Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Urban Belly - A great strip mall find

Urban Belly is a new "Foody" restaurant opened by a veteran from Le Lan (named Zagat's top Asian Restaurant 2008) that focuses on a limited menu, knows what it does well, is BYOB, and has a stark yet friendly feel with long tables. These sharing tables encourage the sharing of at least your libations, if not your food. We did share our meals and enjoyed them with a couple of brought beers. This could be a new template for a whole new way of dining in these troubled times.

The big question you have on entering and settling is, should you be paying $11-$13 for a noodle dish, $7-$9 for rice dishes, and $7-$8 for dumplings in this strip-mall setting? The answers from our recent experience are yes, yes, and a qualified yes.

On a recent trip we entered for a late lunch and were greeted by the superb wait staff / cashier lady. From the front counter you can see right into the small kitchen, and heading the troops was the chef and co-owner Bill Kim.

The menu holds a mere handful of selections from each of the three primary areas (mentioned above) plus several side dishes. We had the pleasure of sharing #9 Phat Rice, which is a sampling of all three rices #6,7,and 8. The combination included a succulent short rib beef and scallion portion, smoky and soft pork belly and pineapple, and refreshing organic pea shoots and Thai basil. We also had #14 Asian egg noodles stir fried with spicy garlic chili, Tofu, and Chinese Eggplant, with just the right hotness level with subtly toothsome noodles. We had no room for a dumpling order, but trust they are as carefully prepared.

As other diners were enjoying their selections, we felt compelled to savor every last morsel of our lovelies. Lunch was uncrowded and unhuried. The spicy noodles paired well with a final beloved bottle of New Glarus Imperial Weizen from last summer.

Note that the neighboring store is a laundromat, and that parking is not allowed on that side of the lot. Not a big issue. Overall, an A rating for this surprisingly nice and relaxed high end noodle haven, an oasis in a strip mall!!

Comments from the host blogger and guest MrQuartetman.

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