There are two new spots in Cambridge’s Central Square where diners can dive into some rich, comforting bowls of noodles: What A Soup, a quirky shop specializing in Thai boat noodles, opened this month at 125 River Street, at Kinnaird Street, while Lanner Noodles and Bar, a Chinese noodle shop highlighting Lanzhou beef noodle soup, has opened at 24 Pearl Street, at Green Street.
At What A Soup, the Thai boat noodles, or kuay teow reua, are a long-simmering affair, co-owner Sacharun Manvicha explains. The process of making the broth for the signature dish takes about twelve hours, from boiling pork and duck bones to layering in a bunch of herbs and spices including lemongrass, bird’s eye chilies, cinnamon, and star anise, and adding in fish and soy sauces for additional seasoning. The boat noodles — named for the dish’s historical context, when it was originally sold off of boats in Thailand’s canals — are served with pork balls, slices of beef and tendon, or there’s also a luxe wagyu beef option. Chef Chanatit Prawitsittikul oversees the menu, which also includes a creamy tom yum noodle soup and a variety of appetizers like pork belly skewers and crispy fried pork slices.
Manvicha and her partners also own several other restaurants around the Boston area, including chicken and rice spot What Da Chick in Watertown and Thai and sushi restaurant Thai Bar Shi in Weymouth. The inspiration for What A Soup was born out of Thai Bar Shi, where the boat noodle soup is one of the most popular items on the menu. Now, it’s the star at the new shop. “We love this soup,” Manvicha says.
A short walk away, Lanner Noodles and Bar also turned on its lights this month. Run by first-time restaurant owner Sean Xiao and his cousin and business partner Marissa Chen, the spot features noodle dishes including a take on Lanzhou beef noodle soup, an uber-popular dish that hails from northwestern China. Head chef Owen Zhang hand pulls the noodles into chewy, slurpable strands, which are served alongside slices of beef in a rich, meaty broth. “This kind of noodles is very special for me,” says Xiao, a former tech industry worker who grew up in northwestern China. “This is something I’d eat almost every day when I was in China. This is like you’re drinking coffee.”
The restaurant also sells noodle bowls served with tomato and egg, pork, and chicken, as well as stir-fried noodles. A variety of hot and cold small plates, including Sichuan pepper chicken, barbecued lamb skewers, and sticky, tender sweet and sour short ribs round out the menu.
What A Soup is located at 125 River Street and is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lanner Noodles and Bar is located at 24 Pearl Street and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. during its soft-opening phase. Closed on Thursdays.