Given the casual state of dining, plenty of restaurateurs opt for low-key accompaniments to their finer-dining establishments—think Mike Isabella’s Kapnos and adjoining sandwich shop G and Victor Albisu’s (Del Campo) Taco Bamba. Chef Dennis Friedman is getting into a similar game with Newton’s Noodles, a 70-seat, fast-casual spinoff of his Bethesda restaurant, Newton’s Table. While you could mistake the place for an Asian-style Chipotle (like, um, Chipotle’s Asian-style spinoff, Shophouse), Friedman has taken several different approaches to stand out. Here’s what to look for when the spot opens this week.
Restaurant favorites made to order
Newton’s Table regulars might recognize the lineup at the noodle shop. Friedman says the menu is made up of customer favorites from the dressier restaurant. The focus is “fuzu,” a noodle dish (with a made-up name) that Friedman says he’s tweaked for years. Guests still customize their bowls by picking between buckwheat soba noodles or gluten-free rice noodles and adding various veggies, proteins, and toppings. The overall flavor of the dish is similar to Friedman’s original concept, whether you choose the original soy-based sauce or a newer coconut-curry creation. Ingredients such as shrimp, scallops, chicken, and vegetables are cooked to order for your bowl.
Appetizers that can grow into entrées
Starters include duck confit spring rolls, crispy soy-glazed chicken, and sesame-crusted ahi tuna lightly fried and served rare with soy-mustard dipping sauce. Any starter item can be enlarged to a main course portion, or served family-style for three or four people. Dishes such as the aforementioned tuna and chicken are rounded out with either white or brown rice.
Move over, sporks. The signature utensil at Newton’s Noodles is the chork, a hybrid fork-chopstick combination that can be used three ways. The chopstick-challenged can use the fork end to twirl noodles or try their hand at the Asian utensil by keeping the chork intact (which feels kind of like eating with long tweezers). If chopsticks are your go-to, just break the whole thing in half and use them the regular way.
A liquor license is in the works for Newton’s, and Friedman expects to roll out beer, wine, and sparkling sake in about three months. In the meantime, pick up a Pattycake for dessert. The rum cake is from a recipe by Friedman’s wife, Patty. (See what he did there?)
Delivery to go, patio to stay
Down the road, a delivery option will accommodate the neighborhood’s main denizens: college students and office workers. (Diners in a hurry are welcome to call in orders when the restaurant opens.) Come spring, look for a 40-seat patio to debut. Another new feature you eventually may see: numerous Newton’s Noodles. Friedman says he plans to open a branch at the University of Maryland and two in Virginia in 2015, after which he hopes to expand the concept beyond the local market.
Newton’s Noodles. 1129 20th St., NW; 202-827-3907. Open Monday to Friday 10 to 9 and Saturday 11 to 4. Closed Sunday.