From Iceland — Skólavörðustígur Shuffle

Skólavörðustígur Shuffle

Published February 8, 2010

Skólavörðustígur Shuffle

Noodle bars have taken over Skólavörðustigur, with Núðluskálin and the Noodle Station setting up shop within spitting distance of each other in recent months. As an authority on all things—noodles not excluded—the Grapevine thought it appropriate to indulge in the offerings of each establishment so that the next time you’re torn between stopping by Skólavörðustigur 8 or continuing uphill to 21A you can reflect upon our sage-like words and make the right choice.
Hopes were high when walking out of the cold into the sparse decor of Núðluskálin and they remained high when reading the menu: seven offerings (plus a build-your own noodle dish option) for just 990 ISK with meat (790 without) and an MSG-free disclaimer kept them high through the ordering process. The menu even lists the caloric tallies of each dish, for those concerned with such things, and they are all are pleasingly low.
Gwiddiáw Domm Kha it was, with a coconut soup base: 3 out of 3 on the spicy scale and promising notes of chilli, garlic, coriander and ginger. I was optimistic that I would be heading back out into the cold night happily satisfied. Unfortunately what I was presented with was more akin to skim-milk soup, lacking in the spice department (until the end of the dish, where all the spice settled despite constant stirring, at which point I felt as though I was being cooked from the inside out), and with all those anticipated flavour notes falling entirely flat. My date’s Fideos de Mexico dish oddly presented a bottle-esque marinara sauce where tomato soup was promised, with few other flavours fighting through, save for the jalapeño. Both were served in disposable take-out dishes with clumsy and flimsy plastic cutlery, a constant whether eating in or taking away.
The gimmick of Núðluskálin is that the customer can add his or her own flavourings, with helpful suggestions listed alongside each menu option. While some may be gifted in the self-spicing department, those of us who just want the food we paid for to arrive at our tables seasoned as the chef intended run the risk of spicing too little or too much. The saving grace of the experience was the noodles themselves, which were fresh and filling, despite nearly all the other elements of the dishes failing to impress.
The Noodle Station is in a league of its own. Equally sparse aesthetically as its noodle competitor, but with a punch of simple and complementary flavours that overwhelm the senses. It really is simple, with only two options on the menu: chicken or beef. Both my date and I opted for chicken and neither of us was disappointed. The meat was seasoned independently of the soup, but did not compete with the broth or accoutrements therein; it was tender and moist to the point of breaking apart easily and delicately. The soup base is an authentically spiced broth, with bean sprouts and noodles intertwined within it and topped with accents of chilli and peanuts. And it is served in a deep noodle bowl, with a metal spoon and a good pair of sturdy chopsticks. Bonus points for real flatware and utensils. Minus points for not enough seating and uncomfortable seating at that.
The Noodle Station serves noodles the way noodles should be: flavourful, comforting and enjoyable to slurp and savour. The conservation of words dedicated to this refreshingly enjoyable little shop should be construed only as an indicator of my complete satisfaction. Just like these noodles, no embellishments are needed.

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