnish of basil, hoisin, etc. Bizarre.
Rice Noodle Omelet. Sort of a Viet okonomiyaki. I had similar things in Vietnam. It was tasty with that slightly pickled flavor coming from the vegetables on top. Even better with hot sauce.
Spicy Sardine Banh Mi. Green onion. Cilantro. The menu doesn’t even call it Banh Mi, but it is of course. This was very tasty with a bit of mild heat and umami brine quality from the sardine.
Turmeric Fish Salad. Lettuce leaf, fish tomato, red onion, bean sprouts, daikon, carrot. Very nice turmeric flavor and soft savory fish. Nice rice noodles and interesting interplay of crunch.
Ginger fish Pho Noodle Soup. White fish, bean sprouts (I left them out), crispy shallot, green onion, cilantro. A very pleasant mild ginger broth with tender white fish. Lots of rice noodles. I asked for hoisin to jazz it up — found they didn’t have it — and got their peanut sauce instead. This version of peanut sauce turned out to be sort of hoisin-like so it worked out.
Overall, the flavors here are very Vietnamese, but the items avoid the “classics” people might expect and lean toward “California healthy” with a lot of light, vegetarian, etc. Less beef, pork, pate, and other heavy meats. Still a nice place to have around and I’ll be back — although they barely had any customers and so I hope they survive. They need much better signage and some serious word of mouth / advertising.