Oakland’s Golden Gate neighborhood got a bit more vibrant this week with the soft-opening of Noodle Theory Provisions. Located on San Pablo Avenue just past the Stanford Avenue intersection, the strip is currently home to Namaste Pizza, American Natural Food & Cafe (which I have yet to try) and just a block from Pepples Donut Farm.
Owner and East Bay resident Louis Kao’s passion for cooking was forged by his parents who he noted “practically raised him in a kitchen.” “It came from a selfish place. I couldn’t find anything close to my Dad’s cooking that I grew up eating. So I decided to do it myself.” The Grand Opening will be Monday March 14th when regular lunch and dinner service begins.
The expansive and warmly lit restored space will also sell ingredients in their storefront area including homemade stocks and noodles to prepare your own dishes.
The transformation of the former Eastern City Cafe space is impressive. They opened up the windows and power-washed the facade that had accumulated decades of grime. “It just took some elbow grease to pull out the original character of the building” noted general manager Jennifer Avelino. Avelino also noted they were delighted to open up the southern wall to unearth the original exposed brick. Noodle Theory also embraced the increasingly popular open kitchen model that adds an element of entertainment in addition to being transparent on how your food is prepared.
Noodle Theory’s food probably falls under that “California Cuisine” umbrella with variations of classic Chinese dishes using quality ingredients from Niman Ranch and locally grown vegetables. “Noodles are a great medium” Kao noted, pointing out the endless culinary combinations. “We’ve tried a Mexican-Style Noodle dish in Rockridge with Jalapeños and I’ve even talked with my manager about an Indian fusion dish with Lamb Tikka Masala.” Kao even teased possibly a breakfast ramen if demand eventually necessitates a morning shift.
Noodle Theory will open with the same menu as their popular Rockridge Location which includes variations on Asian noodle dishes using fresh, local ingredients. Signature items include their grilled salmon curry, tofu and veggie garlic noodles and their popular spicy pork loin ramen in peanut lime cilantro broth.
Noodle Theory’s signature Niman Ranch Beef Udon in Coconut Lime Curry Broth.
Their Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce and Toasted Garlic.
“We want to be a neighborhood spot with regulars” noted Kao who is committed to the area having purchased the building and spent nearly a year restoring it. Kao also hoped their presence would jumpstart other activity on the strip currently dotted with vacant storefronts. “Even if it was another noodle joint next door, we’d embrace it. You do what you do and try not to chase.”
Kao like all restaurateurs expressed some concerns with rapidly rising wages and the ability of his customers to make the correlation with higher menu prices. “We’re all about having higher wages but the lack of a tip exemption really hurts full-service restaurants like us. At some point we might have to consider converting to a counter service establishment where we would only hire cooks”.
The larger San Pablo location will have a full bar and the opportunity to expand their menu offerings. Kao teased additional menu items including as smoked trout salad, hot & sour soup w/Dungeness crab and braised ox tail. Noodle Theory will eventually offer takeout and sell ingredients like homemade stock and noodles to prepare your own dishes (thus, the “Provisions” distinction).
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Dinner: 5–9:30 p.m.
Further Reading & Resources:
Noodle Theory Provisions Opens Second Location For Popular Noodle Shop | KQED Food
Noodle Theory Provisions opens this week | InsideScoopSF