Dreams can come true. But they take a lot of work. Qui Tran, co-owner of Mai Lee once told me, that it was his dream to someday have a noodle house. And now he does! It’s aptly called Nudo House and it opened in July. I am so happy for him and co-owner and executive chef Marie-Anne Velasco. It took several years of travel, research, and hobnobbing with the ramen masters in New York and California, but they pulled it off.
This week Robin, JC, and I were driving along Olive on our way out to Creve Coeur. We were in search of Nudo House, a ramen noodle shop located in a busy, shopping mall. It wasn’t hard to find. I immediately spotted the name above the restaurant, cleverly featuring a noodle bowl and chopsticks worked into the logo.
Qui, Marie-Anne and the Noodle Squad
Robin had emailed Qui (pronounced Kwee) to ask for menu suggestions. Qui Tran is a popular and well-respected chef in the area, having worked most of his life at Mai Lee, the family’s restaurant, that first brought Vietnamese cuisine to St. Louis 30 years ago. He wanted us to try the Spicy Miso Noodles and the Mushroom Ramen. He wasn’t there, he said, but his Noodle Squad would be there to serve us and Marie-Anne would give us the tour.
Marie-Anne: From Finance to Pho
While I’ve known Qui for years, I’d never met Marie-Anne. Her entrance into the restaurant business came after leaving behind a career in international finance to attend culinary school. Since then she’s been a chef in leading restaurants in New York, San Francisco and London, taught at a local culinary college, and served as a sushi chef at the St. Louis Ritz Carlton.
An Easy Menu
She explained that there are 4 kinds of ramen on Nudo’s menu: pork or chicken tonkotsu, spicy pork miso, and vegetable mushroom ramen. The 4 versions of pho (pronounced fuh by Vietnamese), include beef, chicken, shrimp, and pho sizzle (a mixture of all three). Also on the menu, you’ll find other Vietnamese fare: a bahn mi sandwich (with dip), spring rolls, kimchi, crab rangoon, and salads. You can top off your meal with soft serve ice cream in funky flavors such as coconut, mango, passion fruit or lychee.
The Art of Noodle Slurping
I went on line to find out more about the new culinary trend that’s sweeping the country. I learned that ramen noodles should be slurped. This preserves the wholeness of the noodles and opens up the lungs to the steamy broth. You start first by contemplating the bowl and patting the floating pork slices, before commencing the noodle nibbling. The Japanese also insist that diners slurp loudly to show appreciation for the dish, but I didn’t notice anyone observing this tradition. Empty bowls and smiling faces said it all.
Nudo House, 11423 Olive Blvd, Creve Coeur. Open: Mon-Sat 11a-9p.