Try a mix of Asian flavors at Noodletasia
by Staff Writer
The front room of the restaurant has low benches with cream leather seats invoking the feel of a Japanese tearoom. The middle room is similar to an American sushi restaurant. The back room with birdcages and calm décor has the feel of a Chinese restaurant. The ceiling over the first two rooms is made up of black tiles and burnt orange beams jutting out at angles. The effect is one of harmony and integration and this flows into the waitstaff, the owner and the food.
As the youngest of six children, restaurants are in Hong’s blood.
“I was born into the business,” Hong said with a grin.
He worked at his father’s restaurant Mah Jong on Long Island and a cousin’s restaurant in Queens. When his eldest brother moved to North Carolina to open a restaurant, Hong, then 16, came with him. Lotus is still owned and operated by his brother in Mooresville. Hong attended high school here, but afterward headed back to New York City. But the Southern pull was strong and eventually he returned to open a restaurant in Huntersville. That was 3 years ago and Noodletasia is going strong.
The restaurant serves recipes from Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, China and Korea. Hong is only 44, but he bustles around like an Italian grandmother smothering patrons with food.
“Everything is made to order here,” he said. “We do not pre-make items and then scoop them out of big bins. Each dish is made after the order is placed.”
He goes the extra mile for his customers. For example, one customer wanted to try some lychee fruit. Lychee is a small, fragrant, pulpy fruit grown mostly in Asia. Hong happened to have some similar fruit at home and brought it in for the customer.
“This is a real neighborhood place,” he said. “Repeat customers are 80 percent of my business. We treat everyone like family.”
Some customers travel quite a distance to eat there.
Regular customer Michael Chumley lives 45 minutes away, but has no problem visiting the restaurant often for lunch or dinner.
“(The) restaurant is the first place I have ever indulged in sushi – The Meatatarian – and I absolutely love it,” said Chumley. “Of course, the purists will say ‘that is not sushi!’ but it’s close enough for me.”
The Meatatarian is a sushi roll with seared beef, asparagus, tempura, sesame seeds and scallions with teriyaki sauce.
Hong still travels to New York City frequently. One of his sisters owns a chocolate shop called Kee’s Chocolates and Hong goes up to help her and visit family members, who often have restaurant recommendations for him. “
They say ‘Tommy, I just visited this noodle place and you have to go!’” said Hong.
He consults with his siblings about the business, talking about new recipes and techniques. The waitstaff has also become part of his extended family and love the food, even finding medicinal qualities in his recipes.
“My favorite dish is the Pho Bowl,” said waitress Sarah Hudson who has been working at Noodletasia for 7 months. The Pho Bowl is a noodle bowl with sliced beef, meatballs, onion and bean sprouts. “If I’m not feeling well, I just order this and inhale it in. It’s better than chicken soup.”
Hong is an excellent neighbor. His enthusiasm is infectious and his food delicious. He oversees all menu items, making sure each one is flavorful and of great quality. He laughs about being the baby of his family and moving to the U.S. at an early age.
“I can’t read or write Chinese,” he said. “But I can cook it!”
14211 Reese Blvd. W