Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity — life is frittered away by too-fancy restaurants, to paraphrase Harry Thoreau if he were famished and looking for a good, quick meal.
Actually, if he was eating at Noodles 102, he’d probably want to slow down and stick around for a while. Tucked away off busy Wickenden Street on the East Side, the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxing.
It couldn’t look less impressive from the outside — just a brick wall on both sides of a corner, with tiny, high windows like a bar hiding late morning customers. Yet, inside it’s contrastingly classy, with burgundy walls and placemats, graceful metal chairs, and an attractive decor dominated by a large, colorful abstract painting of musicians.
In keeping with its name, the menu couldn’t be simpler. There are seven starters and three salads, many noodle dishes, and several baked rice choices, ending with a couple of desserts. It’s not a difficult menu to work your way through in a few visits and, since all the main dishes are $9.95, it’s not expensive, either. The same menu is for lunch and dinner.
|Noodles 102 | 401.383.5004 | 102 Ives St, Providence | Mon-Sat, 11:30 am-3 pm, 5-9 pm | Major Credit Cards | BYOB | Sidewalk-Level Accessible|
Since the place is not the creation of someone of Asian ethnicity — owner-operator Mustafa Kuscu’s background is Turkish — some of the items range outside of the traditional culinary box. Among nearly a dozen noodle choices, for example, in addition to rice noodles either wide or as skinny as angel hair, you can have ones made from black rice. In addition to the usual udon and soba buckwheat noodles, you can have them flavored with green tea or sweet cream. There’s also something I haven’t seen before: noodles made from tofu, billed as “a great low-carb option.”
The appetizers are a good collection. As an Italian restaurant has to offer calamari and chicken escarole soup, there is nime chow ($4.25) and miso soup ($2.50), as well as edamame ($4.75), those in-pod soybeans, with the novel option of black pepper sauce.
We started with Asian cucumbers ($4.75), a plate of peeled lengths, gently tart, probably with rice vinegar, a little sweet and ever so slightly spicy hot. Rob, my dining companion and another food writer, was also enjoying them, remarking: “These are for people like me who don’t like cucumbers — they’re good.”
We also shared an order of dumplings ($5.50). Our server not only helpfully mentioned that we could have some of both the vegetable and the pork-filled versions, but also suggested that we get only two vegetable ones, because they’re larger, and have them pan-fried, because “they’re better that way.” They were excellent, the crispy exterior a good texture contrast for the filling. The steamed meat dumplings were plump and delicious.
I thought about having the bee bong, which are noodles and choice of chicken, shrimp, or beef for protein on a cold salad. But for my main dish, the clay pot baked rice was more appealing. Besides choice of meat, I could select a sauce, such as ginger/basil/scallion, ginger/oyster, or Szechuan BBQ. I decided on a variation listed separately as spicy eggplant clay pot. Over rice in the hot pot carefully placed before me was a mixture of Japanese eggplant and other vegetables with fresh shrimp. It was pleasant and flavorful, even though I was hoping for a stir fry with veggies that kept some firmness.