The new Noodle Barn in Jamaica Plain is the most likable place, with its name stenciled on the wall and industrial lighting hanging as pendants with a pretty abstract light-bulb chandelier.
The concept here is Thai and Vietnamese cuisine because partner Napat “Pat” Sriwannavit, raised in Thailand, is part-Thai, part-Vietnamese, and part-Chinese. She also co-owns Pho & I House of Noodle and Rice on Huntington Avenue and Beantown Pho & Grill on Newbury Street in the Back Bay, which have the same dual concept and similar menus.
Sriwannavit, who partnered with Phunthip Sittijirachote in this venture, opened the 58-seat spot in September to what must have been a warm welcome — the place is always busy. The previous tenant, Ban Chiang House, was a Thai restaurant the two women bought and renovated.
The menu is all over the place, with something of a greatest hits quality. Thai dishes that are traditionally sweet and crunchy have those characteristics seriously amped up. Hot things are spicy. Portions are large, service is unusually quick and attentive.
You’ll find everything from the classic Vietnamese crepe called banh xeo ($9), a folded rice-powder pancake, crisp on the outside, with shrimp, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, and watercress, to tender pot stickers ($6) that have never stuck to anything. These steamed dumplings, filled with ground chicken, need their soy dipping sauce. Saigon salad ($9) features grilled and caramelized strips of beef on a bed of crisp salad vegetables with roasted peanut dressing.
Also part of the Vietnamese offerings is bun, the bed of fine vermicelli topped with grilled, sweetened strips of pork ($9, chicken is also $9, beef $10), bean sprouts, mint, lettuce, fine shreds of jalapeno, and nuoc cham sauce. Pho here is serviceable ($9-$11), a fine broth that isn’t as intense and rough-and-ready as the big bowls in the Vietnamese restaurants in Dorchester.
Vietnamese beef stew ($12) comes in a pot with deeply flavored anise broth, a hunk of tender meat (plenty of gristle), and a plate of steamed broccoli, zucchini, green beans, Napa cabbage, and more to tip into the pot, with rice.
To honor the new neighbors, the cooks invented JP’s noodles ($10), named for this location. The wide rice-noodle stir-fry with chicken or tofu (add $1 for shrimp or beef), made with sriracha, is pretty hot, with eggs, bean sprouts, and lettuce. Pad see-ew ($10) also comes with wide rice noodles, tossed with eggs and Chinese broccoli in a dark, sweet soy sauce (add $1 for shrimp or beef). It’s a dish that you can’t stop eating, as is crispy noodle pad Thai ($12), with a shower of fine, deep-fried, golden egg noodles over chicken, sprouts, and egg, with a sweet chile sauce.
Curry pots ($11-$13) offer that quirky Thai restaurant listing in which you choose the meat or seafood, then the kind of curry (green, red, yellow, Massaman, gang pah). This, with an ice cream scoop of rice, is good enough.
Better is the ground chicken dish, pad gra pow ($11), spicy in a garlicky chile sauce with carrots, bell peppers, and basil.
There’s a nice feeling in the restaurant, with any waiter passing by happy to help you.
One night the TV is turned to the National Dog Show and after all the customers have been served, all the waiters turn to look at the screen. Shoop is on the sound system and customers and servers alike are moving to the music and watching the cute canine contestants.
Sheryl Julian can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.