First Taste: Fuzu lunch at Newton’s Table
Bethesda restaurant offers all-noodle menu
One of the most striking examples that fine dining is fading fast is Dennis Friedman’s foray into Newton’s Noodles, a fast casual concept he opened downtown in September.
Friedman, chef-owner of Newton’s Table, the pricey white tablecloth restaurant in Bethesda, plans to franchise and ultimately sell what he’s hoping will become a booming Newton’s Noodles chain. Another location in the District and one in College Park are already in the works.
Meanwhile, his Bethesda restaurant was doing a sputtering business at lunch, as diners were not exactly flocking there in the daytime to spend the time and money.
So for the past couple of months, Newton’s Table has been converted to Newton’s Noodles for lunch only, offering the same menu based around Friedman’s signature Fuzu dish, a comforting combo of rice noodles, vegetables, chicken, shrimp, scallops and eggs in a sweet-and-spicy soy sauce (see my blog, August 30, 2013).
Like the downtown locale, the restaurant offers five appetizers (from $6 to $8), a choice of the original or coconut-curry Fuzu ($9), and a list of ingredients to build-your-own noodle dish ($8 for regular size, $12 for large). Diners specify the spice level, on a scale of none to 3.
So does fast-casual Fuzu fly at a plush, hushed restaurant?
It seemed a little odd getting an upscale wine list along with a foldable fast food menu, but other than that, my self-concocted Fuzu (I opted for soba noodles, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, shrimp, scallops, scallions, peanuts and cilantro) seemed well balanced (albeit a little skimpy on the veggies), spiced exactly to specification, and was polished off down to its very last peanut.
Newton’s Table General Manager Robert Hall reports that the lunch crowd has picked up considerably since the switch, and that the restaurant is also doing a brisk carryout business. Similar to Newton’s Noodles, a carryout order comes in a cute Chinese-style to-go container, along with a chork—a combination fork and chopsticks contraption that’s kind of like chopsticks in training.