The Noodle Box

September 21st, 2006 · 9 Comments

Noodle Box ExtThe Noodle Box
Address: 1867 West Fourth Ave (map)
Tel: 604-734-1310

Mon-Sat 11am-9pm
Sun noon-8pm

Scenes from an Urban Noodle Stand

By Jason Chin
Eat Vancouver Editor
Thursday, September 21st, 2006

** (of four stars)

It claims to create meals under the very broad description of “Southeast Asian.” It is located in Kitsilano, home of all of the yoga accessories and puppy paraphernalia one’s heart could desire. It started in Victoria, BC. It experienced more false starts and delays of game than the Arizona Cardinals this week. It is a space more evocative of uptown chic than noodle joint. I was skeptical.

With these warning signs in mind, it is remarkable how quickly most of my skepticism has melted away. Almost improbably, The Noodle Box does Southeast Asian flavors better than many Vancouver restaurants that specialize in some of these cuisines. For instance, The Noodle Box serves does Thai flavors better that many Thai restaurants around town.

The high ceilings, hanging fixtures and overall sleek design make The Noodle Box somewhat of an outlier in Kitsilano, a design perhaps more at home in New York’s Soho, or Vancouver’s Yaletown. Regardless the design came together well and most importantly, everything seems to fit. A friend described it as an “urban cafeteria, but in a good way.” I would agree. I especially appreciate the attention to detail, such as the water fountain with a zen-like little box of rocks to catch runoff.

The Noodle Box, quite appropriately, serves noodles in either bowls or what most would describe as Chinese takeaway boxes. Their noodle creations are surprisingly complex, combining several flavors, and are aggressively seasoned. The result is quite good and provides a nice bang for your buck (most dishes are about ten dollars, a few extra if you want prawns instead of chicken, pork or tofu). Here’s a tip: you can double the meat for $2, quite the deal seeing as the protein is usually the most expensive part of a dish.

noodlesThe Noodle Box’s menu is divided into noodles and curries/soups. My favorite of the bunch is the Cambodian Jungle Curry. The dish strikes a great balance between sweet mango and spicy Cambodian seasonings and if you wish, it can actually turn out quite spicy. I appreciate that The Noodle Box presents customers with a long continuum for determining the spiciness of your dish and the labels actually live up to their billing. On my first trip I tried “XXXhot,” which is one below the maximum of “suicidal.” Although I finished it, this dish was truly spicy, the broth literally swimming with Thai bird peppers – a great find seeing as XXXhot in many restaurants is pretty much mild to medium. I am also a fan of the teriyaki bowl. I find this dish can be cloyingly sweet at several places, but Noodle Box’s rendition strikes a nifty balance between the sweet and the tangy. Daily specials sometimes bring some interesting satay options. A red curry satay of beef, six for six dollars, provided an excellent smoky flavor for a reasonable price.

Unfortunately, not all of the dishes come together quite so well. I believe that the spicy peanut noodle bowl needs some serious rethinking. It’s a dish in which the first few bites tend to be pretty good, but after a while you are left with an overly thick coconut milk base with mouth drying peanuts lollygagging around amongst the noodles. The thick sauce paired with the peanuts was not pleasant to the palate, and one has to wonder the purpose of the crunchy deep fried topping. The dish has plenty of crunch with the peanuts, so why add an element that brings the very same texture, but no flavor?

All dishes can be brightened up with slice of lime provided and are usually garnished with bean sprouts. Several sauces are also available. Any good Thai restaurant will provide a spice tray, which usually includes a red chili paste, dry spices, and some kind of fish sauce with Thai bird chilies. Oddly enough, I haven’t yet found a Thai restaurant in Vancouver that provides a spice tray, but The Noodle Box actually comes pretty close in providing a chili paste, as well as dry chili.

Despite a few outliers, the dishes at The Noodle Box are well thought out and they show deft hand in balancing very disparate flavor factions. You have to give the creators their due as they managed to create a fun spot to sit and dine or perhaps wait for carry-out, while paying attention to all of the little details make eating there worthwhile.

Noodle Box on Urbanspoon

Tags: Chinese · Japanese · Thai · Vegetarian/Vegetarian Friendly

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Randy // Sep 24, 2006 at 7:54 am

    Very informative and well-written review as usual. My only quibble is that above the address you give the name of the restaurant as “Diner.”


  • 2 Jason // Sep 24, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Thanks Randy,

    I guess you can probably figure out what template I was using 🙂



  • 3 whats for lunch? - Coffee Lounge // Dec 7, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    […] Asian Noodle Bars in Victoria and Vancover BC, Canada Here’s a review from Eat Vancouver Eat Vancouver

  • 4 Anonymous // Dec 23, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I have tried it three times, the peanut is so overseasoned, and the kung poa was litterally inedible and disgusting. Tom yum acceptable

    I have to resist the wonder smells and look of the food as I pass by the restaurant every day because in reality I find their dishes really hard to eat

  • 5 Anonymous // Mar 2, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    the noodle box is dope im glad yall r in van now its the type of food i always crave plus its freah clean n fairly healthy plus im a spicy kinda girl n they can make that shit as hot as i like it n most reaturants cant do that!!!!so thnx noodle box keep doin watchu doin n jus nevermind the HATERS

  • 6 hugh // Mar 6, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I haven’t tried the one in Vancouver, but have tried the originals in Victoria, and I have found their renditions of the noodle dishes kind of boring, lots of hot, not much other flavour going on. I love hot, but if I just want an endorphin rush I can eat a spoonful of hot sauce. Maybe, it depends on who’s cooking that day,but for some rice noodles, chillies and tidbits of pork, 10$ seems a bit much.

  • 7 Jason // Mar 6, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    You know what Hugh? When I first wrote this I was really high on the Noodle Box because it was very different from what was being done. It was also one of the few places in the neighborhood to offer a full meal at a decent price. But you are right, it really isn’t all that. Big heat, the other flavors lacking, and at the end of the day, I just don’t feel right after eating a whole pile of noodles.

  • 8 Paul // Apr 19, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    The Noodle Box is definately one of the best, low priced, noodle-houses, that layers fresh and not over-cooked food.

    When you consider how many meals are produced per hour on any busy night, it’s utterly shocking how consistent the meals come out.

    This is a great concept, cool little place to hang, dine, and without waiting an hour for a waitress to arrive to serve you water.

  • 9 Phil // Apr 29, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    I totally agree with you re how well Noodle Box makes these dishes that other Thai or Malaysian places can’t even duplicate.

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