Here's a game to play on your way to lunch at Do Sushi's new noodle bar: Say Noodle Doodle Do out loud and see if you start smiling. Then say the name again and see if your smile turns into a big, fat grin.
The feel-good name of Noodle Doodle Do, which opens on November 18th, says a lot about the vibe and the eclectic menu of Karen Carrier's latest culinary adventure.
"Times are tough," Carrier says. "I'm glad our name gets a laugh out of people, because it's time to start having more fun."
Carrier applies the upbeat admonition to herself. Earlier this month, she sold Automatic Slim's, the flagship restaurant she operated on Second Street for 17 years. The decision, she says, has been bittersweet: "As they say in the South, I took to the bed for four days. But I'm feeling better now."
In fact, Carrier seems downright energized, expanding dinner at Do from five to seven nights a week and opening Noodle Doodle Do for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The changes make sense because Do was underutilized and located next door to the Beauty Shop, Carrier's other restaurant in Cooper-Young. A handful of longtime employees from Slim's also needed jobs, including Lena Thirawadee Jones, who is helping Carrier run Noodle Doodle Do's kitchen.
The women worked together to develop the noodle bar menu, meshing cuisines and cooking styles. "Crossing over the lines is one thing that we've held true to in all of our restaurants," Carrier says. "We love to combine the flavors of food from different countries."
Sushi is still served at Noodle Doodle Do, but the emphasis is on noodle bowls, salads, and street food snacks, such as dumplings and satay.
"In Thailand, people cook satay on the street as a snack," Carrier says. "In America, we associate satay with peanut sauce, but in Thailand, satay is the grilling of the meat."
Noodle Doodle Do also offers a variety of dumplings and potstickers (fried, seared, or steamed ) including challah buns from local kosher baker Ricki Lee. "Ricki is making us individual buns which we steam for our Kobe beef sliders," Carrier says. "They are delicious."
Salads combine flavors, as well. The "Crispy Fish Salad" includes white fish, cabbage, watercress, mango, red onions, tomato, peanuts, cilantro, basil, and mint.
"You can come in and say I want some black Thai rice with a little bok choy and a nice crispy piece of fish," Carrier explains. "What could be better?"
Well, maybe the noodles: soba, udon, rice, and egg prepared with beef, chicken, and vegetable broths and an endless assortment of meat, seafood, and vegetables. "Every country has noodles and unique ways to prepare them," Carrier says. "My mom suggested Jewish chicken noodle bowls, and we will have that too."
Carrier's trademark "nut dusts" — peppers, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and nuts roasted and then ground with salt and a tad of sugar — are served as condiments at each table. "I've been making nut dusts for years," Carrier says. "They are a wonderful way to enhance noodles and broths."
Not one for time-outs, Carrier already is planning her next project, a four-day getaway to finish a cookbook proposal she's tried to write for years. She wants to combine recipes with storytelling, and she has plenty of both: stories on her Orthodox Jewish family ("Bobby Blue Bland would call up my dad, who was a dentist, and next thing we knew, his bus was in the driveway"); her first New York City restaurant ("We would sit outside in the summer shelling pole beans and along comes our neighbor, Grace Jones, this magnificent creature with an entourage of 15 guys"); and, of course, Automatic Slim's ("When the Coolers would play 'Love Train' on Saturday night, we'd have a dance line all the way to the Peabody and back").
"When I started Another Roadside Attraction in 1987, I never imagined in a million years what was ahead," Carrier says. "But I knew I wanted to rock this town because Memphis is cool, and it's hip. For me, it's been phenomenal."
Noodle Doodle Do at Do Sushi,
964 S. Cooper (272-0830)