Stepping Out: Bobo Noodle House

| Stepping Out Columnist
Bobo Noodle House offers delicious food in a trendy place reminiscent of New York City restaurants. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Bobo Noodle House offers delicious food in a trendy place reminiscent of New York City restaurants. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars
278 N. Skinker Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63130

Bobo Noodle House is the perfect solution for the hungry Washington University student who is in the mood for a special meal but not willing to brave the cold for too long. The 1-year-old restaurant is located about as close to campus as you can get—right next to Kayak’s Coffee. Bobo is small but has a hip atmosphere and serves up some tasty Southeast Asian fare. The menu includes appetizers, salads, pho (a noodle soup), sides and, of course, noodles! In addition, Bobo offers desserts and a full selection of beer, wine and sake.

Upon entering the noodle house, I felt for a moment like I’d been transported to New York City. I found myself admiring the tiny, trendy space, with its dim lighting and paper chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and an eclectic mix of edgy music playing in the background.

At Bobo, food is ordered as soon as you walk in. Appetizers at Bobo include spring rolls (both vegetarian and pork are available), Asian barbecued spare ribs, and a shrimp summer roll. My friend and I decided to try the summer roll. In addition, we ordered the vegetable dumpling, pho, and the “ginger pork with gailon and egg noodles.”

The shrimp summer roll was perfect for sharing because we were served two large rolls. They came out promptly after we were seated, which surprised and impressed me. The rolls were presented on a clean white rectangular plate. A thin, translucent casing covered a filling of thin vermicelli noodles, basil, shrimp and lemongrass. The roll was garnished with slices of carrot. While the roll was attractive and fresh, my two main complaints were that it was impossible to eat with chopsticks and tasted bland. Luckily, both of these issues were easily resolved. I set the chopsticks aside and ate the roll by simply tearing it apart with my hands. The blandness was quickly fixed by dousing the roll in the spicy chili sauce that accompanied it.

For my main dish, I tried the ginger pork with gailon and egg noodles. The generous serving consisted of tender pieces of pork and a wide variety of colorful vegetables: red and green peppers, sliced carrots, onions and leeks topped with basil. I debated with my friend about the broccoli-like vegetable that was in my dish: Was it bok choy or brocollini? It turns out it was gailon. (Hence the name “ginger pork with gailon.”) Apparently gailon means Chinese broccoli. The sauce in this dish initially seemed mild, but progressive mouthfuls indicated that it had a substantial kick accentuated by chili flavors. While I found the dish quite delicious, I needed to take frequent gulps of my water to turn down the heat, so I wouldn’t recommend this entrée to those who can’t tolerate spicy foods.

For those who would be less inclined to try my pork dish, whether due to vegetarianism or spice intolerance, I’d recommend the other dish we sampled that evening—the vegetable dumpling pho. This dish was served in a wide bowl and consisted of a light broth with firm, vegetable-filled dumplings. The pho also included tofu and scallions. My friend said the tofu was some of the best tofu she has ever had. It was not too soggy or soft but instead had a nice, firm consistency around the outside. While I found the pho a bit bland for my tastes, a dish of chili sauce was offered on the side to compensate.

To finish, my friend and I ordered the chocolate coconut ice cream sandwich, and I must say that this was the highlight of the evening. Creamy coconut ice cream with a sweet and subtle flavor was sandwiched between two moist double chocolate chip cookies. To die for.

I left Bobo Noodle House with a full stomach (the portions are huge) and a smile on my face. I must admit, though, that I also left feeling a bit perplexed. The idea of ordering at a counter seemed odd to me at a restaurant with such a fancy, hip feel. While the service was excellent, I left wondering if I was meant to leave a tip. As I walked out the door, I handed the girl at the counter a couple of bucks. The neutral expression on her face left the mystery unsolved.