Monday, January 7, 2013

Where We Eat: Issei Noodle

Usually J-Fur and I use the holidays as a chance to visit family (who always want to cook for us) and hit up some of the local Carlisle restaurants. For not being a big town, Carlisle has a number of independent food places that know how to throw down. Fay’s Country Kitchen makes some bad ass pancakes, the Market Cross Pub hits a bullseye with English Pub Grub and Massey’s makes the finest milkshakes I’ve had.

When I'm in Carlisle and seeking out something a bit lighter and lunchier, I go to Issei Noodle. Before the holidays locked us in for a couple of days, J-Fur and I joined her parents for lunch at Issei Noodle. The restaurant was very crowded when we arrived. Only one table remained, right by the door. This meant cold blasts of air each time someone came in or left (which was a lot). By the same token, it meant sitting by a huge window overlooking the main street of Carlisle (and watching old people try to parallel park).

My first order of business was to get an appetizer. During our previous visits, we went with the Vegetarian Fresh Spring Rolls served with a special plum sauce. These were awesome. But this time around, I wanted to try something different. When I spotted the words vegetable gyoza side-by-side I knew that was the place to go. My gyoza days started with a discontinued brand at Whole Foods which I would turn into this. They continued with tri-monthly visits to Trang Viet. The gyoza love affair pretty much ended with a baby onesie. I hoped to rekindle things at Issei Noodle. Their version of this appetizer was by far my least favorite of the three. Its crispy exterior and relatively empty interior came across as more of a thinned out samosa and less like gyoza. I did like the dipping sauce that accompanied it.

                      My Gyoza

J-Fur decided on an appetizer/meal of edamame. She was going through some bouts of nausea while in Carlisle, so she stuck with very simple foods. The edamame was good (although I have yet to meet a terrible edamame, I think it is the kind of thing that is difficult to f*** up). She didn’t share any with her father as he has a tendency to eat edamame whole (shell and all).


My normal main dish of choice is the Veggie Yaki Udon. This is Udon noodles with sauteed seasonal veggies, steamed tofu and a sweet ginger-miso sauce. I wavered between the tried and true and the Don Buri (a rice bowl). I eventually went with the new and gave the Don Buri a shot. The Vegetarian Don Buri was full of seasonal vegetables such as red pepper, bok choy, basil, broccoli and onion. It was then covered by a very light house sauce and served over rice. The bowl was pretty big but it seemed slightly bland. Perhaps the creator of the dish is of the opinion that making it slightly bland allows the customer to season it how they want. I mean the table center is littered with additional condiments and sauces to help boost flavor. I added a bit of soy sauce to the rice which seemed to enhance the house dressing and provided the oomph the dish needed.

                       Don Buri Vegetarian

J-Fur’s mom also ate vegetarian. She had the Vegetarian Vermicelli Noodle basically because on her last visit she ordered the Veggie Tofu Ramen and was disappointed that the tofu seemed raw and mushy (a big faux pas in that family as they have texture issues). She didn’t say much about the Vegetarian Vermicelli Noodle and I was too stuffed to give it a try. But seeing that it was topped with gyoza and served cold, I probably wouldn’t have liked it.

My latest visit to Issei Noodle was not nearly as impressive as the first few. I partially chalk this up to making bad choices. Instead of ordering what I knew I liked and was impressed by, I tried other things that weren’t quite as good. That being said, it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence to walk into a place with few vegetarian/vegan options as is and not be impressed by any portion of the meal. Will I eat at Issei Noodle again? Probably. Maybe. But my confidence is a bit shaken.

My visit was enhanced by the sounds of the new self-titled EP from White Blush (aka Carol Rhyu). The EP forecasts six LA style electro-dream pop tracks that have the listener tiptoeing along railroad beams that are cross-sectioned with minimalistic synths, pulsing arpeggios and imposing industrial drum machine beats. Should you dance? Close your eyes and dream? Talk a walk along a snowy mountainside at midnight? Or watch the eerie movements that shadows make around a campfire? It is hard to tell. That is the magic of White Blush’s EP. It can be comfortable almost anywhere you are. Check out “Jolene":