Asian Noodle Soups

For a round-up of all the Asian Noodle Soup restaurants visited by AFJ, click here.

The Supreme FoodCourt ruled in favor of Nooshi in the case of Asian Noodle Soups v. AFJ.  The Court also considered the merits of establishments such as Raku, Thai Chef, Sakana, and Saigon Bistro. The opinion is below, and a formatted copy of the opinion is available here.

WINTER TERM, 2011

Supreme FoodCourt of AFJ

Asian Noodle Soups v. AFJ

February 29, 2012

Chief Justie Franco-Malone delivered the opinion of the Court, which was joined by Justices Shea, Yung, Edmonds, Steinberg, Smith, Horn, Zeise, Brown, and Kselman.

To insulate itself from the cold winter weather, the Supreme FoodCourt quested to find the best restaurant in Dupont Circle to warm up with a bowl of Asian noodle soup.  The Court’s term spanned several Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai. The Court went to Nooshi, Raku, Sakana, Saigon Bistro, and Thai Chef.

  1. I.                    Nooshi

Nooshi was the clear winner of the Asian Noodle Soup term.  Nooshi (named, perhaps, after the two cuisines it features – noodles and sushi) served up the widest array of soups, each of which was delectable.  The only thing to find fault with Nooshi is its distance (closer to K Street than Dupont Circle), but the huge steaming bowls of soup make the ten minute walk well worth it.  Nearly all the soups are priced at around $10 and are a great value. Whether one is looking for a hot and spicy bowl of soup (like the Phuket noodles which featured a sour, limey, tear-inducing spicy broth with rice noodles), a hearty, comforting soup (like the seafood ramen, which came with perfect chewy noodles, a rich broth, and shrimp, fish cake, crab, and squid), or a rich, exotic soup (like the Chiang Mai noodles which came with a delicious coconut-curry broth, eggplant, and crispy egg noodles), it is hard to make a bad choice at Nooshi.  The soup was also extra tasty when slurped out of the specially crafted soup spoons with a hook at the end to prevent the spoon from falling into the bowl. The soup takes a bit of time to come out from the kitchen and is not particularly fast to eat, so Nooshi is best enjoyed when one has a bit of time to linger over lunch, though they also offer a takeout window adjacent to the main restaurant.

  1. II.                Thai Chef

Thai Chef came in second to Nooshi and made a respectable showing with its noodle soups.  The soup with minced chicken, ground peanuts, and rice noodles was particularly good – its intense flavor was described as sweet, spicy, and limey.  The dumpling soup with chewy egg noodles and dumplings filled with delicious minced shrimp was also very good.  The duck soup also received mostly good reviews – the broth had a sweetish flavor, the mushrooms were nicely caramelized, and the duck had lots of yummy fat.  The only soup to steer clear of was the Yaki Suki, whose mix of coconut-curry broth, beef, and rice noodles received the lowest reviews and came in smaller portions than the other varieties.  The justices appreciated that soups were served with an array of four different kinds of peppers and hot sauces so the diner could modify the spice level of the soup to suit individual preference.

  1. III.             Raku

While Raku is a longtime favorite of several of FoodCourt justices for its above average sushi and delicious stir-fried noodles, it fell short in the noodle soup department.  First and foremost, the justices were disappointed by the limited choices – only two broths and two noodles to choose from (though you can mix and match broth, noodles, and protein for more variety). Diners may choose between a dashi or coconut curry based broth, ramen noodles or udon noodles, and beef, chicken, or shrimp. While all the soups tasted good, there were no standouts as there were at Nooshi, and even Thai Chef.  One attribute to be commended is the good value of Raku’s lunches – the noodle soups were less expensive than at its competitors’ establishments, at $7.50 – 8.50 for a large bowl of soup that could easily suffice for both lunch and a midafternoon snack – particularly given that soups came with a free appetizer salad. Another point in Raku’s favor is that service was friendly and efficient. It is also undeniably the closet source of Asian noodle soup to the AFJ offices, making it a viable choice for those who need soup stat. Raku is a good place to come for a quick, workday lunch, if not the most delicious bowl of noodles to be found in Dupont Circle.

  1. IV.             Sakana

Sakana had a respectable array of Japanese soups available, including ramen, udon, and soba.  However, its limited focus on Japanese cuisine meant that there was less noodle soup variety compared to its Pan Asian competitors. That said, all of the soups consumed by the justices were delectable.  The ramen came with a cloudy, miso-based broth, barbequed pork, and a boiled egg.  The chicken ramen came with a clear, soy-based broth with lots of cabbage and onion heaped on top.  The seafood udon came with a nice medley of seafood, including a tempura prawn, clams, fishcake, and quid. It also featured a poached egg that could be mixed in to make the broth even more rich and delicious.  Like Thai Chef, a bonus feature of Sakana was the free salad included with soups.  Sakana offered a tucked away, serene atmosphere and is a good place to enjoy a quiet lunch. However, the service at Sakana was problematic – servers breached FoodCourt etiquette by chastising the justices for coming in a large group all desiring soup (apparently soup cannot be cooked in batches larger than four) and were reluctant to provide takeout containers.  Sakana is a reliable provider of noodle soups, particularly ramen, but the FoodCourt can only recommend Sakana for small groups of diners.

  1. V.                Saigon Bistro

Saigon Bistro lagged in last place less for the quality of its noodle soup, and more because Pho’s mild, soothing flavor was simply too difficult to compare to the other, bolder genres of noodle soup the FoodCourt enjoyed.  Saigon Bistro served middle of the road Pho which was largely unremarkable, but bears the mantle of being the only restaurant to serve Pho in the immediate Dupont Circle area.  Although service was quick and friendly, and the soup came to the table piping hot.

As an aside, it has recently been announced that a Pho food truck will be hitting the streets of DC this April. Justices who love Pho may want to attempt to petition the Pho Truck to make regular trips to Dupont Circle, thus expanding options for this term’s choice of food.

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