The Asian cuisine scene in New Haven is — in a word — weird. Japanese is scattered about the town, ranging in price from expensive to sell-a-kidney, while Malaysian squats on State Street like an estranged uncle. Thai has such a stranglehold on Chapel Street (we should call the blocks between York and Howe Little Bangkok) and the only Chinese that I will eat sober is tucked in the back of the Asian market on Whitney Avenue (trust me — go there), two doors down from Vietnamese’s new foothold.
So what have I left out? Of course, the hallowed halls of Ivy Noodle, proud purveyor of a panoply of pan-Asian provisions. But please do not read scorn into my asinine alliteration: I love Ivy Noodle as much, probably more, than the next guy, but sometimes I would like something just as close, but a little nicer and, dare I say, less greasy.
My day has come – York Street Noodle House, perched squarely atop Yalie’s Pizza on York between Chapel and Crown, offers higher quality food in a nicer environment with a negligible increase in cost.
York Street Noodle House is nicely decorated and brightly lit, and despite its small size, still feels open and airy. The waiters are exceedingly friendly and always happy to oblige, but service is spotty at times — on my last visit, they brought me the wrong dish and left me waiting for the check for 15 minutes even though no one else was in the restaurant. But they eventually brought me the correct dish, and when I finally caught someone’s attention to ask for the check it came right away. Staff problems are the norm for new restaurants, and they should by no means keep you away from this one.
The restaurant’s appetizer selection is impressive. They offer a wide variety of very authentic dim sum dishes, which are all worth a try. I recommend the Vegetable Dumplings ($3), which are available in steamed or fried varieties. The steamed version comes in its own bamboo steamer and has a savory herbaceous flavor that’s complemented by the sweet dumpling sauce served alongside.
York Street Noodle House also offers a selection of noodle soups ($4-$7), which are sure to be appealing in the wintertime. Their soups range from the pedestrian Udon to the more adventurous Spicy Fish Ball. All are worth a try.
Nothing is striking about the selection of main dishes, which are primarily the combination and permutation of small set of ingredients and preparations. Everything on the menu is available with chicken, beef, vegetables, seafood or a combination. All are prepared and seasoned the same regardless of which one you choose, so just pick according to your preferences. Prices vary from $4 to $7 depending on ingredient.
The Chinese Noodles come with crispy vegetables that contrast well with the tender noodles. The whole affair is coated in a dark garlicky sauce that is tasty, but a little too sweet and gooey for my palate. The Teriyaki Rice Bowl is a better bet. The sauce is less sweet, and the rice is a little starchier than the noodles, which helps it hold everything together. This is quick Chinese food at its tastiest and most basic.
The Noodles are passable and the Teriyaki is delicious, but the dish not to miss at York Street Noodle House is the Crispy Noodles. The usual mix of meat and vegetables is served on top of crunchy fried noodles. The brittle noodles provide a great texture that’s lacking in some of the other dishes. A little broth is poured over the whole thing, so that by the time you’re three-quarters done, your dish has mutated into noodle soup — a great way to finish off this meal. The only other main offering, which I was unable to try, is the Fried Rice. But judging by everything else, I’m sure it’s good.
There’s nothing new, surprising, or innovative about York Street Noodle House, but sometimes you don’t want anything new, surprising, or innovative. The restaurant offers quality food at reasonable prices and will fit nicely into the New Haven scene. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this little dining area packed at lunch and dinner — it certainly deserves to be.