These days, American Asian-style restaurants often fall into one of two categories: overdressed and out of reach, or hole-in-the-wall-simply-delicious. But finally, there is a restaurant which bridges this gap. Intimate with only a few dark-wood tables and a hand-painted decor, Issei Noodle in Carlisle allows customers’ palates to travel across a fusion of Asian countries, all within a comfortable lunch hour.
The customers’ journeys mirror that of Robert Pham, Issei Noodle’s owner, cook, and business manager. He is frequently seen in the open kitchen wearing a deep red cap and garnishing hot dishes with fish sauce and carrot swirls. Robert’s kitchen, where he works with his wife, Naomi, flows in constant movement, but then again, such has been his life. Growing up in Loas to French and Vietnamese parents, Robert first moved to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and then to Okinowa, Japan, through the US military. He then worked then as a marketing director for a study-abroad program in Okinowa, and it was here where he gained his food opportunity. “I took an apprenticeship in Italy to learn the art of roasting espresso,” he explains. But what does Italian espresso have to do with Robert’s Spicy Tan-Tan Ramen or Yaki Udon? Everything.
For Robert, who has no other formal food training, espresso is where his food philosophy both begins and ends. Owner of the former Casa Mani Caffe, Robert explains, “A good espresso is about precision and passion,” just like good cuisine. In Issei Noodle, this precision is seen in everything from Robert’s personal Venetian plasterwork to the bowls of ginger on the counter, and it is definitely tasted in the food. “My wife, Naomi, makes certain that every dish is cooked the exact same way,” Robert explains, indicating his knowledge that consistent cooking is key to winning a customer’s trust.
Passion is a second ingredient. “Naomi and I love to eat,” Robert explains, “But [owning a restaurant] comes down to pride in the details. Issei Noodle was designed with an open kitchen to show that we have nothing to hide—except for what we put in the broth.”
Issei Noodle’s creations span from Genmaicha, a premium Japanese green tea infused with roasted rice, to spring rolls that are hand-rolled while you wait and layered with lettuce, shrimp, pork, green onions, and served with a rich plum sauce. We recommend the Vermicelli Lemongrass Beef Curry Noodle Salad, a refreshing salad perfect for summer of tender beef topped with Issei’s homemade cold noodles, fresh basil, cucumber, and onion. Crushed peanuts provide a contrasting crunch. For the coming fall weather, try any of the Pho dishes, a throat-soothing soup of rice noodles, broth, meat, cilantro, and green onion, and garnished with basil and bean sprouts. Issei Noodle also offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes and rotating daily creations, in addition to desserts. Our favorite is Mochi Ice Cream, pads of frozen ice cream folded in pounded-thin sticky rice, and available in mango, green tea, or vanilla.
“When you order one of our dishes, you don’t notice, but we are watching you—for that first bite, that slight smile,” says Robert. “We want you to already be thinking of the next time you’ll return.”
29 minutes from Harrisburg (Google Maps)
54 W High Street
Carlisle, PA 17103
Tuesday-Friday, 11am-2:15pm, 5pm-8:15pm
Closed Sunday and Monday