Dining Review: Y Noodle and Bar in Providence
Y Noodle and Bar is a master of culinary disguise on the West Side, offering a variety of delicious dumplings.
Tucked away in a West Side lot next to Fearless Fish Market and the Slow Rhode, Y Noodle and Bar is both a thirty-five-seater and a master of culinary disguise. Lights are dim and the humble interior consists of little more than concrete walls adorned with bamboo lids. But the soundtrack — a revelrous homage to the nineties featuring Enrique Iglesias, Fergie, Usher and Britney’s “Toxic” — indicates the kitchen is determined to make memories.
The drink list is extensive and dramatic: fruits collide with hard liquor as readily as they do with sake, and cocktails come out looking like a prismatic sunset, dotted with flower buds and silk leaves. They’re also some of the stiffest drinks in town and, if there’s a downside to that, it’s only that your hazy gray matter might miss the food menu that’s twice as compelling as the dizzying drinks.
The crowd starts to gather after 7 p.m., though the only thing that defines it is eclecticism. Diners who were already on their second careers in the nineties sit next to people who weren’t even born yet, and if they disagree on a personal aesthetic, they’re all clearly in it for the food.
It’s a cop-out to call the menu Asian tapas — though many dishes are appetizer-sized — as the kitchen has too much skin in the game to rely on tradition. Cue the heavenly music, because Y Noodle’s wagyu beef tartar could go up against any French iteration. Served with a bulging egg yolk, black sesame seeds and edible flowers, it’s served spilling out of a wafer cone in circus-like fashion. The serving staff is well aware of its theatrical value, standing aside for Instagram shots before cracking the cones into splinters.
If that seems unexpected, wait for the cotton candy pork belly. Seared and sticky chunks of fatty pork are served with clouds of pastel cotton candy on top, which sink as soon as a small bowl of smoky sauce is poured over. The result is a caramelized glaze that intensifies the pork, creating some sort of carnival hybrid of bacon and a blue raspberry slush. It might be weird if it weren’t so good.
Ramen is more traditional — though the options are deep and extend as far as truffle broth. Stray if you want but nothing beats the spicy miso which is what chicken soup should be if it had better self-esteem. The sweet spot, between old school and new, however, lies with the dumplings. Even the gyoza are aggressive, served “snow style,” with a crisped flour tuile extending off the soft dough. Dunked in a puckering yuzu sauce, they’re a whole new breed of dumpling that barrels its way into modernity. For more interactive eating, several varieties of soup dumplings are presented stacked in steamers with small table cards that instruct newbies on how not to mess it up.
There is such intensity in the food at Y Noodle that you’d assume the kitchen would eschew anything as straightforward and sweet as dessert, but again, you’d be wrong. Along with the black sesame ice cream (a roasted marshmallow’s cool cousin) come cream cakes infused with matcha or layered with icy citrus gelatin. It makes sense that there might be a birthday cake-like celebration because Asian food in Providence has been reborn.
Y NOODLE AND BAR
425 West Fountain St., Providence, 661-9666, ynoodlebar.com.
Open Monday through Sunday, lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesday. Street parking.
Must get: Dumplings of every variety, pork belly, beef tartar, kimchi fried rice, potato korokke.