Like most people in the modern world, I usually use Yelp to find a vegan place to eat nearby. But it just so happened that this particular time, I happened upon Pye Boat Noodle first in a WSJ article about good eats in Astoria. Yes, an actual PRINT copy of WSJ, can you believe it?
Anyway, once I saw it appear on the Yelp list, I just had to visit. It helped that it was freezing cold out and I desperately needed food, of course.
First off, I love places that have personality. And PBN has it in spades. The waitresses are pretty much all Asian, they wear cute straw fedoras, there’s an awesome sign in Thai right above the storefront, and the outer siding evokes a sunny, welcoming escape from Astoria. Seems like an awesome place to try again in the summer, since they also have a sweet patio area going on.
If you’ve ever been to an Asian restaurant before, you know that service can be curt, straightforward and brash to the point of rudeness, but they get it done. PBN is not one of those places. All the girls (and oddly, every waiter is an Asian chick) are very nice, even if they have a thick oriental accent. Whatevs, as long as you have a pleasant demeanor and go out of your way to be accommodating, I’m happy.
Oh, and they all wear matching straw fedoras, how cute is that? When you leave, they say “Bye! Thank you!” in a mismatched singsong. Adorable.
I don’t precisely know what combination of delicious ingredients they put in to make this delectable noodle soup, but one of my favorite things about it was this crispy, salty and spongy deep-fried thin piece of dough that melted in my mouth when I ate it. You can see it on the upper middle section of the picture below.
PBN gives you a choice of several different types of noodles. I went with chow fun, since that’s what I was feeling that day. The noodles come with a tasty mélange of two types of seitan, one that’s soft and textured and another one, the brown slices you see in the picture, that’s firmer and seems to have been pre-seasoned and marinated in spices like star anise, soy and black peppercorns. There’s not much else in the soup besides parsley, scallions, crushed peanuts and Thai basil.
If you’re not in the mood for tofu (which really never happens for me personally), this dish is a good choice. It’s chock-full of some of my favorite stir-fry veggies: baby corn, broccoli, cauliflower (which I usually detest but it’s tolerable if done right) and carrots. Seedy long green chili peppers are strewn throughout, so this dish is not for the spicy-shy.
The seasoning and clear/invisible sauce they use give the vegetables a light, enjoyably fresh-tasting consistency, unlike a lot of Asian stir frys that are usually heavy on the brown sauce and MSG flavoring. It was just enough of a sparse-handed glaze that allowed the crispy texture of the vegetables to shine through.
Ok, so yes, their cream soda is a strange green color. But I bet you, that’s a quaint, endearing characteristic to get over quickly once it’s sipped. This soda basically tastes like those Asian yakult drinks, except candified and carbonated. At first, I didn’t think I liked it, but after sipping it to calm down the heat in my mouth, I started to see it’s appeal. One of those things that are visually jarring, but become a mainstay, just like your mom’s first attempt at vegan cupcakes (disgusting looking but I ate it anyway).