Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
“Swing” by North Fort Worth’s only boba outlet for both the Taiwanese specialty drink and solid Vietnamese and Japanese fare. Photo by Naomi Vaughan.
Noodles @ Boba Tea House
7355 N Beach St, Ste 101, FW. 817-234-9996. Sun-Thu 10:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10:30am-10pm. All major credit cards accepted.
Noodles @ Boba Tea House
Chicken-shrimp lo mein $9.50
Combination flat noodle stir fry $8.95
Gyoza (“pot stickers”) $5.95

Chewing tiny, slimy
black balls isn’t
the only reason to visit Noodles @ Boba Tea House.


Opened by sisters and partners Holly, Nga, and Kim Vu in early 2007, Noodles @ Boba Tea House is situated in a corner spot in a new strip mall at the intersection of North Beach Street and Basswood Boulevard. The sisters have put their enviable location to good use. Rising above the entrance is a turret of sorts across which the restaurant’s name is broadcast in huge letters. The giant “at” symbol is an attraction itself.
The restaurant’s main culinary focus is, obviously, noodles. Pho, bun (rice vermicelli), egg- and crystal-noodle soups, flat-noodle dishes, and a wide variety of spring rolls dominate Noodles’ menu, an extensive piece of literature that also — somewhat grudgingly — includes salads and rice dishes. Just about everything comes with your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp.
Unlike most other Asian eateries’ lo mein, the ones at Noodles are thin. Not angel-hair thin. But thinner than you might expect. Regardless, mixed with fresh, slightly crunchy veggies (bok choy, carrots, celery, ’shrooms), fresh chicken, and mid-sized shrimp, and spiced perfectly (not too hot), the pasta in Noodles’ chicken-and-shrimp lo mein were hearty and had some staying power to them — they didn’t just dissolve after one chew. The flat noodles in the chicken stir-fry were equally resilient. Though seared and semi-greasy, they nevertheless remained delightfully chewy.
For an appetizer, try the gyoza “pot stickers”: bite-sized pork-and-veggie dumplings pan-fried to give them a tough, charred exterior and served with watery and deliciously salty ponzu sauce. Or go for the cool, rubbery, and filling spring rolls.
A loud blend of cilantro and onion filled the pho. Adding some fiery red “rooster sauce” and hoisin wasn’t necessary but elevated the soup’s grade from a B to a B+. What kept the bowl from achieving superlative marks was the slightly flimsy consistency of both the vermicelli and the beef. A+ pho is soup and a meal all in one. Noodles’ version leaned too much toward soup. For an example or two of well-rounded primo pho, drive the extra few miles to Little Vietnam in nearby Haltom City.
The smattering of sushi rolls sampled were flavorful and fresh but weren’t wrapped tightly enough and seemed to crumble at the mere suggestion of chopsticks. Noodles does just enough sashimi and rolls to sate a sushi jones. Don’t go expecting the adventurousness of a bona fide sushi joint.
Along with the enormous “at” symbol, the average passerby might also be intrigued by “Boba Tea.” What is it?
Imagine 12 ounces of regular ol’ iced tea but with milk and, swirling around at the bottom of your glass, these little black balls, each about the size of a berry. They’re called “pearls,” and they’re in every boba drink. (The word “boba,” according to Prof. Google, refers to the “bubbly” or “bubbling” process by which certain boba teas are made.) The “pearls” are cooked tapioca balls, and they don’t really taste like anything (though, in some cases, you may detect traces of fruit-kissed anise). In the 1980s in Taiwan, where the concoction was concocted, people had begun flavoring their iced teas with bits of jelly. Plopping in tapioca balls was apparently just the next step. The fad eventually made its way to Canada, then stateside Chinatowns, and now, 30 years later, the Lone Star State’s hippest, most happenin’ town, Fort Worth. (What’s next for Funkytown?! Color TVs?!)
The wildest thing about the “pearls,” though, isn’t how they (don’t) taste or the mere fact that they exist — it’s their ooey-gooey texture. One drinker calls them “snot balls,” and the admittedly icky deDELETEion is pretty right-on. Every sip is an adventure. You never know how many “snot balls” — if any — you’re going to suck up through the wider-than-average straws.
Other than the novelty factor, boba has a couple of other things going for it: 1.) It’s seriously tasty: sweet and tart, and 2.) it’s low-calorie but fills you up, hence the drink’s popularity among tweens and teens, especially girls, and hence the hip regulars at Noodles @ Boba Tea House, probably the only place within miles that serves the yummy phlegm-y beverage.
Like most places that serve boba tea, Noodles also offers fruit and coffee bobas. The fruit options are sweet and can go down fast — hard to imagine that any fast-food fountain drink is tastier or more refreshing, especially in the summer. In the cooler months, though, go with either coffee or tea. And for a genuine “world-cuisine” experience, do the tea.
One of the place’s best boba tea offerings is also one of the weirdest: the “milk pudding,” a regular boba but with slimy yellowish strips of what we pray is pudding (and not just egg yolks or … something worse) floating around inside. Another solid choice is the basic green jasmine. Both teas are subtly creamy in texture as well as color.
Noodles’ interior reveals a sleek, naturally lit assemblage of booths and tables in metal and blond wood. On the wall facing the entrance is a quirky mural based on Fragonard’s 18th-century painting “The Swing,” an image of a young woman in a pink gown on a swing in the lush forest, kicking off one of her slippers and paying no heed to the dandy on the ground before her. In Noodles @ Boba Tea House’s interpretation, the young man is offering the lady a boba tea.

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