Diner: Simple Equation

Hyde Park eatery combines noodles and crayons

Dumplings + noodles = Doodles. A simple enough equation — so why didn't I think of that when I was assigned to review this restaurant? Even though it's been around for four years, I'd never heard of it and honestly thought I would need to rally a group of children to truly appreciate this establishment. In fact, when I called (adult) friends to accompany me on this review, they all declined for the same reason: They thought it would be a dining experience that involved crayons. Guess what? It does.

An "oodles of noodles" chinese restaurant with an assortment of chubby crayons at each table. Except for the Picasso-esque drawing rendered by my guest (is my flattery too obvious?), we didn't see any other tables get in touch with their inner child.

The menu has six categories: Dumplings and Wraps, Cold Noodles and Salads, Noodles and Dumplings in Broth, Doodle's Special Noodle Dishes, Vegetables and Noodles and Favorite Traditional Chinese Dishes, with prices from $2.50 to $11.95. We started with the Prize-Winning Scallion Pancake ($2.50) described as "crisp and flaky with Chef's special sauce."

I'm not sure what prize it won, but the pancake we had was extremely greasy, with no distinct flavor of scallion or anything else. The special sauce tasted very much like ordinary Hoisin sauce. Upon a second visit, I ordered it again to find it shining with oil. The Chef's Shrimp Balls ($6.95) are three plump, pink dumplings that arrived on a bed of shredded lettuce and a spicy brown sauce.

Interesting, but not something I would order again. "Oodles of Noodles" definitely describes Cold Sesame Noodles ($8.25). Flavored with a sesame-peanut sauce and served with cucumber and bean sprouts, it's an attractive presentation and a meal in itself. The same was true for Szechuan Noodles in Spicy Sesame Sauce ($8.25), this one a hot dish served with assorted vegetables, thin sliced egg crepes (which looked more like scrambled egg) and ground-roasted peanuts. Delicious and satisfying but not nearly as spicy as I understand Szechuan to be. Under the traditional chinese dishes the server recommended Mandarin Triple Crown ($11.95), a combination of beef, shrimp and chicken with vegetables in a mild brown sauce and served with rice — we needed a respite from all things noodle — was tasty, but the sauce tasted very similar to the Szechuan.

Not a red dragon or gold Buddha in sight, the decor at Doodles is refreshingly clean and simple and a bank of floor to ceiling windows allows one to count how many joggers run by in an hour. Service was attentive, polite and unobtrusive. I stopped in for carry-out on one visit, which was no more than a 10-minute wait but time enough to crayon a likeness of Alfred E. Newman (or was it Dubya?).

Go: 3443 Edwards Road, Hyde Park

Call: 513-871-7388

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Saturday noon-1030 p.m.; Closed Sundays

Prices: Reasonable

Payment: most major credit cards accepted

Red Meat Alternatives: lots of variety with 50 items to choose from — will make most menu items vegetarian if requested

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