“A lot of love in that food,” I texted to Stephanie, my CTbites partner and frequent dining companion, within an hour of our departure from the new Mecha Noodle Bar in South Norwalk during one of their training nights.
“That’s the deal. He’s a special guy. It all means something to him. It’s not just the cooking. It’s nostalgia. Family. Friends. Community,” she texted back within moments.
Following that repartee, I realized whatever I wrote about our first impression of the new Mecha would pale in comparison to that observation. Love and community is the essence of what Mecha’s food is all about, and Chef Tony Pham along with partner Richard Reyes (Mézon), is at its Asian comfort food core.
On December 12, Mecha Noodle Bar opened at 116 Washington Street in South Norwalk in the former Pasta Nostra space. The restaurant is a joint venture between longtime friends, Tony Pham and Richard Reyes, celebrating asian comfort food and drink, borrowing heavily from Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese traditions.
As Richard explains:
The new location is truly a passion project of not necessarily doing more, but doing better. Our enthusiasm for community, family, and innovation drove us to spiked bubble teas, orange cream sodas, and crepes...just to name a few. The story of our childhoods told through our food, drink, and most of all, commitment to hospitality and the people who got us here.
So how, if at all, does it differ from the popular Fairfield location?
It’s the Mecha we all know and love with a heightened sense of adventure: a larger size, a handful of new and inspired dishes, and a new (and serious) cocktail menu.
Eighty percent of the menu in South Norwalk will be similar to the Fairfield location with the remaining twenty percent manifested as inspired new dishes and add-ons including snacks, baos, and cocktails.
A few early notes on the new tastes:
Meals begin with Mecha’s take on “bread and butter," or sticky rice with two dipping sauces: a spicy chili sauce and ginger Nuoc Mau sauce. This is not officially on the menu but it can be requested as a complimentary plate.
Mecha’s newest bao is an asian take on a classic lobster roll: shrimp tossed with yuzu kewpie (mayonnaise) with black sesame served on a lightly toasted bao.
The simply named but intensely flavored “Brussel Sprouts” snack is a plate of small sprouts roasted and finished with nuoc mam (fish sauce), peanuts, mint, and boudin noir (blood sausage) – an intense and hearty dish that challenges the definition of "snack."
A new Vietnamese crepe is a fried dumpling wrap filled with roasted criminis, and drenched in miso cream, parmesan and brown butter sauce. That sauce is the stuff dreams are made of ...
For pho and ramen, the menu is nearly identical – rich, warm, and layered with umami flavors, with a few important upgrades. As Richard explains, “richer fats tend to absorb the most aromatics” and customers who grew up eating ramen and pho often request extra fat. These offerings are Mecha’s ode to the heartier and more traditional tastes.
Tripe, tendon, and marrow oil are available as add-ons.
Asian schmaltz: the top layer of fat skimmed off when making the pho, can be added back in, if requested.
For dessert, don’t miss the Japanese mochi rice cake, topped with sesame buttercream and toasted peanuts. This dish was inspired by a visit to Roy Choi’s POT in LA.
Drinks. Where do I begin? The five new house cocktails include the standout floral and fruity “Love Potion No. 9,” a combination of mizu shochu, aperol, lychee, lemongrass, and lime. We also enjoyed a spiked bubble tea and non-alcoholic sodas including a silky and unforgettable “Orange Cream.”
A late night menu is an ode to the classic cocktail with bartenders stirring a mean negroni in addition to a handful of other cocktails and late night bites.
Mecha Noodle Bar is now open for dinner seven nights a week from 4:30 pm to 10:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 4:30pm – 9 pm on Sunday. Lunch will be served in January 2016. For more information, visit mechanoodlebar.com.
116 Washington Street - South Norwalk, CT 06854