Combining ‘Drunken Noodle’ and ‘Little Bangkok’ is a Bad Idea

I’m a little worried.

Dave Scheer, the co-owner of Little Bangkok and Drunken Noodle in East Grand Forks, says the two restaurants will soon be combined into one, in the Drunken Noodle location (the former Applebee’s location) right along the river in EGF.

Scheer told the Grand Forks Herald: “The Drunken Noodle space isn’t being used very well… The college crowd didn’t find us as attractive as we thought they would.”

According to the article, the restaurants will be combined in the early part of next year.

A sushi bar is set to be put into the stage area in the Drunken Noodle this Wednesday, so the restaurant will be closed for about a week. Call ahead to check if it’s open over the next week and a half.

To me, this is a terrible idea.

The plan Scheer and co-owner Thamrong “Keng” Dechawuth had is a good one: Bangkok is a bit more up-scale in a modern and chic setting, while Noodle is cheaper, with (obviously) more noodle dishes aimed at a younger crowd.

But would you want to go to a restaurant that is actually two different restaurants, ordering off of two different menus? It just seems to me to be diluting the identities of the two restaurants, mostly Little Bangkok, which has been pretty successful.

But Drunken Noodle, on the other hand, has struggled. Along with other restaurants competing around town like Shing Ya and Fuji in Grand Forks, Drunken Noodle and Little Bangkok are pretty much competing against each other, and just a few blocks away too. Maybe Scheer and Dechawuth read the market wrong and there just isn’t demand for another Asian restaurant.

Perhaps a better option would be to keep the successful Little Bangkok in place at its current location and call it quits with Drunken Noodle, rather than sacrificing Bangkok to try to save Noodle.

I sincerely hope this doesn’t doom both places.

We’ll see.

New Items Added to Already Great ‘Little Bangkok’ Menu

I’ve mentioned Little Bangkok in a few previous posts, but I really wanted to get a full post written about the place because it’s so good.

A friend and I had an early dinner there last weekend. It was about 5 p.m. and there were already a few patrons seated in the clean, modern dining room in East Grand Forks. There’s a fireplace, a few seats to wait if your table isn’t ready and tasteful decorations around like short branches hanging from the ceiling with tiny white lights on them.

Little Bangkok

Little Bangkok is owned by the same people who just opened the Drunken Noodle, also in EGF. If I’m not mistaken, I think I spotted one of the owners at LB on Saturday. That’s promising to see, because the restaurant has been open for a while and a less attentive owner wouldn’t keep up scrutiny like these guys.

And the oversight is keeping quality up at Little Bangkok when it comes to the food, but also the service.

On Saturday, I was greeted warmly at the door and found my friend, who already had a table. Our waiter came right over and asked for drink orders. He seemed a little nervous, like he’d just started, but was flawless. He was knowledgeable about the dishes and extremely attentive when it came to checking on us and refilling drinks.

Ginger vinaigrette salad

As we checked out the menu, we noticed a few new dishes. I wish I would’ve looked a little more closely, as their online menu does not reflect the changes. But we immediately saw the new Curry Puffs on the appetizer section. We also got some Gyoza, which are about two-bite-sized dumplings served with a soy-based sauce.

The Curry Puffs, with a flaky, buttery crust and stuffing of chicken and vegetables, were amazing. They were cooked perfectly. Any less would’ve been doughy, but any more they would’ve been too crispy. I missed the actual ingredients because my dinner mate and I were in ecstasy at these perfect pouches. Next time I’m there, I’ll jot them down.

Curry Puffs

The Gyoza were tasty, but unremarkable. The sauce served with them was quite salty. We should have gotten two orders of Curry Puffs instead.

Miso soup

Our pre-main course appetizers were the normal salad and miso soup. But the salad was anything but normal. It’s weird that one of my favorite things to eat in town is a salad, but the dressing they put on is amazing. It’s a ginger vinaigrette but is so good I’d put it on nearly anything. My dinner mate said the miso soup was delicious.

Another appetizer to try that I highly recommend would be the tempura-fried vegetables. It comes with a slightly sweet yet savory sauce that is one of the best I’ve ever had. It, like the ginger vinaigrette, would make anything taste good. Vegetables like broccoli, green pepper, onion, sweet potato and others are very lightly battered in tempura and fried. The batter doesn’t get in the way, but just amplifies the vegetables with a welcome crunch. Dunk the veggies in the sauce and you have a wonderful start to a dinner.

Drunken noodle

Oddly enough, the main course I ordered was the Drunken Noodle’s namesake dish. Wide noodles are covered in an oyster sauce accompanied by vegetables and your choice of meat. I thought the dish was great, but the sauce had an overwhelming fennel or star anise taste and the many leaves of basil really overpowered everything else. I ended up sliding them to the outside of the plate. But I would order it again and maybe ask for easy on the basil.

Gyoza

My friend had the California roll and, as he dug into the perfectly wrapped sushi roll, broke out in a chorus of yummms and ohhhs. He said it was great to finally have good sushi again.

California roll

We didn’t have desert, but if you’re a sweet tooth, check out the coconut ice cream. Also try the Panang curry, which has potatoes, onion and peanuts in a sweet coconut curry sauce. The pad thai isn’t bad either.

Little Bangkok is one of my favorite places in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Do you have a dish you can’t get enough of?

Finally Fuji

Fuji Japanese Steakhouse and Seafood in Grand Forks opened today in the previously vacant Leever’s building on Washington St.

Onion Tornado at Kobe's

The restaurant features Teppanyaki style cooking, where customers sit around a huge iron grill and the chef prepares the meal in front of them, adding flares like knife juggling, onion tornadoes and other stuff. It’s dinner and a show.

Fuji is from the owners of Kobe’s in Fargo and Bismarck. If you remember my Winnipeg post, it’s the same as Ichiban.

The restaurant also has a sushi bar. So add it to the growing list of places to get sushi like Little Bangkok and Kon Nechi Wa’s. Just a few years ago, you couldn’t get it anywhere.

There’s seating for about 200 and the place is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.