Above: Spicy Miso Ramen
When chefs talk restaurants, people listen, especially when they’re dishing about food other than their own. After several top local chefs revealed that Mecha Noodle Bar is one of their go-to spots, we had to see what the raves were about. Mecha’s original location is in Fairfield and now there’s a second one in SoNo, both featuring a simple two-by-four décor—literally boards of unfinished wood on the walls and hanging from the ceiling to form sculptural art. Both family-run spots serve Japanese-style ramen noodles and the Vietnamese version with rice noodles called pho (pronounced fuh). You can pick different types of broth and add-ons ranging from greens or tofu to shrimp or short ribs. These bowls make a satisfying, affordable meal at $10 to $13. My favorite bowl is the spicy miso ramen with red miso, mushrooms and chashu (braised pork belly), and a hot chili oil mixed into a flavorful broth with a serious helping of noodles. If you’re not as hungry or have children in tow, you can request a kid’s portion—it’s not on the menu, so you have to ask for it.
Red Oil Dumplings
Pork Belly Bao
Shrimp Banh Mi Sandwich
OFF-THE-HOOK NOODLES ARE JUST ONE DRAW TO THIS AUTHENTIC EATERY
The variety of Southeast Asian snacks and baos at Mecha can’t be found elsewhere in our area. Red-oil dumplings stuffed with pork and shrimp are the most popular dish. Topped with a heap of cilantro and resting in red-oil sauce, this dish is the ultimate Asian comfort food. The equally tasty roasted mushroom dumplings with miso have a nutty flavor. Veggie lovers will also appreciate the Brussels sprouts, which are crispy on the edges and mixed with fried shallots, peanuts, mint and nuoc mam sauce for an addictive combination. A Vietnamese crepe speckled with shrimp and ham is made with rice flour, crispy rice and coconut milk so it’s gluten-free. You break off pieces of the crepe and wrap them in lettuce leaves then dip into the nuoc mam sauce—amazing taste and very filling. The baos, mini Chinese sandwiches on steamed buns, are a must-order, especially the KFC (Korean fried chicken) and the shitake, which layers cucumber and Japanese kewpie mayo onto the mushroom sandwich.
Between 3 and 6 p.m., Mecha offers drink and food specials during its affectionately named Pho-king Happy Hour. Top deals include the KFC baos for $3, “pony” draft beer for $2 and cocktails for $6. Try the Love Potion #9.
MECHA NOODLE BAR
116 Washington St, South Norwalk