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Preview of Yum Yum noodle shop, Woodstock by M.R. Smith

Usually, with the Roll Cuisine Corner, our good friend and owner/head chef of Oriole 9 (Woodstock) Pierre-Luc Moeys—a.k.a. Luc—provides a nice blend of culinary information and easy-to-use recipes in our back pages. Having not heard from him for a few months, we decided to check in with him and his partner Nina Paturel to see what they’ve been up to, find out what’s cooking up there.

A quick Luc and Nina tutorial: the duo launched Café With Love several years ago in Saugerties, and used the success of that to transition into Woodstock with their enormously popular Oriole 9, a dynamic high-end breakfast/brunch/lunch spot in the center of town. Since then they’ve been locally active, starting their Project: Roots program—a community garden in conjunction with the Woodstock Day School—and have been a constant presence at the Woodstock Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summer. They’re very community minded folks, occasionally hosting family dinner nights at Oriole 9 that sell out quickly.

But the funny thing about Luc and Nina, they’re always onto something new; as Nina puts it, “I think it’s in our horoscope, we’re both have this urge to build. When we met each other, this was our common theme.” This time it’s right out of left field: they’re in the process of building Woodstock’s first noodle bar, smack dab at the central intersection of Tinker St. and Rock City Road: Yum Yum.

They’re not doing this one themselves, however. Fans of fine regional cuisine are no doubt aware of Sabroso, the award-winning Spanish/South American restaurant in Rhinebeck, recently closed. Its success was largely due to their talented head chef, Erica Mahlkuch.

Originally from Virginia, Erica started out at 15 as a pantry cook at an upscale Italian restaurant, and within two years was running the kitchen. After a series of jobs first at a place that served “Contemporary American Cuisine,” then an executive chef stint at a 300-seat Brazilian restaurant in Miami, she was persuaded to become partners in Sabroso, opening there in May 2005.

But some partners wanted to move on; the last few years have been tough on fine dining establishments in the area, so they sold Sabroso in February of this year. Erica actually was going to enjoy some time off, and told only one friend about her recent “unemployment.” And that person mentioned it to Luc, who was enjoying a nice dinner with Nina and the kids. And Luc immediately went outside…and called Erica.

“We’d eaten at Sabroso several times; you know when you walk into a restaurant, when the feeling’s there, it’s just right. You know when there’s somebody there with their heart in the right place, and also has it on a technical level.” Erica, thrilled by the call, immediately agreed to join forces. But they didn’t have any actual plan. Yet.

A culinary trip to Japan had Luc thinking about opening a version of an izakaya, which is a sort of Japanese-style tapas/pub food eatery frequented by Japanese businessmen, stopping in for a snack and some drinks before going home. But the idea mutated into a low cost noodle bar when they started considering the values they wanted to express: good inexpensive healthy food, made quickly and responsibly. Nina says, “I honestly believe the community drove us to noodles, we just kept hearing it.”

The more they thought about it, the better it looked. With the general low cost of ingredients—all as local as possible, noodles from the city—reasonable portions, and the ability to prepare food quickly, speeding up turnaround, they could keep prices low: maximum price for an “entrée” is $10, the “family bowl” is $34, and serves four.

To promote recycling and lower waste, they have a novel idea: the Take Out Tax. For everyone who orders take out food, they’ll charge a dollar for the container, which will hopefully encourage the locals to bring their own. Nina has plans for selling stackable bento boxes—with the Yum Yum logo, of course—for locals to purchase. You can bring your box in, and they’ll run it through the dishwasher before they fill it up with your next order.

Luc’s honest about authenticity. “We’re not trying to create an authentic Asian-style restaurant. I’m not Japanese, they’re not Chinese.” It's more like their take on the styles, with personal flourishes. And out of respect for other local establishments they’re steering clear of menu items found at Wok ‘N’ Roll or the Little Bear.

The way Nina sees it, “we’re fulfilling a need in the community. It’s inexpensive, it’s fast, it’s really healthy. That’s what we look for (when we go out), and we find a lot of people are looking for that.” The restaurant itself will be quite small, but has a large patio that opens toward the green, where people can enjoy their noodles—with beer and/or sake.

If the success of Sabroso and Oriole 9 are any indication, Yum Yum has some serious potential. But what has this writer smacking his lips in anticipation is when Erica mentioned they would be serving Vietnamese Pho Soup. Heartbreak, dyspepsia, hangovers, the common cold: all can be cured by Pho. Trust me on this.

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