Sunday, June 6, 2010
Strategy over Luck at Bob's Noodle 66
When he named his noodle restaurant, former journalist Bob Liu tacked on “66,” which is a lucky number in China. But when ordering the Taiwanese street food at Bob’s Noodle 66, you’ll want to hedge your bets.
Make no mistake: this is the best Taiwanese place in Rockville, if not the whole national capital region. The restaurants of Wokville are much better than D.C.’s Chinatown, and 66 is the tastiest and most authentic.
It’s just that, to the uninitiated palate, some of the most authentic dishes taste terrible. Want to roll your dice with pig’s stomach herb soup or stinky tofu? The latter is the same dish that revolted Andrew Zimmern at Dai’s House of Unique Stink; it leaves your tongue with a chemic burning sensation and swallows your table in a cloud of odoriferous evil. The huge serving sizes don’t help.
Other tosses of the mahjong tile at Bob’s will win you the jackpot. The Taiwanese hamburger, or gua bao, is a fatty spare-rib topped with salty-sour pickled cabbage, relish, and cilantro, and sprinkled with that peanut-sugar powder that works so well in Pad Thai. The spicy pig ear is sweet and crunchy, and the duck tongue goes well with basil.
The trick at Bob’s is balancing the thrill of chance with your desire for a good meal. The staff is flexible, so request a reduced serving size of the hit-or-miss exotica. Then, for your main event, go with a heaping plate of familiar. Given that Bob can make something as odd as pig ear taste good, it’s no surprise he’s capable of turning cornerstore fare like salt-and-pepper shrimp, stoked by greasy, spicy basil, into a knockout.
For a meal overlooking the sea at sunset, avoid Rockville. Asphalt and dinginess are difficult to overcome in this strip mall haven, and it wouldn’t take much heavy-lifting to convert Bob’s Noodle and its big parking lot into a car dealership.
But a plush ambiance would feel wrong here; Bob’s Noodle is all about self-acceptance. Other ethnic restaurants steer customers away from home-country oddities, but here you’re encouraged. Just resist the gambling kicks and you’ll get yours at 66.