The Phoenix Network:
 
 
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
 

Second act

Veranda opens an excellent Noodle Bar
By BRIAN DUFF  |  April 14, 2010

 FOOD041610_veranda_main
OODLES OF NOODLES At Veranda’s additional location.

VERANDA NOODLE BAR | 14 Veranda St, Portland | daily 10 am-10 pm | Visa/MC | 207.874.9090

One of the fundamental principles of marketing is that since competition is inevitable, you might as well be your own rival. Someone is going to offer customers a version of your product that is cheaper, fancier, or just different. It might as well be you. So it was clever of the proprietor of Veranda Thai to open the Veranda Noodle Bar right across the street. It transforms the neighborhood into his own little Asian food area and raises the profile of both spots.

The question in competing with yourself is whether you extend the brand (think Coke vs. Diet Coke) or launch a new identity (think Coke vs. Tab). Veranda Noodle Bar splits the difference. Their yellow signs are nearly identical, and their dining rooms share a sort of pleasant lived-in aesthetic, with lots of dark red wood under a drop ceiling. But in focusing on Vietnamese noodle dishes the new Veranda branches pretty far from its Thai progenitor. The danger in splitting the difference is diluting the brand — whether customers might wonder if a jack of several cuisines might be master of none.

I don’t think that will happen to Veranda — mostly because, like Jesus that time he played sommelier, they saved the really good stuff for the second act. Across the street you can get some perfectly nice Thai, but Veranda Noodle offers a couple of dishes that are especially good. Generally speaking, and certainly in this case, Vietnamese cuisine is to Thai as Sprite is to Coke — a little lighter, crisper, more refreshing. It feels healthier, whether it is or not. There are fewer thick-creamy textures, less oil, more thin broths and sauces, and the ubiquitous light crunch of lettuce and bean sprout.

It’s a good sign if your kitchen is so busy it keeps blowing a fuse, and while we waited for a table among the folks picking up take-out we saw the lights go dim three times. Thanks to the crowd the service was a bit slow, but very pleasant. The owner worked the room with the collar turned up on a polo shirt the same pink color of the sugarcane appetizer we tried — a big ball of ground shrimp wrapped around a sugar stalk like a drumstick — a bit spongy in texture with a smoky grilled flavor. Fresh spring rolls had a hint of mint amid the crisp lettuce and sweet carrot. The peanut sauce was a touch too thick, and might have used some more fish sauce in the base. Fried spring rolls were filled with ground chicken and shrimp and a bit of vermicelli. The rice paper wrap had bubbled up in the oil, but the roll did not get too greasy.

We skipped the pho to try a mi soup, which mixes egg noodle with the vermicelli. The broth was rich but still light, and with a squeeze of lime elicited a healthy, nose-clearing zing. Delicate yellow wontons moistened in the liquid, and underneath slices of pork hid among the rice noodles. The best noodle dish, however, forgoes the broth for a simple bowl of thin rice noodles topped with vegetables, peanuts, and your choice of grilled meats. We opted for shrimp and pork. The dish somehow transcends its own simplicity: a nutty, healthy, crunchy, refreshingly light bowl of deliciousness, pulled together by a terrific fish sauce. Bits of lettuce, cucumber, carrot, and bean sprout mingled with the tender shrimp and the thin slices of pleasantly chewy grilled pork.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Foods,  More more >
| More


ARTICLES BY BRIAN DUFF
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   COPING WITH ADULTHOOD  |  August 07, 2014
    The neighborhood’s newish Central Provisions is grown up. But it also embodies our ambivalence about adulthood, and our persistent hope that a few more drinks will help us cope with it.
  •   PATHS TO GREATNESS  |  July 31, 2014
    India, like the American university, is mostly in the news these days for its bloated and ineffective administration and an epidemic of underprosecuted sexual assault. But let’s not give up on either—India or college—as a source of wisdom and repository of culture.
  •   THE QUAY TO GOOD LIVING  |  July 11, 2014
    Though they offer an appealing moral clarity, in practice zero tolerance policies have ruined any number of urban schools, fragile marriages, and card-marred soccer games. Zero tolerance almost ruined Portland a few years back, too.
  •   BITING INTO THE FANTASY  |  July 10, 2014
    Is it a sign of the shallowness of our national culture that we have spent half a decade excited by the idea of food served from trucks? Sure. But is it a symptom of some deeper condition? I suspect so. This summer offers a chance to investigate thanks to the arrival of a critical mass of food trucks around Portland, along with the film Chef, about a restaurant chef who starts a food truck.  
  •   A RAIL-CAR PALACE IN BIDDEFORD  |  June 11, 2014
    The barrel roofed train-car looks incredibly good given it’s nearly a century old.

 See all articles by: BRIAN DUFF



  |  Sign In  |  Register
 
thePhoenix.com:
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
TODAY'S FEATURED ADVERTISERS
Copyright © 2014 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group