Restaurant Review: Noodles in the Southwest Metro

Savor noodles from around the world without leaving home.
Spinach and roasted garlic tortelloni from Axel’s in Chanhassen.

Noodles? Pasta? Call it whatever you like. Just about every cuisine has its own special version made from wheat, rice or other grain. So take a noodle-pasta food flight without leaving home. These local pasta and noodle dishes will delight young and old.

Spinach and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni

Axel’s

Warm your heart and fill your tummy with updated Italian flavors. Pillows of spinach- and roasted garlic-filled tortelloni have a surprisingly light bite. A melody of fresh garden veggie flavor comes from spinach leaves, cherry-red grape tomato halves, julienned red onions, and roasted portabella, crimini and shitake mushrooms. Basil pesto sauce with a touch of white wine and dab of butter adds more depth to the dish. House made, hand-pulled fresh mozzarella bakes creaminess over the top. $15.45, half $10.45; add grilled chicken or sautéed shrimp for $4. 560 W. 78th St., Chanhassen; 952.934.9340.

Party Chicken Salad

Mackenthun’s Fine Foods

Cold pasta salads are a traditional American favorite. Just about every get-together has one. The party chicken salad fits right in at holiday events, family gatherings, baby showers, weddings and other festivities. A generous toss of white and dark chicken chunks, red seedless grapes, and gemelli twist pasta can stand on its own or can serve as a meaty side. A house-made salad dressing brings everything together, along with a scatter of toasted slivered almonds and crisp sliced celery for crunch. Mackenthun’s keeps this ever-popular signature cold salad on hand year-round in the deli section. “It’s good all around, very kid friendly, and children love it,” says Wendy Anderson, cook. $5.49 per pound. 851 Marketplace Drive; Waconia; 952.442.2512.

Wisconsin Mac and Cheese

Noodles & Company

Macaroni and cheese goes beyond humble comfort food to serious eating at Noodles and Company. Thick cheesy sauce smothered over curly tubes of elbow macaroni has been on the menu since day one, “It’s our most popular dish and we’ve served more than 50 million bowls,” says Erin Murphy, senior manager of communications.

With a rich toss of Cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese smoothed by a douse of heavy cream, the Wisconsin mac and cheese is an appropriate tribute to the dairy state. Put some more protein into this homey American-style hot dish with some organic tofu, Parmesan-crusted chicken breast or naturally-raised pulled pork. “We recommend trying our oven-roasted meatballs with the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese… it’s delicious,” Murphy says

Still looking for a bit more zip? Spice things up with hot chili Sriracha sauce or the Noodles & Company Smolder from Boulder heated spice blend. $5.69 regular, $4.39 small. (Additional charge for meatballs, $2.59). 13300 Technology Drive and Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.975.0002.

Chow Fun "Dry" Rice Noodles

Red Moon Café

An oasis of amazing Asian food artistry is tucked away in the shadows of Eden Prairie Center’s strip mall maze. Here a noodle beacon shines. Red Moon Café’s authentic Chinese rice noodle dishes are made fresh to order with customer preferences and classic Cantonese cooking methods guiding the way.

For the chow fun noodles, pick your protein, level of spice and a dry or wet sauce. After a good soak in water, thick-cut noodles are wok-fried searing together fresh bean sprouts and green onions with black soy sauce, hot pepper-black bean sauce or oyster sauce. Each ingredient plays a part in an overall contrast of opposing yet harmonious tastes.

Chef and owner Tintat Kwan puts his mastery into every dish with his extensive and effective cooking techniques. Sharing great food is a lifelong passion that he began at the tender age of 10. “I tell everyone we’re the best-kept Chinese secret,” says server Terri Kirchoff. Beef $13, shrimp $14. 582 Prairie Center Drive; Eden Prairie; 952.941.6556.

Seafood Wtih Pan Fried Noodles

Tian Jin

In China, noodles with seafood are a very popular dish enjoyed in many provinces. Tian Jin puts the spirit of an ancient Asian culinary custom into their seafood pan fried noodles. Round flour noodles, sized bigger than angel hair but smaller than regular spaghetti, are coated in a delicately flavored house made white sauce. Shrimp, scallops, white sole and squid make a good sea selection of protein. Fresh mushrooms, broccoli, snow pea pods, bamboo shoots and zucchini form a Chinese vegetable mix. Everything goes on top of a bed of fresh-from-the-wok golden fried noodles. “You get everything: noodles, vegetables, seafood, delicious sauce,” says Hong Chen, owner. “And it looks pretty too.” $14.20. 463 W. 79th St., Chanhassen; 952.934.4111.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Roulette’s Pizza

Spaghetti and meatballs rank as an all-time favorite pasta dish. Roulette’s Pizza makes the traditional Italian-American dish the hearty old-style way. Stringy-thick spaghetti noodles make waves with a piling of not too spicy garlic-basil tomato sauce, a scattering of roly-round meatballs and a snow cap peak of grated Parmesan cheese. Beautiful for the eye and pleasing for the palette, the spaghetti and meatballs is worth the 25-30 minute preparation time. “It’s a graceful wait,” says owner Troy Snell.

A hefty 16 to 20-ounce portion served with buttery garlic toast will satisfy even the biggest appetite. At just $8.99, the spaghetti and meatballs also go easy on your wallet. Good value meets good taste at this 10-year-old family-owned restaurant. 1550 Arboretum Blvd., Victoria; 952.443.4644.

Pad Thai

Sawatdee

Recipes for Pad Thai probably out-number the islands of the Orient. Each has its own savory-sweet-vinegary appeal. Sawatdee makes a vegetarian, gluten-free version from scratch that respects Thai traditions. Warm flavors shine through a light sauce infused with fresh green onion, crispy bean sprouts, creamy scrambled egg and salty vegan soy sauce. No fish sauce goes into this pad Thai. The smooth, but crispy-textured rice noodle mix gets an added crunch of protein from ground roasted peanuts. $11 for chicken, pork, or tofu; $12 for beef and $13 for shrimp. 13300 Technology Drive; Eden Prairie; 952.641.5777.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Fusion

Pasta Zola

Picture creamy Alfredo sauce infused with bright roasted red pepper pesto, draped over curly, swirly, corkscrew spiral tube-shaped Cavatappi pasta. Italian sausage adds a little spice “but not too much,” says Mitch Thayer, owner.

Served in a classic designer take out box, the pasta stays hot all the way to the bottom. Innovative pairings and speedy preparation with a true Italian zeal for delicious details make the roasted red pepper pesto infusion pasta a winner.

Owners Mitch and Kris Thayer came up with a build-your-own, quick pasta restaurant concept that relies on fresh ingredients, proper made-to-order techniques and commitment to quality foods that surpasses the ordinary. Mix, match and marvel—in the Eden Prairie Center food court. $4.59 16-ounce, $5.59 26-ounce. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.583.8074.