Republic Noodle does what its name implies–it serves up noodles of many kinds, chiefly Thai and Vietnamese, and it does it with an upscale flair—the noodles are organic, the teas are organic and free trade, the meats are free-range and hormone-free and the vegetables are seasonal and local.
They are also delicious.The restaurant just opened in the spring, and it doesn’t have a permanent sign up yet–so go south of the Cross Street Market one block and there it is, 1121 Light Street across from Morstein’s Jewelers.
It’s in a narrow storefront with an open kitchen in back. The walls are charcoal gray and the accents are maroon; there is a long church pew along the north wall with nice silk-covered pillows for your back, giving an overall impression of Elegant Utilitarian.
We stopped by to try the lunch special, noodle bowls for $8.95, but first we had to try an intriguing appetizer: Maryland blue crab egg rolls with ponzu-scallion dipping sauce ($6.95).
The appetizer, which was one large egg roll sliced on the bias and prettily arranged atop a very green cabbage leaf, was absolutely delicious. If you like steamed crabs with their fiery spices, you will love this, because the ponzu (citrus) sauce has some very hot chilies in it along with the tart lime and soy sauce. It’s an excellent counterpoint to the sweet crabmeat, and the appetizer is plenty for two.
I tried some Lapsang Souchong tea ($3.95), strong and smoky, which came to the table in a cast-iron teapot. The real thing is hard to find in town, and this was the real thing.
On to the noodle bowls–I tried the vegetable pad thai ($8.95), rice noodles swimming in broth with lots of onions, cabbage and winter vegetables steamed just enough to take the hard edge off them. It was surprisingly mild–I didn’t catch much chili action at all, but there was a bottle of hot sriracha sauce handy on the table. I expect you can also order the pad thai spicy.
Soba noodles are buckwheat noodles, the general length and diameter of spaghetti. Buckwheat noodles are delicious, sturdy and a little sweet and nutty. The soba stir-fry ($8.95) combined the noodles with tofu and more winter vegetables flavored with soy and a little tangy something–maybe vinegar, maybe citrus.
The noodles are served in large stoneware bowls. The table is set with chopsticks, but silverware is happily supplied. Republic Noodle is a very good place for a leisurely lunch or dinner.
Our one disappointment is that the chef was out of Asian Plum Creme Brulee, which sounded wonderful. We will just have to go back. I want to try the udon with wild mushrooms and vegetables anyway, the wings sound good, and the salads ($5.95-$12.95) are intriguing.
Republic Noodle does not have a liquor license, but it doesn’t charge a corkage fee for BYOB.
Republic Noodle, 1121 Light St., is open Tuesdays through Fridays for lunch and dinner and Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Limited delivery area. Reserve a table at www.republicnoodle.com or call 443-263-4435.