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Review: Bubbling hot pot spot Noodle House features DIY charm, fresh ingredients

South Boulder restaurant has options for nearly every dietary restriction

Spicy Szechuan Broth with veggies and seafood hot pot at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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When I was a young child, certain phrases would pique my interest like no other: “Santa Claus is coming to town,” “the new phone book is here” and the Chinese whispered-words that translate to “hot pot.”

Hot pot around the Fong household was a special treat that consisted of hot broth cooked in an electric wok, with plenty of vegetables and proteins on hand for cooking in the soup. Since it’s also a meal that’s inordinately heavy on the prep work, we probably enjoyed it no more than once a year.

Fortunately, South Boulder’s Noodle House makes it possible to enjoy this repast frequently. Situated in a strip mall, this unassuming venue distinguishes itself with a true-blue hot pot experience, along with efficient and unobtrusive service.

The menu is heavy on noodle dishes and rice plates. These include spicy pork dan dan noodles as well as braised pork belly over rice. Rice noodles are available for those adhering to gluten-free diets, and there’s also a number of vegetarian options, including hot pot. Hot pot was the choice of myself and my dining companion during a weekend dinner.

Before the hotpot, we enjoyed a bargain priced $4 appetizer of sweet-and-sour ribs. These flavorings followed a more traditional path with this dish, eschewing the Hawaiian Punch-style sweetness  to something more rarefied. (By the way, who thought it was a good idea for that beverage’s mascot to be someone with an anger management and impulse-control problem?) The addition of black vinegar and ginger made for an addictively complex and rich flavor. While these ribs were drier than they had been on a earlier visit, it was still a worthwhile choice.

Compared to other dining experiences, there’s more pressure on the customer to have a good decision-making process and DIY cooking skills. But that’s also part of the fun. When you order, you’ll select a broth as well as individual ingredients — which can range from just a few to a dozen. Patrons will have to keep an eye on the doneness of each ingredient as the post simmers, and cooking times can vary greatly.

  • Fried Dumpling appetizer at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Braised Beef with house made noodles, noodle bowl, at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Spicy Szechuan Broth with veggies and seafood hot pot at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Fried Dumpling appetizer at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Spicy Szechuan Broth with veggies, seafood and house made noodles hot pot at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

  • Braised Beef with house made noodles, noodle bowl, at Noodle House in Boulder on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

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While we waited for the broth and ingredients, my friend and I hit the sauce bar to craft our condiments. All the ingredients for traditional hot pot dipping sauce are present, including chili paste, sesame oil, minced garlic, scallions and soy. For my sauce, I combined garlic with the “very spicy” red chili paste, tempered by sesame oil, soy sauce and black vinegar. Learn from my error, and go easy on the vinegar, as too much makes the sauce overly acidic.

A pot of $6.99 bone broth, heavy on chicken tones, and the other ingredients, arrived reasonably quickly. The broth’s taste should be familiar to anyone acquainted with Cantonese restaurant house soups. In this case, the flavor was smooth, clean, and properly seasoned, augmented by the addition of restorative goji berries.

Staff showed us how to regulate the heat for the burner that’s built into the table, and we waited for the broth to begin bubbling. Once the heat was on, we started by throwing in $2.99 leaves of baby bok choy, which were fresh, crisp and uniformly green, and eventually cooked to a pleasant silky texture.

We also ordered a $8.99 mushroom combination, consisting of such familiar choices as baby bella and trumpet varieties, as well as the more rare enoki, oyster and wood ear selections. Each of these ingredients was of impeccable quality and each variety held its own distinct characteristics. It’s also worth spending $3.99 for the fresh house noodles, which carry a most luxurious feel that nicely complemented the proteins.

One protein selection was the $16.99 seafood mix consisting of prawns, scallops and white fish. Initially, I under-cooked the prawns and scallops, but it was easy enough to remedy this shortcoming by tossing these ingredients back into the soup. At this point, we put the seafood in our individual bowls, removing them with chopsticks for dipping, or simply eating them with the soup.

Cooking the $7.99 lamb shoulder was a quick and easy proposition. The lamb arrived in the form of frozen paper-thin slices, swiftly cooking to doneness. The key to successful cooking is to watch the color, and as soon as the meat’s redness recedes, it’s ready to eat. Hitting our timing right made for an endearingly tender and rich bite of lamb.

While the full hotpot offering at the Noodle House is not inexpensive, it’s a high-quality, memorable experience. It certainly evoked several happy memories for me. But even if you’re unfamiliar with this style of dining, it will likely make for a uniquely satisfying repast.


Noodle House

Food 4/4 stars

Service 3/4 stars

Ambiance 3/4 stars

Price: $-$$$

Address: 4800 Baseline Road, A-110, Boulder

Contact: 303-494-4210, noodlehouseboulder.com

Hours: 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Fare: Primarily Chinese hot pot rice and noodle dishes, but there’s also courses from other Asian cuisines, such as edamame. Korean kimchi and Japanese dashi broths are available. There are numerous vegetarian options, and vegan broth is an option. Rice noodles are on tap for those following a gluten-free diet, and the customizable nature of hot pot makes it reasonably easy to craft a meal that accommodates most food restrictions.

Noise Level: Moderate, but if you are overwhelmed by the roar of bubbling soup, you might want to turn the burner down a notch or two.

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