STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Nat Sanfa fusses over julienned carrot garnishes on Noodlefan’s Thai dishes. And fellow chef Wit Sibrum flips mixed vegetables in a wok as flames shoot out from underneath.
As the lunch crowd calms down this weekday afternoon, the duo sit down to a meal of steamed greens and rice topped with a flash-fried egg. And co-owner Elio Zebinato takes a break from deliveries to chat about the steady growth of the small business.
The mainstays of the menu: Thai noodle dishes, soups like Tom Yum Goong with tiger prawns and veggies in long-simmered stock and yummy appetizers like Thai Siu Mai, stuffed with shiitake ‘shrooms and chicken with crunchy water chestnuts.
Elio and wife, Maria, took the spot over in November. It had been open under the same name but different management since March 2016.
Says “Noodlefan” Jennifer Arlen of the North Shore: “I stumbled in there by accident and ended up eating way too much because everything was so authentic and amazing… I really, really want to see it succeed.”
While the Pad Thai and Pad See-Ew (sauteed flat noodles with garlic, broccoli and egg) prove popular here, and spicy Drunken Noodles may have become the rage, the sweet and tangy sauces are the real distinction in the food, says Elio.
“It’s going to be a franchise in six months. We are waiting for the main kitchen — the Noodlefan kitchen is not ready yet.”
That Noodlefan central operation in the works will produce more than the restaurant’s signature sauces. It will produce all the ingredients with the goal of consistency among Noodlefan outlets everywhere — from the single Staten Island location to its several Jersey counterparts.
“In the meantime we do everything here, except the sauce. And business is good. It looks like we are getting more clients every week based on recommendations,” says Elio.
Business hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Right now, the shop is open on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. In about two weeks, however, the Zebinatos will open on Sundays around noon. At the moment, deliveries go out until 9:30 p.m. within a two-mile range.
“Our chefs are Thai,” says Elio who says he is the occasional dishwasher and deliveryman. And while the “secret” sauces are uniform in all the restaurants, he says his Thai cooks are the ones who make Noodlfan’s food pop.
Noodlefan is the brainchild of main man Chef Oudy (pronounced “Woody) who, Elio explains, is 30 years in the Thai food business.
“So he really knows the food,” says Elio. Oudy owned a restaurant on Northern Boulevard in Queens and Maria’s brother served as his accountant. The idea of backers came up and soon Noodlefan found a home in Elizabeth, N.J. in Sepetember, 2015.
Last year, due to health issues, Elio backed off the Elizabeth operation. He prefers to focus on Staten Island with Maria and their children, who wait tables when not in school. The family lives in Forest Hills, Queens, and finds the 35-minute commute an easy trip.
Elio feels the potential is in delivery. A license for wine and beer is underway. And, until then, the Monday through Friday lunch special draws attention from the neighborhood with $9 and $10 complete meals of shitake spring roll, a fried chicken dumpling, house salad with peanut sauce and choice of protein that includes vegetarian duck and tofu.