Use your noodle

Never underestimate the power of a noodle. Flying into Hong Kong at 2 a.m. a couple of years ago, most of our party headed straight for bed. But I, and a fellow nutcase — er, foodie — wandered off in search of noodles.

Last week she drove in from the outer reaches of St. Paul to join me when I mentioned a new noodle shop in Uptown. Once again, we found ourselves in hog heaven, and we pigged out.

Kinsen, operated by the folks who own downtown’s Kindee Thai, sports a clean, contempo look that aligns with Uptown’s forward vibe: the bar spacious, the tables well-laid-out, the staff solicitous and well-informed. And the noodles? Keep ’em coming!

With a pint of local brew to wet our whistles, we dove for the gyoza — Japanese potstickers (apps $5-7). Dumpling fans, head over: These are among the best, constructed of a lightweight, less gummy noodle wrapper than many another. They arrive with a sexy little char from the fryer (or order them steamed, but why?), plump with a juicy mix of cabbage, shallots and green onions ramped up with a hit of fresh ginger and served with a light soy-ginger dip. We felt even more righteous in devouring them after learning that the restaurant is committed to using regionally and socially responsibly-produced raw materials — in fact, states the owner, “the only Twin Cities Asian restaurant to feature all-natural meats.”

On to the list of Street Noodles ($11 range), from which we chose my all-time fave Thai salad, composed of “noodles” of green papaya, as broad as pappardelle, tossed with carrots, green beans, cherry tomatoes and roasted peanuts in a “light and spicy” tamarind dressing. Yes, indeed, it proved both light and spicy enough to drain our beers, and brains. Loved it.

Next, the meal-sized noodle bowls ($11-14). From the Broth Noodle list, a tureen of shrimp tom yum: a “very spicy lemongrass and lime broth” (truth in advertising) lapping thick, deliciously chewy strands of udon along with mushrooms, more green onions and cilantro and a handful of sweet and bouncy shrimp. It’s marked with one of those little chili peppers that lets you know it isn’t grannie’s cooking. Terrific.

Next time: the pho soup called ben: veal stock, here laced with cinnamon and anise, moistening rice noodles, bean sprouts, green onions and Thai basil, along with meatballs, tenderloin and brisket (thank you, Thousand Hills.)

On to the Stir Fry Noodles, and a bowl of the slinky, slender rice-based strands of mee ga ti, which we chose especially for its base of tamarind-coconut milk (so addictive — and here, underplayed. Ask for more.) Bean sprouts, chives and shallots mingled with bits of ground pork, cubes of silky tofu and golden strips of scrambled egg, all flecked, modestly with chili flakes — a sensuous, soothing dish.


1300 Lagoon Ave.