37 Union Square West
New York, NY 10003
(212) 627-7172

Every few months I go through my coats and jackets and clean out their pockets. There's always some good stuff there beyond the usual loose change. This time I discovered a crisp twenty, a believed-lost set of earbuds, a pack of Camel Lights (with requisite Zippo), so very many extra Starbucks napkins, and a ratty old matchbook from Republic, the Union Square noodle shop. My gaze shifted from the bent and tattered matchbook to the window. It was frigidly cold and windy this particular day. Though it wasn't sticking, snow had been falling for a few hours. Suddenly, I needed noodles. And I knew where to go.

Republic is, or at the least tries to be, trendy with its cocktail menu and black and white noodle photography. The crowd is young and the place is always loud despite there being no music. It's a cool date spot or hangout spot and people can and do sit for long stretches of time in its deep, well lit interior. Being able to buy Republic t-shirts and shot glasses from the hostess. creates a certain level of tacky kitch, but it's not abrasive. Republic feels like it could be an art museum restaurant, but it also feels like it could be a fancy college cafeteria, but part of that has to do with its communal tables, something I don't particularly care for. On the upside, it's pretty cheap.

I went to Republic more than once since that bitter windswept weekend and tried a variety of dishes. In no particular order...

The weakest of my lunches was the Curried Duck Noodles. The duck, served in a coconut broth soup with egg noodles and some vegetables, should have been better than it was, but the duck was reminiscent of tasteless yet bitter rubber. The broth was heavy, but okay. unfortunately, it completely buried the entire contents of the bowl and was overpowered any other flavors that may have been lingering within its depths. I won't get this again.

The best lunch was the Wonton Soup in a lemongrass-galanga broth with glass noodles and Chinese vegetables. This was the perfect dish for staving off the chilly winter, and probably damn good any other time of year as well. Local fast-foodish Chinese places, the kind with the stock photos of the food they claim to sell and tri-fold menus, sell thick as 2x4 wontons in a heavy chickenesque broth. The wontons here at Republic were paper thin and airy and the broth was similarly light, though not bland.

My final lunch here came int the form of their Vegetable Pad Thai. Good, yes. Great, no. The pad thai itself was fine, but the vegetables associated therewith were primarily carrots and snow peas. Yeah, there were some other veggies thrown in for good measure, but there were so many carrots that one might logically conclude that they were trying to thin down their stockpile. Next time, I'm choosing the beef variant.

I also ordered two appetizers while I was here these few times. Both were excellent were a pretty good size. The Fried Wontons were crispy but not brittle and were served with a sweet plum sauce. The Crispy Tofu was not crispy but was fried and was firm and was, dare I say, very spicy. If you like your tofu spicy enough that you're forced to eat it slowly, then this should be right up your alley. In a sense, the sesame mustard dipping sauce it was served with, while a nice addition, was spice overkill.

Republic dishes run about $7 for an appetizer and $12 for a noodle dish.

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