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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August 6, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Out to Lunch: Ya Ya Noodles

Some years ago, the spouse and I became addicted to

Tiger Noodles, then Y.Y. Doodles. We stopped so often for dinner —

and sometimes for lunch on weekends — that a waiter finally asked

"Don’t you have a kitchen?" It was humiliating. We didn’t

go back for days.

Now Tiger Noodles has a sibling, Ya Ya Noodles, which is located in

the Montgomery Center shopping center, site of the marvelous Montgomery

Cinema. Owned by the same folks who have made Tiger Noodles such a

popular spot, Ya Ya Noodles is considerably larger, and is not dependent

on the weather for seating, as is Tiger Noodles, where the vast majority

of tables are set on a patio facing Nassau Street.

Pulling up late in the lunch hour during the new eatery’s grand opening,

I easily found a parking spot. There would be no swaggering stories

of winning the Nassau Street parking game, perhaps by cannily moving

into position just as a package-laden shopper exited from the Carousel

or from Nassau Street Seafood. But that’s okay, the parking drama

is wearing at lunchtime, when a nice quiet break with a stack of newspapers

provides the fuel for a productive afternoon/evening at work.

Newspapers in hand, I was greeted by a pleasant hostess at Ya Ya Noodles

and seated within seconds, but not before taking note of a semi-private

dining room to the left of the entrance, and a colorful lunch (or

dinner) bar just past the hostess stand. The main dining room is large;

I’m tempted to say enormous. Most tables, covered in crisp, off-white

linen tablecloths, are for four. But there are larger round tables

that seat up to 10. Walls are white, the floor is carpeted, and a

series of large windows line one wall. The overall effect is restful.

My waiter brought a menu and a glass of ice water within seconds.

I was surprised to see far more items on the menu than are on that

at Tiger Noodles. Along with the large selection of soups for which

Tiger Noodles is known, there are no fewer than 16 seafood choices,

including Chilean sea bass with ginger and scallions, Thai curry shrimp

with zucchini, crispy squid with peppercorn, and jumbo shrimp Sichuan

style.

There are the standard chicken, beef, and pork dishes, and a section

of "special diet dishes," including salmon or chicken with

vegetables. The long noodle section of the menu includes pan-fried

angel hair with seafood and vegetables, along with 10 other types

of noodles, all of which can be served with any combination of meat,

fish, and vegetables. For those who hate to stray far from a pizzeria,

there is even a special Western fried rice with ham, pepperoni, and

sausage.

On the lunch menu, served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., prices range

from $5.25 to $6.25 and include white rice and a choice of soup, a

vegetable roll, or a soft drink. Lunches include beef and tomato,

shrimp in garlic sauce, ginger chicken with string beans, and steamed

vegetables with bean curd.

I went with chow fun ("a wide noodle" as George Costanza once

explained to Kramer on an episode of Seinfeld). It can be prepared

with meat, fish, or vegetables. I chose vegetables. One taste and

I decided it was high time we make a full-fledged return to the Tiger

Noodle/Ya Ya Noodle fold.

Leaving the restaurant, I asked the hostess about the array of brightly-colored

jars on the lunch counter. She explained that each holds a different

kind of tapioca — strawberry, mango, passion fruit — used

in concocting a tea and milk beverage. Near the jars are big glasses

full of fat, colorful straws used to imbibe the tapioca-ball filled

drinks. Tapioca tea has been big — very big — in Chinatown

for a year-and-a-half or more, and apparently Ya Ya Noodles is giving

it a try in Montgomery. It would be fun to take one — perhaps

in neon orange or deep pink — back to the office after lunch.

Ya Ya Noodles is open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. It accepts

MasterCard and Visa. And while this new restaurant is on the cutting

edge of a the tapioca tea craze, it does not serve liquor.

Ya Ya Noodles, 1325 Route 206, Montgomery Center shopping

Center, Skillman. 609-921-8551.


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