Meatier than a barbecue. Photo by Matt Otto
Meatier than a barbecue. Photo by Matt Otto

This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Noodles. Lots of 'em. Thin. Thick. Stir-fried. In soup. Yellow. White. Thai. Vietnamese. Japanese. Welcome to NOODLE AVENUE, a hectic fast-food Tustin eatery that fuses various Asian noodle traditions into heaps and heaps of long, luscious strands.

The lunch or dinner process is simple: stand in a long but fast-moving line and consider the menu on the wall. Choose a meat—moist chicken, crispy duck, tightly compressed fish balls, shrimp, beef or pork. Pick a noodle—udon, mì (Vietnamese yellow egg noodle), vermicelli or thick rice. Want the noodles stir-fried or in soup? Place your order. Grab a soda and sit, making sure to place your order number in a visible spot. Admire the large, artful pictures of noodles that decorate the restaurant. Wait.

The food comes quickly, steaming. Chow mein is salty and intense, and the eggy yellow noodles seem as never-ending as a spider web. Noodle Avenue's pad Thai is merely average, but the stir-fried udon matches up to any Japanese pub and works well with the house hot sauce, a thick, garlicky salsa with Indian and Thai muskiness. Most diners order soups in quantities you could easily share with two friends today and tomorrow. The noodles maintain their consistency despite the boiling broth, and the vegetables keep their flavor—whether sharp scallions, crunchy cucumbers and water chestnut, fried garlic bits, or juicy bamboo shoots. And the broth! A dark, savory beneficiary of hours of cooking, it's one of the heftiest, most nourishing broths that isn't pho. The house noodle soup alone contains four types of meat—shrimp, chicken and two pork cuts—and presents a meat experience to rival the Brazilian churrascaria. Best of the soups, though, is the green curry noodle, the curry spicy but sweet and highlighted by the mix of shrimp, fish ball and chicken.

If you're not into the noodle game, Noodle Avenue offers traditional Chinese favorites like kung pao chicken, shrimp and peas, and a particularly flavorful orange peel chicken. I like such house specials as the rainbow steak—beef chunks sautéed in a sweet sauce and accompanied by garlic, pineapple, and red and green bell peppers: five different sweet notes you'll never find anywhere else together. And the appetizers? Though Noodle Avenue advertises fried shrimp or crab balls, they're more like fragrant, dense slabs; two suffice for a meal. And the cream cheese wontons—fried, airy, with a dollop of Philly cream cheese square in the center—are simply delish.

NOODLE AVENUE, 13816 RED HILL AVE., TUSTIN, (714) 505-9070.


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