Friday, July 10, 2015

Cheu Noodle Bar Review

The melange of all things Jewish and Asian isn't just with relationships (yes, I went there!). The juxtaposition of cuisines is offered from the mind of Chef Ben Puchowitz, who previously helmed the kitchen of the recently shuttered, but reknowned BYO Matyson. And in 2013, he put his global approach on display by opening up Cheu Noodle Bar.

This isn't Philly's version of Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame. In other words, this isn't just a non-Asian chef who's simply doing great Asian food. It's a true melange of cuisines. And why not? There are common and, more importantly, complementary elements from both ends of the culinary spectrum.

And with the newly opened Bing Bing Dim Sum from the partnership of Chef Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh, I thought it was high time I finished up this review of the original Puchowitz-Darragh production!

White Peach Mint Iced Tea [$3]

While the mint could have been more pronounced, I appreciated the unsweetened and subtly saccharine approach of the white peach iced tea.

Cheu Fries [$8]
Miso truffle aioli, fish flake

The Cheu fries featured smoky bonito fish flakes on top. Asian poutine? Count me in! While the oft-decried combo of cheese and fish wasn't in this dish, an umami-laden blend of miso truffle aioli replaced the curds. Perhaps a nod to the way the Japanese love mayo with pretty much everything? The fries could have been a bit more crisp, but each bite offered the epitome of umami.

Black Garlic Wings [$10]
Shisito peppers, lime, cilantro

If there's one dish to try besides the ramen, it's the black garlic wings. There's a bright punch of flavor from the juicy wings - spicy, sweet, salty, and savory - it's all there. The black garlic definitely emphasizes the sweet and savory elements, but it's the combination of cilantro and lime that really makes the dish. There's some additional texture coming from the sesame seeds and the accompanying shishito peppers are nicely smoky. 

Pork Belly Bun [$3]

We decided to try one of each of their buns as well. Obviously the pork belly is always a must order for me. Realistically though, this was not the best iteration I've had. The pork was definitely gluttonous and had heft, but there was a lack of seasoning that rendered the flavor and texture of the pork rather one note. I definitely prefer the traditional bun as well.

Cheeseburger Bun [$3]

To their credit, this was a decently moist slider. However, for $3, it seemed rather lackluster.

Mushroom Bun [$3]

The shiitake mushroom bun was nice and offered prototypical flavors founded in most Asian mushroom-based dishes. 

Yakisoba 2.0 [$13]
Shrimp, shiso verde, charred corn, radish 

The GF really enjoyed the yakisoba, especially with the addition of the charred corn and thinly sliced radish. The shiso verde and scallions helped to cut through the richness of the well-coated and al dente noodles, with juicy bits of shrimp studded throughout.

Brisket Ramen [$13] with Pork Belly [$3]
Matzo ball, kimchi, sesame chili broth

If there's something to get at Cheu Noodle Bar, I would recommend the brisket ramen, with the added addition of pork belly. Might be going overboard on my end, but come on now, does it get better than this marriage of Jew-Asian cuisine. You've got pungent kimchi providing some balance to the weight of the matzo ball. The richness of the pork belly and the broth is punched up by the textural beefiness of the brisket. The noodles have good bite and seem to soak up the umami of the broth.

The vibe of Cheu Noodle Bar is a bit hipster-Brooklyn-too-cool-for-school, with fairly perfunctory service. But with creative takes on comfort cuisine, who cares? Do try the black garlic wings and definitely slurp down that ramen!

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