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Pick up those chopsticks

Noodle House offers a combination of Continental and Chinese cuisine, now catching on the world over

PHOTO: S. R. Raghunathan

FINE FLAVOURS Novel fare at Noodle House PHOTO: S. R. Raghunathan

My dining companion is being dreadfully stubborn. No matter how hard I try to point out the benefits of using a fork and knife (pssst: nobody laughs at you), he insists on languidly waving about his chopsticks, and in the process, artfully splashes some soya sauce in my eye to shut me up. Luckily, the staff at the new Noodle House, opposite Satyam theatre, seem to be the patient, long-suffering types. I suppose they have no choice. Putting up with gangs of loud, Pepsi-spurting, polyphonic cell-phone toting teenagers all through the day does need the patience of a monk.

Mr. Chopsticks, however, gives up on trying to pick up food with his new eating implements surprisingly quickly, and not-so-stylishly sticks them into an impressively laid out Red Island lobster instead, spearing the soft, delicately spiced chunks of lobster in a way that would make even the most polite Chinese man want to hit him with a wok.

The next big thing

Chef Regi Mathew clears his throat politely. "Maybe if you used the other end?" he says. And while my finally-subdued friend wipes his chopsticks, and then turns them around so now he's eating with the narrow part, Regi explains why Continental-Chinese food is going to be the next big thing in the city.

It's not just chopsticks that make Chinese cooking so irresistible to the Americans. (Though picking up peanuts with chopsticks is a great way to wow women, insists my friend.) It's the strong, distinctive Chinese flavours. And the American touch? A dash of cheese.

It sounds ghastly, but works surprisingly well. "Not all flavours can be combined with cheese, of course," says Chef Mathew, adding that they did a lot of research on this cuisine — now catching on in Manhattan — before introducing it here. Besides, Noodle House's menu is not just about fried rice plus cheese. "It's a more Pan-Asian style... moving towards novelle cuisine."

The steaming rice spaghetti soup, for instance, brimming with a medley of flavours, has a Thai base so pungent that it brings tears to your eyes. The dragon chilly mushrooms are far milder, served in a sauce peppered generously with roasted cashew nuts.

The main course is tasty, but less remarkable than its precursors. Yong Chow fried rice, mee goren and kway teo noodles served with a lamb hot pot. Perhaps it was because, visually, they blended into a uniform colour beige — tame in comparison with the flamboyant red tints of the lobster and green of the jade chicken, slathered in a spinach sauce.

The restaurant, with the black sink-in couches and flaming orange interiors dotted with Vietnamese paintings, is surprisingly spacious, especially considering the fact that it looks like a three-table joint from outside, thanks to its narrow entrance.

The best part? It is attached to a Hot Breads and Qwikys. So, you can order dessert from either. We opt for Darsan, crunchy strips of honeyed pastry served with vanilla ice cream. And then relax over a cup of strong Qwiky's coffee. Dark, flavoursome and, best of all, impossible to tackle with chopsticks.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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