Sometimes a pork bun sums up everything. At least, that was the case during a Sunday lunch at new Marina’s new QQ Noodle.
What opened as Pho Fusion only a year or two ago closed quietly, and the new owners hope to deliver something that sticks a little better.
Something like a steamed pork bun.
A giant meatball arrived wrapped in an equally giant bready dumpling, a promise of hearty portions to come. While the thick bun seemed to have dried out a bit in the center, the pork attempted to make up for the loss with a heap of meaty flavor. Not sure where the vegetables (from the menu description) were, but a surprise popped out in the form of a quail egg.
Another surprise was the size of the tendon pieces in the spicy lemongrass beef soup. The broth was as good as it sounds: deeply aromatic, grassy seasonings melded with rich bone broth, plus more aromatics from cilantro. A pile of fresh, crunchy cabbage added texture when tossed in, and big beef slices tasted more like meatballs than steak.
I’d heard about the big tendon pieces, but seeing them wobbling on a chopstick made me wonder if this was a good or bad thing. Perhaps they would be better off chopped into slightly smaller pieces, though maybe some guests enjoy the slightly challenging slurp.
It was a bit of a mystery, much like the dryness of the calamari banh mi. Everything else about the sandwich delivered what one would hope for. Lightly battered squid rings brought subtle crunch, as did pickled carrots, daikon and cucumber, while cilantro delivered complexity and jalapeño contributed a kick. It was all quite delicious, except the mayo on the crusty French loaf was very obviously missing – and I don’t mean light, but truly absent.
The tofu and vegetable chow mein came underdressed too, but in this case the light sauce let the other ingredients star. After asking (and paying $2) for extra vegetables, a pretty meager amount showed up. Still, the soy sauce on tender noodles and firm chunks of tofu made for a solid meal with the cabbage and carrots scattered throughout.
As for dessert, boba beverages do the trick. Try a milk tea like Vietnamese coffee, cocoa or honeydew, or a “slush” like oreo cookie, fresh avocado or (virgin) piña colada. A mango and passionfruit fruit tea mixed sugary fruitiness with chewy boba, which countered all the savory dishes quite well.
It all leaves one feeling a little uncertain, as hit-or-miss plates often do. From the pork buns to the soup, no soul was missing in the carefully concocted spice blends and cooking methods. Yet nothing quite hit the mark.
With the comforting atmosphere and friendly, timely staff, it all reminded me of the feeling you get from eating in someone’s home: you can taste the love, but you also get all the mishaps of a team who may be more interested in hosting than making sure each bite exudes culinary excellence.
QQ NOODLE 330 Reservation Road, suite H, Marina. 11am-8pm Tue-Sun. 384-7256, facebook.com/qqnoodle18