Let me start by saying – I’m not a huge fan of pasta. The occasional spaghetti is good and I won’t pass up a bowl of Crawfish Monica, but I’m a southern girl, and I like my food served over rice. Lately though, I feel like I can’t get away from pasta.
After 10 days in Italy surrounded by various pasta dishes, I returned to New York. Upon my return, I discovered that numerous made-to-order pasta restaurants modeled after Subway’s style of food preparation are opening throughout the city. One of these shops happens to be located along the 4-block walk from the subway to my apartment. It’s called Nooi: Pasta To-Go! At first, I ignored its garish purple and red decor and its bizarre name as I walked to and from the subway. However, a chalkboard sign with “FREE SAMPLES!’ scribbled on it finally lured me in (yes, I am a sucker for free samples…).
As I implied in the last paragraph, the decor at Nooi is truly awful – royal purple walls with red accents, including red velvet chairs in the small eating area. To make matters worse, the restaurant was completely empty. Not a good sign at 6pm on a weeknight… But I figured, what the hell? They’re offering me free food. So I walked up to the counter, where a chipper employee asked what I’d like to order. I told her I came in for a sample, and she immediately pulled out a stack of mini Chinese takeout-like cartons and asked what I wanted to taste. I picked the Tomato Fresco, a basic vegetarian sauce, and the Bollywood. The girl filled two cartons with noodles, ladled sauce on top of each, placed them in a bag, and sent me on my way – but not without first pleading with me to come back sometime soon.
When I got home, I was genuinely excited to taste the pastas, and I was especially happy by how generous the sample sizes were. I took the cartons out of the bag, and they smelled great. I popped open the Tomato Fresco first, a sauce which is composed primarily of tomato, olive oil, and basil. Though the noodles were a little undercooked, the sauce was lovely. Thick with chunks of tomato, it was salty, a bit garlicky, and slightly acidic – overall, it had a nice, robust flavor. I would have liked for the basil flavor to be more pronounced though…
Next, I tried the Bollywood, which is a cream based sauce with mild curry, lemon, and chicken. This sauce didn’t quite meet the mark. First, describing the curry as “mild” is an understatement. If not for the light yellow color of the sauce, I’m not sure that I would have identified the presence of curry in it. Also, there was extremely little chicken in the sauce. It wasn’t until my last bite that I discovered two small pieces of chicken – and it was the kind you’d find in condensed chicken noodle soup. In general, the flavor of this sauce in comparison to its description is very confusing. It was so light tasting – not at all reminiscent of something that you’re expecting to incorporate a lot of curry and lemon juice.
Since I only had free samples, it’s hard to say if Nooi is worth the money, but based on the price list (32 oz. for between $4.95 and $6.45, depending on the variety), I’d say it’s a pretty good value. Would I go back? Probably not, unless I was in a pinch for a side dish. I will say, however, that this restaurant is still growing and may improve. The girl who helped me told me that they plan on adding an “Add Meat/Add More Meat” option to the menu, which might have improved my opinion of the Bollywood. In addition to this, I would recommend that they add more customization opportunities and increase the pasta selection (there are only 2 as of now). Then, maybe it might be more worthwhile.