claudia kwan/for metro vancouver
The Noodle Box
1867 W. 4th (and Cypress)
Open M-Sa 11:30-9, Su 12-8
Dinner for two, including tax, tip, and drinks: $26
*** 1/2 (out of 5)
If you are in a hurry and on a relatively tight budget, you might not think of Kitsilano as your first destination. But follow your nose when you sniff some tantalizing aromas on Burrard, swing on to Fourth Avenue, and shortly thereafter you’ll find yourself at the tail end of the perpetual line-up at the Noodle Box.
In more than an hour there during the dinner rush, there were at least six people waiting at all times to pick up the Southeast/East Asian menu selections. I dithered between Cambodian jungle curry on rice noodles and Malaysian lamb curry on roti bread, before freeing myself from the quagmire by adding chicken to Indonesian peanut sauce on ribbon noodles, mild-medium spicy.
You’ll want to watch the heat-o-meter when you order, because only the most fireproof palates can handle the ultimate level of spice. Even mild-medium was giving me a kick in the throat, close to the limit of enjoyability — a water tap is handily positioned for public access on the front counter, or you can order a beer to kill the flames. The menu guide thankfully has a lot of grades for spice to let you fine tune your preference.
My pal took the plunge into Singapore cashew chicken curry with ribbon noodles. Overall, the dishes were flavourful and generously portioned (good thing the takeout containers are so handy) but it was a bit of a search mission to find the chicken in both of our selections.
The Noodle Box bills itself as a takeaway joint — there are tables but no table service, and for convenience’s sake, you can avoid the line and order ahead for a pick-up order. I did an unscientific experiment where I shifted the full portion received in a dine-in bowl to a take-out container, and had a generous amount left over. Perhaps the take-outs are packed a lot more tightly.
You could likely find more authentic dishes at lower prices, but probably not all gathered in one place, and not served so quickly. Get in line the next time you have a hankering for some fast food done right.