Guys, I'm really excited about this one: I've found more to love in already-beloved Atwater Village. You know how the neighborhood where you work sort of becomes your second home? Well, I now work in Glendale, but I've found close-by Atwater to be more my speed. It has a hip, somewhat big-city sensibility, but there's a sense of community that you don't often find around these parts. People strike up conversations and introduce themselves by name -- everyone seems to be glad to be there, and glad that I'm there too. Since I started taking an awesome belly dance class at Heart Beat House, and discovering Kaldi coffee house and Tacos Villa Corona, not only do I discover more great spots in that bit of town each week, it actually gets better itself. The latest addition to Atwater's stretch of Glendale Blvd., Viet Noodle Bar, has taken the goodness to new levels.
I have so much good to say about this place. Every detail seems so thoughtfully handled, from the clean minimal decor warmed up with brown leather chairs and beautiful flowers, to the soft classical music playing in the background, to the rows of books piled down one long white wall of the restaurant. The menu is small, but every item on it is interesting. Viet Noodle doesn't try to take on a lot, but it takes its small charge seriously, and elevates casual dining. As you take it in, you get a sense of the place's unpretentious sophistication (I mean, I got to browse Hip Hotels Italy while dining on my summer rolls. Doesn't suck, right?).
I stepped in to the long white room and seated myself at one of the two communal tables stretching the length of the cafe. Sparse crowd, but then it was only 6ish, and it is a new restaurant after all. The lone waitress affably engaged me immediately -- describing every item on the menu (not that huge of a feat: there are about eight right now), asking about the studio up the street where I dance, offering her name (Melissa. Go say hi to her.) and a friendly handshake. Then she moved to the next party, where one guy gave her a copy of his book. Yep, this place fits into the neighborhood just fine.
So, what's on that little menu? Three small plates: Vietnamese 'tamales' of banana leaves filled with shrimp and a soft rice pancake; summer rolls with jicama, carrots, fried shallots, tofu, and basil; and some sort of salad involving jackfruit and I-don't-know-what. Two noodle dishes: one with whitefish, one with soy skin. Ginger soy curd for dessert. Pho coming soon.
The beverages are not an afterthought: Offerings include homemade soy milk, plain or with various flavorings. The roasted sesame soy milk is delicious -- just be sure to stir up the specks of black sesame seeds before each sip or risk gentle admonishment from the owner. The prize is a swirly combination of the most fresh, clean-tasting soy milk and a grown-up recall of the taste-memory of childhood sesame candy. Delicious, but I can't want to try the mint flavor next time. There is also a black bean 'tea', and one made with lo han fruit (not familiar with the fruit? Ask the owner -- he'll bring one out to show you).
So, yeah, Viet Noodle satisfied on many levels. And after class, as I walked out to my car around 8:45, I passed by again, and every seat was filled. It looked like a cozy, vibrant dinner party in there. See, I told you Atwater Village was friendly -- news travels fast around here.
Viet Noodle Bar is at 3133 Glendale Blvd., between Glenfeliz and Edenhurst. And at the moment, it's cash-only.