The newest member of I.V.’s foodscape sending you sweet buns and delicious noods
Here’s the thing: I avoided carbs entirely for three years and to this day struggle eating anything pasta-related. So, you may be asking yourself, “Why the hell is this guy reviewing a noodle restaurant if he can’t even handle eating a piece of wheat bread?” Well, you have questions and I have answers. In case you haven’t read any of my other articles here at On The Menu, I will reiterate: Mama likes to eat, and she can eat a LOT. If you can get past the uncomfortable image of me being your mother, you can gather that I can put aside my weird taste developments for some good food, and that I did. So, brace yourself; it’s about to get buck, y’all.
After a study session in the library, my roommate and I were feeling the hunger pangs. We didn’t want to cook, so we sat there thinking of what we would eat out. Images of the same old Isla Vista pizzas, sandwiches and burritos flopped harder than Katy Perry’s most recent single on the pop charts. After about 20 minutes of talking in circles about what we were craving, we gave up and decided to walk home. We crossed the basics taking photos in Pardall Tunnel and emerged into I.V., unprepared for what came next. Out of the darkness was a new light in the I.V. food scene: Lao Wang Asian Street Food Restaurant.
We scanned the facade of the building to find that this place not only serves noodles but also serves buns! My roommate immediately met my gaze and told me, “I really like buns,” so we went in to get the buns. At first, I was a bit confused about how I would order; the menu hanging above the cash register didn’t really tell me what I could order as much as how to order it. Confused, we picked up a nearby menu to find a variety of noodle options. The buns looked pretty small for their prices (we’re on a college budget, after all), so we settled and got the noodles. To our dismay, the noodles ended up costing us a little more than $12 a bowl. We felt trapped into the price since they only offer a dinner option late at night with three toppings as opposed to the cheaper lunch option with two toppings. I ended up getting a bowl of egg noodles with chicken, tofu and bok choy, which came with mushrooms and cilantro mixed in with their original broth.
As we waited for our bowls, I couldn’t help but feel the nostalgia of Otaco, the original establishment that Lao Wang replaced. I thought of the few times I went in for free tacos or walked by watching the strongly inebriated Greek life gatherings go haywire over karaoke. I wondered why the nostalgia was so strong, and upon closer examination, I realized it was because not much has changed about the restaurant. You can still find the same punching bags hanging from the ceiling but with new paint. It just opened, so I won’t get too critical of the decor. I came out of my nostalgic episode and reentered reality to find my meal was ready.
My roommate and I quickly ran back to our apartment to uncover our bounty. We fired up an episode of the never-ending Trisha Paytas breakdown Mukbang on YouTube and got eating. Opening up the broth was like unsealing the Chamber of Secrets. Pouring it over the noodles and toppings was like the line of storms bringing an end to the drought in California. At first, I struggled with the fact that I was about to ingest epic amounts of carbs. I heavily breathed into the savory scents of my meal and began to pick away with my chopsticks. The tofu was cooked well, the chicken was plentiful and the bok choy provided the crunch of the century. I was impressed, but something felt like it was missing.
I looked over at my roommate as she spaced out on Trisha comparing herself to a chicken nugget. We both agreed that our bowls needed something, but we couldn’t figure out what. I ran to the fridge and let my senses do the finding. Within seconds, I discovered what it was: citrus. I grabbed a lime and poured its contents into my noodles. I was thrown into an orchestra of flavor. The lime enhanced every flavor as the missing puzzle piece was found.
Within minutes, I demolished my bowl. The verdict: solid 7/10 alone and 9/10 with lime. I have yet to try anything else from Lao Wang, but this first experience left a pretty good taste in my mouth. If you are ever in the mood to splurge and have a large quantity of limes nearby, definitely check out Lao Wang for their noodles.