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First Look: Chubby Noodle Twirls Into the Marina

By Virginia Miller
July 8, 2014

Chubby Noodle has been soft-open on Lombard Street for about a month and — now that the grand opening weekend is behind us all — it's time to weigh in on the Marina's latest Asian food hot shot. With its steamy, bustling open kitchen; jovial, familial service and noisy packed space, this is the kind of restaurant we crave on the regular — the kind of place where you might toast glasses of draft sake with others next to you at the communal table — all set to a soundtrack running from '80s and early '90s rap to Fergie remixes and even a little Sinatra.

Pete Mrabe, of Don Pisto’s and still-operating Chubby Noodle North Beach, and his kitchen crew tirelessly churn out steaming plates of Chinese and Japanese food so heart-warmingly good that — after trying the entire menu — the best dish is still up for debate. Mrabe's business partner and Pushback Wines winemaker, Nick Floulis, checks in on guests and offers house wine/sake-based cocktails. With a different menu than Chubby Noodle's North Beach window in the back of Amante bar — which we have long been a fan of — the initial 12-dish menu at brick-and-mortar Chubby Noodle had us plotting when we might return.

If a Japanese izakaya and Chinese dim sum met a family-style party with California wines and hip-hop thrown in for good measure, it might look like Chubby Noodle Marina. Hours are minimal initially: Thursday-Saturday, 5 PM-12 AM. Read on for the highlights. 2205 Lombard St.; 415-655-3335

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Everyone around us started exclaiming after they tasted this dish. And we couldn't stop raving either. Hot fried wild snapper ($15) is flaky-fresh but as gratifying as fried chicken, in a bracing sauce laden with arbol chile, garlic and ginger. Do yourself a favor and order this dish (and the scallops below).
     

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    There are over 10 wines, some on tap, with custom barrel blends from NorCal winemakers on the way. There's also Sapporo on draft and a few Japanese and local beers by the bottle. Then there are sakes, the most notable being their house Chubby Noodle Junmai Ginjo organic sake on draft ($8/$40). Crisp and lovely, the sake is brewed by a US favorite of ours: organic sake brewer in Oregon's Willamette Valley, SakeOne. Another drink highlight is Floulis' Cold Tea ($6/34), either served in adorable Japanese mugs (pictured) or as a teapot for a table. Currently, the cocktail features their tap nigori sake mixed with locally produced Jardesca (our recent coverage on this lovely apéritif here), spicy with serrano and ginger.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Mrabe's wok-seared scallops ($11) are, let's face it, perfection. Seared in oyster sauce and butter with garlic, it's the huge size and balance between lightly seared and delectably raw that makes these silky beauties one of the best dishes on the menu.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Very cool ceiling artwork: a samurai and an octopus.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Plump, wild Gulf prawns with a light salt and pepper batter ($13) elevate this classic Chinese comfort dish, a favorite at Chinatown hole-in-the-walls. Here the prawns are not over-fried but are appropriately salted, marked by cilantro, chiles and garlic.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Beef ribs ($13) are tender slivers of wok-seared beef with chunks of eggplant in black-bean sauce, gloriously sweet and savory. It's a sigh-inducing dish that tastes just like you want Chinese stir-fry to taste.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Crispy and loaded with scallions, the command for scallion bread ($5) on the menu is “just eat it.” We will.
     

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Smoked bacon jook (aka congee, aka Chinese porridge; $11) is like a dream breakfast (and who doesn't love breakfast at night?). A warm, hearty bowl of porridge runs with fried egg, alongside crispy shallots and supple, smoky bacon.
     

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Dim sum arrives fresh, juicy and steaming, crying for the vibrant house chile sauce. Try both steamed chicken buns ($8) and pork and shrimp shumai dumplings ($7).

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Pork noodle soup ($11) was tougher to finish on a warm night, but on a cool night it'll be a hit, arriving steaming and loaded with ramen noodles and tender pork. It's spicy kimchi and lime that impart the appropriate perk.

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Places Mentioned

Chubby Noodle

Noodle Shop • North Beach

Food22 Decor17 Service18 Cost$21
 
 
 
 
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