Just Opened: Liberty Noodle
Making people feel welcome seems to come naturally for Arshad Merali. At Liberty Noodle, the new venture from the long-time partner at Blowfish, the evidence is everywhere. Free Wi-Fi, for example, indicates that he understands (and welcomes, which is even rarer) Toronto’s outlet-obsessed laptop hordes. Soon, the restaurant will have an on-line order system for takeout. There is even an elevator running the short distance from the entrance to the industrial-chic dining room below. “If I did a business cost analysis, the elevator probably loses us money. But this is about doing the right thing,” Merali says.
Of course, engendering goodwill works not only with wheelchair users but also with young Liberty Village families and their super-sized strollers. There is plenty of room for both them and their single friends at the communal tables in the clean, spare space. A separate back room echoes the design but features an LCD projector and dry erase board, making it appropriate for private parties, business events and even Wii tournaments.
Merali is categorical about good service but not about his menu. Liberty Noodle is not trying to be a bona fide ramen house. The noodles are authentic, but everything beyond the ramen is fair game for improvisation. Many of the fresh ingredients are locally sourced, not imported, and the curry gyozas ($6) have been fused with Merali’s mother’s chicken samosa recipe. As for how Liberty Noodle fits with authentic ramen houses: “I think they’re helping us and we’re helping them. More people are learning about ramen; we’re attracting people to ramen.” With no menu item over $12, it’s a welcome lesson. Says Merali, “I hate walking out of a restaurant and thinking, Holy, that was expensive.”
Liberty Noodle, 171 East Liberty St. (at Hanna Ave.), 416-588-4100, libertynoodle.com.