September 7th, 2010

Jenni’s Noodle House: Knowing Noodle and Neighbor Equally Well

In 7 Words: Vietnamese, Orange, Lime, Concrete, Generous, Soy, thơm ngon

“Can I take you to dinner?” asks my wife on a mundane Monday.

“Where should we go?” I am not one to turn down a free meal with such fine company.

Paul’s always talking about Jenni’s Noodle House. We may as well check it out and cross it off the list. It has appeared in The Week That Was a time or two.” The decision is made. Getting in the car, we cruise the familiar streets making our way to 20th St. and head east to Jenni’s.

The parking lot sits half empty at 6:00 p.m., a pleasant surprise as I was under the impression that the AARP dinner rush would hinder our haste to sweet noodle consumption. We are lucky this time, but I will always be careful of treading on the walker-wielders’ turf especially when it comes to early dinners.

We enter through the glass door into a rush of cool air and bright, neon colors shouting from the walls. The only thing toning these hues down are the large, elegant, black and white images hung throughout the dining area. We hesitantly walk to the small shelf not ten feet in front of the cash register, where to-go menus, eating-in menus, and even a picture book menu rest.

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“How are you folks doing?” asks the genuinely friendly lady behind the counter.

“Dandy!”

“Is this your first time at Jenni’s?”

“It certainly is.” I wonder if I look that doe-eyed; not ready to accept the cashier’s observation.

As she greets the other bewildered couple next to us we comb through the menu. My wife casually flips through the picture book that inconveniently makes everything look more than delicious. Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Disco Dumplings, Dream Rolls and Suhm Spring Rolls… Uh, yes, please! Okay, so we don’t require starters, but if we did, I would order the heck out of those. I’m tempted to make my meal out of appetizers.

We both put on our game faces and move into the serious decision making process. With names like Super Logan, Big Jim’s Cup-O Pho and Teddy’s Not Gay Noodles, I figure ordering based on title is a safe, if not encouraged, practice. Teddy’s Not Gay Noodles it is! My wife takes the more logical approach after evaluating her selection on paper and in picture, even taking the time to ask the cashier about her preference. Stir Me Crazy catapults up the charts as my wife’s choice. We add two lime-aids, grab our number and pay.

Upon sitting down near the window so that no people may go unwatched, we wait hungrily for our food, sipping fresh lime-aid heavy with additional, fresh lime slices. Not eight minutes go by before our food is brought out in two large bowls by one of the friendly red-shirted staff. He smiles broadly just as excited about the food as we are. He asks if we need anything else and retreats to the kitchen to bring out a bowl for the next customer.

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We begin eating our food with what it was intended – chopsticks… and a lack of coordination. My blind choice of Teddy’s Not Gay Noodles turns out to be a good one. Tofu, buckwheat vermicelli, lettuce, sprouts, cucumbers, pickled carrots and roasted peanuts with a side of jalapeno soy sauce. It easily purchases a plot in the vegetarian side of my heart, fenced off from predominantly barbecue real estate.

My wife’s Stir Me Crazy is also delicious. With rice noodles, shiitake, bamboo, snow peas, sprouts, and chicken with fish sauce, there is no room for disappointment even though both the lady that took our order and the gentleman that brought us our food come by to ask us how the food tastes. We’re hardly able to answer not wanting to take time between bites.

With appetites sated and thirsts quenched, we agree that we made the right choice for our impromptu outing. Relishing the aftertaste, I look to the walls. My eyes dart from one large black and white photo to another, admiring the scenes of a Vietnamese life so foreign to me, much like the food we’ve just inhaled.

Jenni’s Noodle House is a welcome change up from the usual pizza, Mexican or burger steadfasts we commonly turn to. I realize at this point I’ve zoned out. My eyes stare vaguely at a family across the room. It’s their curious annoyed look and pause from eating that alert me out of my creepiness. My embarrassment is reason enough for us to leave.

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Where – 3111 Shepherd Dr. at Alabama, 2027 Post Oak Blvd. at Westheimer, or 602 East 20th St. at Oxford St. (View Maps)
What – Vietnamese creations that may or may not consist of scrumptious noodles
Wear – Just about anything
How Much – Affordable
When – (Shepherd Location: Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sundays 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) (Post Oak Location: Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sundays 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) (East 20th Location: Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sundays 11:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
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— Richard

Comments

Eric — Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:07 pm

I can’t believe you passed on the Infernal Chicken Curry – it is the best item on the menu!

Richard — Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:21 pm

Eric,
That was my second choice. Next time, it’s definitely going to be my first. I’ve heard nothing but good things.

Shion — Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:42 pm

I’m just going to go ahead and play this card. The only people I know that like Jenni’s Noodle House are white people.

Anyone from Asia or with Asian ancestry (including sub-continent) thinks it’s terrible. Bland noodles that don’t do their heritage justice.

Richard — Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:44 pm

Shion,
What can you recommend?

Shion — Tuesday, September 7, 2010 5:06 pm

There are a variety of Pho places in Houston that are very good, including some in Midtown.

There are several noodle places in Chinatown that are worth exploring. Even non-noodle-only restaurants there serve very good noodle dishes. I recommend just going over to Yelp and narrowing your search to that area, then finding a place that sparks your interest.

Unfortunately, there are no good ramen places (ramen can be a gourmet dish), as the Japanese population in Houston is oddly low.

Nick — Monday, October 25, 2010 9:42 am

You were mere blocks from some of the best Asian food in Houston. The Asain Market just down 20th past Main, before Airline, on the North side has amazing food, and is way better than Jenni’s.

I found Jenni’s to lack flavor and freshness when compared to other Pho places (especially Pho Mai in Sugarland, a personal fave).

Richard — Tuesday, October 26, 2010 4:43 pm

Nick,
I’m adding The Asian Market and Pho Mai to the list. I’ve driven by Asian Market on several occasions with intentions of stopping in. It seems now it’s a must. Thanks for the recommendations.

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