3/09/2005

 

Noodle Express, Hayden, ID

Noodle Express 208-762-8488 301 W. Prairie Ave Suite P Hayden , ID 83835
Noodle Express is the fast-n-quick division of a longtime favorite of mine, The Mustard Seed. Thinking about the Mustard Seed brings back fond childhood memories of expansive holiday shopping treks to downtown Spokane, popping into the Bon Marche, the Crescent, B. Dalton Booksellers, DJ's Records and the rest of the lost great Skywalk shops of a long-gone '80s vintage era. These shopping trips would always end with a delicious meal at the Mustard Seed across from the Opera House (a location which has also sadly gone the way of the dodo.) I always ordered the same thing, which I had to order because it was my total favorite and nothing else would quite cut it: Maui Chicken. I still order it on those rare occasions I find myself at the valley Mustard Seed. Thankfully, with the opening of Noodle Express clear on the dark side of the Prairie Shopping Center out in Hayden, I can live my Maui Chicken fantasy life whenever I want, and on a budget. Actually, for simplicity's sake they have rechristened it "Sweet and Sour Chicken" here at the Express, but I swear it is the same exact thing. Wonderful chunks of white meat chicken breast coated in that delicate-melt in your mouth tempura batter, then deep fried to perfection in oil that always seems just-changed. The glaze is just the right amount of tart and is accompanied by pineapple chunks. Served in a bowl with white sticky rice and the Seed's trademark asian vegetable salad, it's a real bargain at only $5.95 a pop. I could also afford an egg roll, which was small but again deep-fried perfectly and served with a wonderful plum dipping sauce. Lou tore through his Teriyaki Bowl in seconds flat, so it must have been OK as well. The decor inside this Noodle Express is actually quite impressive. It's a generic sort-of Pan Asian look that might have been cooked up on some late night HGTV interior design show. Lots of natural woods and bamboos and faux-burlap wallpaper adds to the effect. Our waitress was friendly, but gave us a mild letdown when she teased our starving tummies by heading over with a steaming tray of food only to realize at the last second it was for another table and headed off in another direction. Oh well, our food finally arrived several minutes later and was worth the wait. Maybe it was just the slow part of the day, but I got the feeling the place was a little overstaffed as there were hordes of staff hovering around challenging each other with trivia questions about the '80s music that was piping over the radio. Everyone seemed stumped when the song "Oh Girl" came on, and I wanted to shout "Paul Young!" but I couldn't pull myself out of my Maui Chicken bliss. Rating: Ambience: 7/10 Food 8/10

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