When chef Diana Lam’s Sunshine Noodles pop-up opened in July 2020 in the early uncertain days of the pandemic, her Cambodian bowls were a beam of brightness while we hunkered down, curtains drawn.
We were given just about six months to drool over her signature Phnom Penh noodles, served without broth in summer, with it in winter, heaped with herbs, wontons and pork. Then, Lam pivoted to turn her kitchen space at Psychic Bar on North Mississippi into Prey + Tell, specializing in takeout- and delivery-friendly rice flour-dusted wings and rice packets with hidden doses of ramen, spice or even edible glitter.
Now, get ready for slurps: Sunshine Noodles will reopen Monday, Dec. 13, in a permanent Slabtown location, formerly an XLB satellite spot.
“I’m just excited for it to live on,” Lam told WW shortly after signing the lease at 2175 NW Raleigh St. “When we closed it made a lot of people so sad. It was so hard because when we opened Prey + Tell, they were so used to coming to Sunshine. I felt like I was ignoring my first child, you know.”
Lam’s dishes are inspired by foods she ate growing up in Southern California that were cooked by her grandmother, who fled the brutal Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in the 1970s. She says she’s excited to bring back favorites but also use her newly expansive kitchen to create even more, different dishes.
The famous lime pepper wings will return, as will the Phnom Penh noodles, which Lam says she’s tweaking to include different garnishes and perhaps a thicker noodle. The num pachok are particularly exciting turmeric-infused pancake bites done in the style of Japanese takoyaki balls, stuffed with shrimp and topped with pork floss and passion fruit nuoc cham.
The space, Lam says, is a “mix of cute meets industrial apocalyptic,” with black floors and walls, but with bright pink and rainbow plate ware and chopsticks and pops of neon. The bar program promises infused liquor sold as “scoots,” or 1-ounce shots. Lam envisions a roving bottle service that pours them tableside. “It’s a very Cambodian way of drinking,” she says.
“We’re throwing a party, we’re hosting people every day,” she says. “I take that really seriously; I feel like that’s where the vibe comes from.”
Also in the works are potential “speakeasy”-style late-night pop-ups post-service, with special dishes and possible DJ sets.
In the meantime, Prey + Tell will go on hiatus next month while Lam focuses on getting Sunshine off the ground. She says she plans to find a new permanent location for those crispy wings down the line.
Sunshine Noodles is set to open Monday, Dec. 13, from 5 to 9 pm daily, with no reservations taken.