Kaydara Noodle Bar opened in the Sidway Building, a luxury apartment building on Main Street, in August. From the start, the restaurant set expectations high: "Bringing you an experience unlike anything Buffalo has tasted before," its Facebook page says.
With the closing of Nonoo Ramen, Kaydara is the only noodle bar in Buffalo, which should funnel a stream of serious noodle eaters its way.
This menu surely doesn't lack ambition. Chef 2/2 (pronounced Tutu) Inthalasy has assembled a cast anchored by a noodle lover's dream lineup: somen, the skinny Japanese noodle; udon, the thicker, chewy Japanese pasta; pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup; and wheat noodles with braised beef.
It's all presented in a high-ceilinged space with tall windows, perfect for street-watching, by servers who wear a lot of black. The snazziness of having stools where you can watch the chef work across the counter was diminished somewhat by the fact that friends could smell the open kitchen in my clothes hours after a meal there.
The pho ($8/$10.50) came with the usual thin rice noodles, and a saucer of bean sprouts and a lime wedge on the side. The broth was satisfying, with more body than some local pho versions, but wasn't as meaty and spice-scented as my favorite at 99 Fast Food. The sliced beef was cut thicker, and therefore chewier, than I prefer, and pho fans lamented the absence of holy basil sprigs and sliced chili in the accoutrement plate, as well as hoisin and chili sauces.
Somen ($8/$10.50) featured noodles that seemed much like the pho versions, and I missed the promised spiciness.
The udon ($9.50/$12) was a pleasant thicket of chewy noodles blended with crunchy vegetable counterpoints like fresh bean sprouts and stir-fried baby bok choy. It's one of many Kaydara dishes that can be made vegetarian, our server said.
Not the wheat noodles with braised beef ($7/$9), my favorite noodles of the night. Offering a bit of resistance to the teeth, the linguine-sized pasta was tender but hearty. With its faintly spicy broth and tender chunks of beef, the dish reminded me of Lanzhou-style Chinese hand-pulled noodles. If only the broth had more punch.
There are appetizers, too: fresh and fried spring rolls (both $5), steamed pork-chicken dumplings ($6). An appetizer of three raw clams and a slider's worth of raw beef, with dipping sauce, delivered on freshness but seemed undersized at $11.
Vegetable sides are worth considering, especially eggplant ($4), cut into cubes, tossed in spices and fried until nearly crispy; and Brussels sprouts ($4.50), chopped and lightly wok-charred.
The Brussels sprouts fried rice ($5.50) at my earlier visit had a bitter note from scorched greens. At my latter visit, an appetizer of three steamed potato slices ($3) dusted with curry powder and seared left me wondering at its plainness.
There are homemade soft drinks ($5) worth considering, even though they're served in big square tumblers whose existence is a triumph of form over function. I liked the fruitiness of the vanilla pineapple version, thrilled to the snappy sourness of a tamarind number, and thought the ginger needed more ginger.
A few larger plates included spicy black bean pork ribs ($13/$24), tofu and mushroom stir fry ($13), head-on shrimp in tomato garlic sauce ($11/$20) and steamed chicken with dipping sauce.
The dumplings were decent. The ribs were tender finger food in a sticky sauce touched up with something like Korean chili paste. The full-bodied shrimp, "Shrimp Feet," needed a more rewarding sauce for all the finger-licking it took. "I want this to be spicier," a fellow diner said.
Half a premium Bell & Evans chicken ($16.50), steamed and hacked up on the bone before being showered with scallions and fried shallots, comes with a terrific dipping sauce, full of toasty, spicy flavor. The chicken is virtually unseasoned, putting emphasis on the flavor of the meat itself.
The tofu-mushroom dish was among the highlights, built on tofu puffs and lots of eryngii mushrooms, pleasantly chewy tofu with the mushrooms offering textural support.
Enough of Kaydara's interesting menu shines to suggest that Inthalasy is capable of making good on Kaydara's promise.
Kaydara Noodle Bar
Asian noodle specialties and vegetarian-friendly dishes abound
7 Plates (out of 10)
WHERE: 777 Main St., 768-0038, ?buffalonoodlebar.com
HOURS: 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. Friday; 4-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, sides $3-$11; noodles $8-$15; plates $11-$24.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.