"There is no there there," is a famous quote by Gertrude Stein about her childhood home in Oakland and as you can rightly guess, it is not a compliment. While I don't consider the East Bay a wasteland like she did, I don't get over there much, but not for the reason you think. Mostly I start to think, oh I should pop over there and then I see myself getting on MUNI to BART and the whole idea just exhausts me. So yes, I'm a bit lazy and joining the huddle masses on public transportation is not the most fun thing in this town--I ride it enough to know. But I had been promising my friends and former co-workers CW and CR I'd come over someday and we could all nosh and catch up. Thus it was that I rallied my internal fortitude and made plans to journey across the bay and dine. Only knowing peripheral places over there I left it up to them to pick a spot and didn't put any parameters on what kind of food. After de-BART-ing at Rockridge and jumping in CW's cute tiny car we headed over to try a hotspot and favorite of her's Noodle Theory.
A cute place on a prominent corner with lots of wood and windows to let in light. Their goal is to feature noodle dishes from various Asian cultures with a California twist and this is reflected in their compact menu. Since we were hungry we decided to start with some dumplings while perusing the menu.
Handwrapped and shrimp and Chinese chive dumplings with Chinese black vinegar. These are dumplings not potstickers and they are steamed to keep them soft and fresh tasting. Chinese chive has a subtle hint of flavor that is a cross between an onion and garlic but neither is overpowering which is helpful when you there are a lot of them (all the green you see) and they are mixed with shrimp. Overall we liked these, they were light but filling with plenty of large pieces of shrimp that were perfectly cooked. Flavors here were nicely balanced, that is until you dipped them in the vinegar. It was like a mix of soy sauce and balsamic and while I liked the tangy flavor it did overwhelm the dumpling. It's a minor quibble but I just proceeded to enjoy the rest of them without the sauce. For our entrees we went with sautéed noodle dishes and bypassed the soups.
First up was the grilled Fulton Valley (the California thing) chicken breast over ginger noodles with crushed peanuts and green onions. In terms of fresh tasting it was all there in the ingredients and if you like peanuts this is the dish for you. If you like peanuts and other flavors, then, well this might not work. Inherently there isn't anything wrong with this dish--everything is cooked well but beyond the nuts there wasn't much else going on. I really couldn't taste the ginger in the noodles and the onions didn't add much either. I guess I was expecting some bold pops of flavor and the only way I could get it was to ask for some sriracha to spice it up a bit. The basics here are good, just for me, I needed more of a kick. So decent, but not exciting.
Next up was ground Niman Ranch pork in spicy bean sauce over noodles. I know what you are thinking looking at this picture--it's spaghetti, which in a way it kind of is. It was like a hearty Chinese spaghetti that was both tasty and had that kick to it I'd been looking for. Of course the ground pork made it hard to eat with chopsticks but I was more than happy to twirl my fork with noodles and scoop out the pork. Again all fresh tasting ingredients and a very hearty dish and portion. This was a favorite of me and CR, maybe a little spicy for CW but overall it was the tastier of the two we had.
I think for my trip to Oakland Noodle Theory was a good start and while one dish was just okay all the ingredients tasted fresh and you could tell each item was made by hand and with care. And since spiciness can be an individual like or dislike I'm not really gonna ding them for that, I mean it wasn't like it tasted bad. With that in mind I'd say if you ever find yourself over near Claremont Avenue and are looking for some reasonably healthy and fresh fare Noodle Theory has got you covered.