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Noodle Guy is kind of hip for a pho restaurant, furnished with lacquered wood, art on the walls and big flat-screen televisions permanently tuned to the Lakers. The logo, obsessively posted throughout the restaurant, pictures a chubby manga dude whose tongue is captured mid-slobber, in anticipation of the noodles dangling from his chopsticks. The tables are filled with teenagers. The guys waiting tables may or may not be graduate students at UC Irvine. Even the soup bowls are kind of nice, or at least nice enough to make it clear that they were not the single cheapest bowls available at the restaurant-supply store that day. I've been in four or five times, and my elbows have yet to stick to the table, which is probably a record when it comes to local noodle shops. What is not on the menu, but which half the people in the restaurant seem to know about anyway, is the pho with Kobe beef, thin, raw slivers of the luxury meat that poach in the heat of the broth, floating among herbs, sliced chiles and slivered onions. And what you might never have expected is that pho may end up being among the highest and best expressions of Wagyu beef. The flesh firms but never quite cooks through, and its tenderness and richness are accentuated rather than overwhelmed by the cinnamon, clove and charred onion in the mild beef soup - the taut-cello-string beefiness really comes through. See full review.
Click here for Anne Fishbein's slide show.Kobe beef, which is to say American Wagyu beef, changed the meaty face of cuisine in the United States: a master race of cattle, developed in Japan, whose meat was tenderer, tastier and far more marbled... More »
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