Ruby Rocks | 1643 2nd Ave. (at 85th) | 212.717.6688 |

COMING HOME FROM Dinosaur Bar-B-Que yesterday, I passed by the surprise "reopening" of a Chinese restaurant formerly called Noodles 28, now renamed Ruby Rocks. It sported a whole new look, with a storefront that had the design of a chain restaurant, and this new name that was far less evocative of any thematically Asian cuisine.

But I picked up a takeout menu anyway, always open to trying new Asian restaurants in Yorkville, as they are numerous and ubiquitous and I always want to make sure where the best food is being served.

Still having the takeout menu by my computer as I worked this afternoon, I quickly perused it for lunch specials, which they have listed. The menu offered food of many Asian variations, including Chinese, Thai, and Malaysian, usually another negative sign that a restaurant is trying to cater to the lowest common denominator.

But I was just hungry and curious enough to give it a go, and with their two-course special options, I figured I could get a more accurate idea of how well they executed the various cuisines.

I popped in around 3 p.m., to a quiet but serviceably modern looking and clean, minimally décored space, assuming I had just missed a possible lunch rush.

The attentive waitress was quick to seat me and recommend a Thai iced tea for my beverage while I scanned the rest of the menu. I obliged.

Great start. With much of the flavors of a Chai tea, this Thai tea exhibited many of same characteristics, being slightly creamy, rich with tea flavor and naturally but not overly sweet. This was a good call on her part.

The two-part lunch special consists of an appetizer and entrée, as to be expected, with options of Chinese wonton soup, Indian satay, Japanese edamame, and Thai spring rolls. I chose to start with an order of crispy chicken dumplings that arrived in a bowl with an apricot-plum sauce on the bottom of it.

Yes, they looked more like empanadas, but the seasoned, minced chicken flavors ran more genuinely "Eastern", freshly and brightly seasoned and minced with crisp bits of carrots and Napa cabbage, properly accented by the fruity sweet dipping sauce.

For my main, I ordered something called chow kueh teow (I just pointed to it on the menu, knowing full well I would only make a complete ass of myself attempting to actually pronounce it properly), A malaysian stir-fried dish of rice noodles, bean sprouts, black soya, egg, and chili paste.

The portion was more dinner sized, and, again, my skepticism was foiled by an ample amount of chicken meat (although I think I remember ordering it with beef....), and scant traces of MSG or cornstarch. The dish, while delivering on its promise of spice, was refreshingly light, with the impressive rice noodles, rightfully gummier and spongier than regular noodles (think, Xi'an Famous Foods hand-pulled noodles), making any residual cooking juices get absorbed into them while the flavored oils clung to them. Not that I was expecting the worst, but even being supportively optimistic, this lunch me surpassed my expectations at every turn.

I will still go to Wa Jeal or Ging for my favorite Chinese, and to Land for my favorite Thai, etc., and though initially "jaded" by the prospect of the addition of yet another snappy "Asian" joint, the ready-for-the-mall-named Ruby Rocks actually turned out to be—how shall I put it?—semi-precious....

Bun Apple Tea!


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Ruby Rocks | 1643 2nd Ave. (at 85th) | 212.717.6688 |