After Hours: Yippee Noodle Bar in Cambridge, England
Eating out can be a mixed bag. Yes, that one place you love has the best food. But the service is garbage. Or the joint down the road has friendly staff, but the food is inconsistent. Better yet, the staff is friendly and the food is always good, but it takes forever to get it to your table!
Finding the right answer to this culinary equation can stymie the most open-minded of foodies. But Yippee Noodle Bar, an awesomely understated restaurant in Cambridge, England, manages to nail the trifecta.
In the three years I’ve been going to Yippee, I’ve yet to have a bad meal. Or even a substandard one. Every entrée myself or dining companions have tried has been excellent. The wait staff is there before you know it, and getting your hot bowl of noodles has never taken longer than 10 or 15 minutes, even on a busy night. Sometimes it’s out by the time you get back from washing your hands.
Yippee seems to do everything right. From the excellent main dishes, to quality apps and even the fresh-made carrot and ginger juices, one visit will move it high up your list of Asian eateries in England.
Fresh and healthy are the names of the game at Yippee. You’re not going to come here and get deep-fried chunks of chicken in gelatinous goop. Nothing starts a meal there better than a cucumber and mango salad appetizer: Fresh yellow mango planks intermixed with emerald cucumber pieces, blended delicately with the occasional chili and the slightest bit of shallot and coriander. It’s simple, fresh and delicious.
But even when they do fried food, Yippee manages to make it a revelation. Starter like the spicy squid or prawn toast are battered and fried, but not overly so. Yippee even manages to make something as potentially ordinary as stir-fried vegetables an excellent option.
When it comes to mains, I am hard-pressed to deviate from the spicy black bean ho fun. It’s founded on flat rice noodles that are then stir-fried with beef, pak choi, mixed peppers, red onion, beanshoots, chili and black beans. I don’t know how they do it, but these black beans aren’t what we’re used to in the States. They form the flavor foundation of the dish and have to be tried.
How disappointing is it when you order a shrimp, or “prawn” dish as they say here, and there’s only three measly shrimp in there? Not so at Yippee. The chili pepper king prawns involves many big, plump shrimp stir-fried with egg noodles, bean sprouts, chili and spring onion.
If there’s room at the end of your meal, Yippee puts out a great fried banana dessert consisting of lightly fried banana with a honey-like sauce and a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I rarely rave about restaurants. Most places serve to the lowest common denominator of society’s palate, or take forever, or cost an arm and a leg. Yippee has deftly avoided all those pitfalls. I dare you to have a bad meal there.
Location: 7-9 King St., Cambridge, England
Directions: From RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath, take A11 south to A14, exiting at junction 35 and getting onto the B1102 toward Cambridge. At the traffic circle, take the first exit onto Newmarket Road/A1303 and go through three traffic circles. Keep on this road as it becomes Maids Causeway. At the next traffic circle, take the third exit onto Jesus Lane. Hook a left on Belmont Place, and then a right on King Street. Yippee will be on your right.
Hours: Noon to 3 p.m., 5-10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Prices: Dishes average 8 to 9 pounds. All the mains are a hearty size.
Clientele: Reserved Brits, hip Asian kids, students, American Stars and Stripes readers. The open seating features long wooden tables and benches, and on more crowded nights it can get a little cozy, but not overwhelmingly so.
Web site: www.yippeenoodlebar.co.uk