We were excited when we received an invitation from Mecha Noodle Bar in South Norwalk, CT to come and sample their menu of authentic Vietnamese pho and Japanese ramen. The location in South Norwalk is their second location and has only been open for nearly two months. It is located in the former Pasta Nostra location at 116 Washington Street.
Applying the same philosophy to their second location, Tony Pham and Richard Reyes, have opened not one, but two restaurants where those in Connecticut can partake in the culinary flavors of Southeast Asia comfort food.
“When it comes to the dishes of your childhood, the standards are high. Every color, flavor, and aroma inspires us to connect diverse communities of people via Asian comfort food” says co-founder and Culinary Director Tony Pham.
Going beyond just pho and ramen, they offer many more Southeast Asian dishes without broth; centered on Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese street food traditions, such as bao, Saigon spring rolls, Vietnamese crepes, and dumplings.
As they say: “Don’t call us “fusion” or a sushi restaurant… We are American-Vietnamese-Japanese-Thai-Chinese-Korean-New England-Momofuku-Totto-and-Ippudo-inspired”.
Upon entering you will notice that the restaurant has open space dining with a 15 seat bar on the left, followed by the open kitchen. The dining area is open space, as well, with a large communal table in the fore ground and several individual tables there after. The decor is rather simple, lightly stained bare 2 x 4s overlaying the walls and ceiling. Individual tables are towards the rear of the restaurant.
Starting the evening off, we sampled two of Mecha Noodle Bar’s signature cocktails: 99 Problems and Yuzu 2. The 99 Problems cocktail is a combination of Laird’s bonded applejack whiskey, perfecto amor, housemade ginger beer and lemon garnished with a slice of fresh ginger resulting in a unique flavor profile. Whereas Yuzu 2.0 has a citrus flavor from the Aylesbury duck vodka, creole shrub, lemon, yuzu.
When eating at a Noodle Bar you instantly think you should just order Ramen but Mecha Noodle Bar offers so many other choices that you may skip the ramen altogether. We started our evening from the “snack” segment of the menu that included:
- Brussel Sprouts with nuoc mam, peanuts, mint, and boudin noir
- Saigon Egg Rolls containing ground pork, lettuce wraps, nuoc mam, and mint
- Vietnamese Crepe (Banh Xeo) loaded with mung bean, shrimp, serrano ham, herbs, and nuoc mam
- Red Oil Dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp, sichuan vinegar, and cilantro
- Roasted Mushroom Dumplings filled with mushrooms, brown butter miso, and arugula
Each dish was excellent, unique onto it self. The egg rolls brought me back to when we enjoyed them with our former Vietnamese neighbors. Made like a quesadilla, the two crispy rice crepes were loaded with the filling. Our favorites were the dumplings followed closely by the crepe and egg rolls. Can we get an order to go?
For “steamed bao” we went with the Pork Belly, a nicely cooked and crispy slice of pork belly on a hot and sticky bao with hoisin, pickled daikon-carrots, and kewpie.
At the suggestion of our host, for the Vietnamese Pho we tried the Pho Tai and Pho Bo Vien. Each plentiful and tasty bowl started with a base of beef broth, cilantro, scallions, onions, and rice noodles. Rare beef slices was added to Pho Tai, whereas both rare beef slices and beef meatballs rounded out the Pho Bo Vien.
The ramen was a well balanced blend of the 5 ramen elements: Japanese wheat noodles, tare, stock, toppings, and aromatic oil. The Tonkotsu ramen added pork, chashu, spicy sprouts, egg, and scallion to the base elemenst. In addition to the base, the Paitan Chicken had chicken, black garlic, noir, scallion, egg, and menma tonkotsu.
To accompany the pho and ramen, we had bean sprouts, spicy bean sprouts, fresh basil, and a trio of oils (sweet, mild, and hot).
Later in the evening we tried the Love Portion No.9 cocktail, a blend of Mizu shochu, aperol, lychee, lemongrass, and lime and a Hot Sake. Can you see the steam raising off the hot sake in the picture below?
We closed out the evening with two Asian inspired desserts being offered that night. A Thai iced Tea Panna Cotta with lemon mascarpone and salted Oreo crumbles and Mochi Rice Cake served warm with peanut butter sesame butter cream on topping.
The cozy and relaxed atmosphere worked well with the tasty street / comfort offered at Mecha Noodle Bar. We enjoyed each and every dish we tried, with the bao and “snacks” leading the way.
As evening moves into the “late” night, the cocktail list shifts to variety of “classic” cocktails. But one can still enjoy their favorite daytime cocktail, beer, wine and sake if they choose. For the adventurous person, ask the bartender for one of their own creations featuring the popular spirit: schochu, a Japanese spirit.
Mecha Noodle Bar currently serves dinner seven nights a week from 5:00 to 10:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 4:30 to 9:00 pm on Sunday. Lunch will be served in January 2016.