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Daddy’s Noodle Bar adds welcome variety to Flanders

We’ve gone from Five Guys to one Daddy in the Flanders area of East Lyme, and if recent visits are an indicator, the noodle house is generating a happy family of fans.

On a blustery, snowy Monday, Daddy’s Noodle Bar II saw a steady stream of dine-in guests eager to shake off the cold with some hot soup, the specialty of the house. Daddy’s offers two varieties of noodle soup: pho and ramen, which appear similar but carry a few important distinctions. Ramen was “invented” in Japan; its noodles are wheat based; its broth and contents are generally heartier than pho’s; and its toppings are more varied. Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a Vietnamese dish that combines rice noodles (sometimes egg noodles), broth seasoned with a distinct spice blend, thinly sliced meats, and its signature toppings of basil or other fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and a wedge of lime.

Daddy’s offers several varieties of both noodle dishes, featuring beef, shrimp and other critters from the sea, and chicken, plus a few dishes with tofu. We kept it fairly simple with our first tasting mission with an order of Pho Ga ($10.50), noodle soup with thinly sliced chicken, and Tonkotsu ($12), ramen with pork, a hard-boiled egg, nori (seaweed), spicy sprouts, scallions, and chasu (pork belly). The broth, noodles, and toppings are delivered separately so you can adjust, season, and tailor your soup according to your preferences.

My top choice was the ramen, thanks to its rich, dark, earthy broth. The hard-boiled egg fit in well with the broth, and the nori — just a small sheet of it — offered just the right amount of umami flavor for me. The pork elements gave a nice assist to the overall flavor balance, and there was plenty of it throughout my deep bowl of protein. The noodles themselves were very tasty and, even better, just a bit toothy, so this soup truly eats like a meal.

I certainly enjoyed the pho, and it emerged my husband’s favorite of the two. The broth presented a good rendition of the star anise-dominant spice blend — smooth and not too bite-y — and the sliced chicken, accented with thin strips of onion, within was abundant. I found the chicken a tad dry, but good broth tends to make most things better, or least palatable. The noodles were cooked to perfection and plentiful.

Daddy’s is a noodles destination, after all, and aside from the soups, guests can choose from a selection of vermicelli-based (or bun) entrees. We opted for the Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio ($11.95; comes with one egg roll), which pairs the vermicelli (cold rice noodles) with barbecued pork, along with the traditional garnishes, which can vary. Daddy’s uses julienned carrots, shredded lettuce, and chopped basil, with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and scallions atop the pork. We tried the vinegar-y dressing for the sake of science, and while we liked it, the sum of everything was so enjoyable we didn’t use much of it. From the super thinly sliced pork to the excellent flavor of the noodles (somehow they tasted grilled, but showed no evidence of grilling), this is a refreshing and comfortably filling option. As for the eggroll, a flaky variety stuffed with shredded pork, it was very good and fresh.

Our pre-dinner app of pork dumplings ($7.27) won approval from us both. The clincher for me was the bright burst of cilantro flavor mixed into the pork filling. Plus, the texture of the outer dumpling was a spot-on balance of soft to firm.

On another night, I blew in with the first snowfall of the season ready for something hearty. What’s heartier than a bubble tea to start with? It’s a beverage that comes with food in it, after all. My green tea-flavored beverage ($4.95) got things off to a good start, offering the correct balance of ice to milky tea mixture to tapioca pearls. This was a more floral variety of green tea (probably scented with jasmine), and it was quite good.

I’m fairly noodled out at this point, so I chose one of Daddy’s two rice dishes on the menu. One features a grilled pork chop with rice ($11.95), and the other adds a lightly fried egg to the same ($12.95). Naturally, I selected the latter. Upon arrival, I hesitated to destroy the very pretty arrangement of foods on my plate. Alongside a perfect mound of rice sat a colorful salad of cucumber, carrot, tomato, and, I think, sliced radish; the egg, its yolk waiting to be broken, perched atop the scallion-bedecked pork chops. A side of pungent sauce comes with (I suspect some mixture of vinegar and fish sauce), but the very strong smell of it put me off and, besides, the dish stood on its own well enough without it.

Now, while I truly enjoyed the sweet and smoky flavor of the pork, I found the bone-in chops to be tricky to navigate with fork and knife. Fingers did not seem appropriate in this context. Egg, rice (cooked perfectly), and pork do go very well together, but let’s just say my table wasn’t the cleanest upon departure, and I left a bit underwhelmed with this dish overall.

But 'tis the season for soup, and Daddy’s will likely warm up many a person’s night (and probably cure some colds) going forward. It’s very nice to see something fresh and new in the area, and, thanks in part to its very friendly service, Daddy’s seems to be winning hearts and minds easily thus far.

 

If you go

Daddy's Noodle Bar II

295 Flanders Road, East Lyme

(860) 451-8065

Find Daddy’s online via Facebook; make sure to include the full name (above), as there are other establishments with similar names out there

Cuisine: Vietnamese, Asian-fusion fare, including Pho and Ramen

Atmosphere: Crisp and clean, with some colorful accents to keep things cheery; upon entry, patrons are greeted by a kitschy but cute mural on one wall, an active fish tank, and a large wooden statue.

Prices: Reasonable; the most expensive price point on the menu is $13.95, and the portions are generous; pho starts at $10.95

Service: Courteous, friendly, and efficient

Credit cards: All majors

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Handicapped access: No stairs to enter; follow the ramp to the entrance. Interior is very spacious.

 

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