So after months of eager anticipation, I slogged my way down to Noodle Cat (@noodle_cat).
Touted as a more relaxed noodle shop, this newest creation from The Greenhouse Tavern Chef Jonathan Sawyer has got Cleveland and the Eastern seaboard in a tizzy as mentioned in the full feature article on Grub Street in NYC.
It was a busy day on Wednesday as it was the day after opening day. Naturally, walking in at 12n ready to joust all the suits there made this a tough lunch fight. But the hostesses to the rescue as they were able to plop me into a seat close to the bar. Awesome!
I looked around and found a mostly business crowd slurping.
I was seated next to two dinwits that blabbed/complained about getting food on their shirt. I explained to them that they need to put the noodles in the bowl and then loudly slurp up the noodles…the louder noise the better (sign of affection and appreciation to the Chef).
One pale gal looked at me like I was talking to her in Hawaiian and the other Shiksa just stared at me.
I said that’s how they eat saimin/ramen in Japan.
They said, “Oh, we knew that already…We eat sushi all the time.”
I think my ears started to bleed.
With 5 more agonizing minutes of confusion and the two idiots fumbling around just TRYING to use chopsticks – I hoped my food was soon to arrive. And by the grace of NoodleCat, my food arrived. TGFN.
Tsukenmen Ramen w/ fatty pork stock, sliced pork belly n’shoulder, scallion, sesame & garlic – $11
Extremely popular ramen in modern Tokyo, with intense porky broth served separate from the noodles as a dipping sauce
Two large bowls of stuff. Liz kindly asked if I needed explanation on how to eat the noodles. I confidently said I was OK.
Noodles were well prepared and cooked almost perfectly. I would have appreciated the noodles to be a bit more loose (less starch/less clingly). Perhaps change out the boiling noodle water more often. Pork was tasty and tender. Looked more like pulled pork rather than sliced pork belly/shoulder. In fact, I think it looked more like kalua pig than pork belly.
Green onions were cut a bit haphazardly too.
The black stuff (which I assume was pickled salted cabbage or nori) was delicious. Need to add more!
I did expect more from the dashi (broth) as it left me unfulfilled. In my home dashi, I add spoonfuls of miso and chunks of roast pork to enhance the flavor. NoodleCat’s residual chunks of garlic was much appreciated too. #Ilovegaaahlic
My opinion? I honestly thought the portions were too small for an $11 dish. Back in Hawaii, you can get a good extremely large bowl of saimin of $6-$9. Way more noodles and broth too. But if you must know, I slurped up this order in 4 bites. Rather small manini offering. Chef Sawyer-this is Cleveland…and these smaller portions will not suffice the el grando portions that Clevelanders needs to sustain life in the dead of winter. Or perhaps I am just accustomed to different noodle shops and sizes…Chicks would say “size matters.”
Between the next order and fresh from the @VeggieU party in Milan, @WhyCle popped by and started trading stories about @PoiseInParma ‘s epic sorority adventures. She recalled that the Toga incident and jello shots debaucle…basically stuff that ends up in collegiate folklore. Dayum.
I bid alohas to @WhyCle as she scooted off to another important meeting, I wondered what other CLE peeps have checked in to @Noodle_Cat since yesterday’s opening…According to FourSquare – seems like alot! Nice job Cleveland for embracing theTwitter and SM.
Broiled Rice Balls w/ seasonal ingredients – mp ($3)
Still hungry from the ramen, I thought some rice balls would be a good idea. Growing up in Hawaii, I was read the tale of Momotaro about a million times…so I figured it was fate that I find this new food adventure with my kibidango (rice millet dumplings).
On arrival, I found two pressed balls of rice drenched in teri sauce. I could tell that my dish was ignored in the warming expiditer for a while as my Nori (not noree) that adorning the bowl was droopy and mushy into the teri sauce. The sesame seeds were a bit moist too.
Rice balls were crisped perfectly. But they were ball pressed. How can I tell the rice balls were pressed? Interior rice packed too tightly and when that happens, it becomes rather brickish. Personally, I’d rather take my rice balls pressed old school by hand. Grandma Yo is a great example of this with her musubis w/ ume.
And whomever was saucing the balls must stop with the FourLoco cause there was enough sauce in this bowl to baste 2 entire chickens. Perhaps calmly flood the bowl with 75% less sauce.
Additionally, I tweeted Head Chef @BrianReilly43 about his balls and the “seasonal ingredient” – Still awaiting a response.
Also in looking at the menu, I also found a few oddities: Bottarga is a scillian thing / Real ponzu? What’s fake ponzu? / Kim chee is rather Korean. But since NoodleCat has been described as a “Japanese-American mashup” – perhaps I’ll have to try some bottarga w/ my ramen.
My waitress Liz was Johnny-on-the-spot with more water to quench my thirst…and because it’s about a million freakin degrees this week. Outstanding service.
Sadly, she spent about 5 minutes explaining the meal and how to eat it to the new couple next to me. They too were confused when their meals came out, but insisted on pouring the dashi into the other bowl and eating. Fun times when a completely new food enters the market. Cleveland – please learn to eat and adapt prior to going.
Overall value? Not what I expected as maybe I was thinking more of a traditional noodle house and prices were much higher than I expected.
Tell you what – I’ll invite Chef Sawyer and @Chefswidow over for a quick bowl of Hawaii saimin. Free #slurpslurp
Complete with kamaboko, spam, egg, nori, ong choy, bean sprouts, green onions and my dashi.
Perhaps that would showcase a different side of
ramen saimin – my saimin. Who else wants some?
But I gotta say, Chef Sawyer’s got the biggest noodle in Cleveland as NO ONE had the balls to open a noodle shop in Cleveland – Slurp that up Cleveland.
I’ll return for a second visit, but I’d figure you’d want to know an up-to-the-minute report on what all the slurping was all about.
Reporting live from QuarryLaneFarms…