Epicurean and Company opened a noodle and rice bowl station offering custom-made pho and rice and noodle bowls with chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu and vegetables March 8. Georgetown students encountered the new addition upon returning to the restaurant for the first time after spring break.
This is not the first time Epicurean has experimented with the the noodle concept. Manager Michael Chong said the new station built off the previous idea of a small Vietnamese noodle bar the restaurant featured for a limited time a few years ago. According to Chong, the previous noodle station was fairly popular among customers and as a result a full-scale noodle station was planned.
“About two years ago, they had, when this used to be all hibachi tables, there used to be a little noodle station, so they had Pho noodles, ramen noodles and that was just testing the concept,” Chong said. “After that was received pretty well, the owner and the former manager decided on doing something more full-scale.”
In addition, Chong said the hibachi station was not garnering enough popularity so the logical choice was to use the existing space for a noodle station.
“The hibachi didn’t seem to take off as they were thinking, so why waste the space? Put something there that the students and faculty might enjoy,” Chong said.
The renovation, which lasted around three months, was made easier due to the pre-existing electric, gas and water sources from the previous hibachi grill. Chong expected to hire four or five more employees for the new station, but he ended only hiring two new employees, since he had just promoted a few chefs to the station.
The station currently operates daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Chong said there is a potential for the noodle station to be upgraded an all-night service to take pressure off the grill where students commonly order quesadillas. The base price of any dish is $9, with every protein addition ranging from $1 to $3. Customers can customize their noodle orders to their own liking.
Chef Sean Han, who boasts more than 20 years of experience in the food industry, said he attempted to offer a convenient meal that was healthy. Han said the rice bowl option allows for a variety of healthy vegetarian dishes.
“With the rice bowl, you can make an all-vegetarian dish. Korean rice bowls are really healthy,” Han said.
According to Han, the menu also reflects the current food trends that are most popular with younger customers, which constitute the majority of Epicurean’s business. Han said the Asian menu options can attract many students on campus.
“Asian-inspired noodle, a gluten-free noodle, a beef broth, a seafood broth and a spicy broth. I know that’s a trend and would appeal to Georgetown’s young crowd, there’s definitely a young crowd there,” Han said.
Heather Bazemore, an employee at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, was one of the first noodle station customers and said she was displeased at the quality and authenticity of the food.
“I had the chicken Pho bowl with Jjampong Broth. I didn’t like it. A typical Pho bowl doesn’t have vegetables in it like that,” Bazemore said. “It was like a fusion, but I wanted my Chinese to be Chinese and my Vietnamese to be Vietnamese.”
Bazemore also said the station’s noodle prices were more expensive than those found in other authentic Vietnamese restaurants she has been to. Bazemore said she agree with Epicurean’s menu formate of charging extra for protein in the noodles.
“Here, you pay for every single piece of meat you get. That’s not typical,” Bazemore said.
Pablo Lores (MSB ’17), who eats at Epicurean once a week, said the new station could enhance Epicurean’s menu by adding a new healthy option for his meals.
“I can put as many vegetables as I want to, it’s quite healthy,” Lores said. “It’s a great addition to the menu.”