Asian food, Cleveland, noodle restaurants, Noodlecat, Pandora, ramen, steamed buns, tattoos, The Kinks, tofu, udon
After our visit to David Chang’s Momofuku in NYC, we were eager to renew our acquaintance with Cleveland’s very own chef-owned noodle joint, Noodlecat. Hot noodles will be a great antidote to the cold of January in Ohio, I thought to myself. As it turned out, the noodles (while tasty) were not the highlight.
Chef Jonathan Sawyer is best known for his ultra-hip Cleveland restaurant, the Greenhouse Tavern, which serves such delicacies as “blood fettucine” and “roasted pig head” as well as vegetarian-friendly items like the savory “double decker beans and rice burger.” (To say nothing of the superior manhattans and martinis.) A celebrated item on the menu is “Kitchen Coffee”: If you like your meal, buy the kitchen a round of after-service canned beer. I feel a bit sorry for the poor sods, being forced to make do with canned rather than draft. And to drink it after service. That place is a prison!!
The first thing you notice about Noodlecat is the cool atmosphere, blond-wood noodle-joint furnishings, nostalgic cartoons playing on the TV, and great soundtrack. Chef Jonathan’s taste in music coincides with ours. Our server made us guess what Pandora channel it was. I said, “The fifty-year-olds channel, perhaps?” He giggled and informed us that it was The Kinks channel, saucily asking, “Do you know who they are?” We stifled the ready comment that we were enjoying the Kinks when he was still in nappies.
Noodlecat is very veg-friendly, with vegan and (natch) gluten-free menus. I was anxious to try the steamed buns after our mind-blowing experience at Momofuku. The buns at the ‘Cat are miniature-sized compared to Changbuns, and not as ecstasy-inducing, but quite respectably tasty.
After these amuse-bouches, we moved on to the Japanese chopped salad with iceberg, crunchy noodles, avocado, bean sprouts and tofu. It was good, but the true highlight (as always) was the veggie tempura. I don’t know how they make it so light and crispy, but the batter is as delicate as an angel’s wing. Chef has taken to battering sizable chunks. This plate contained a whole chard leaf, a half-avocado deep fried in one piece, slices of sweet potato, onion, and the celebrated ‘Cat-cake of shredded veggies. All seasoned with creamy, spicy pepper sauce (our server automatically brought an extra).
Finally came the noodles. For the Long-Suffering Husband, the spicy soba stir fry with jalapeños, bamboo shoots, tofu and sesame chili paste. For me, the dan-dan udon, with spicy garlic oil, nuts, sweet soy and basil. The udon are served al dente.
My only complaint about Noodlecat is that when we go, they never seem to have a vegetarian ramen on the menu. The same was true at Momofuku. Still, I live in hope…
Firstly, I’m hungry so reading this post was a mistake. Worse still, you can’t get good noodles over here, so now I’m hungry AND jealous… 😉
Well, these noodles are more than an hour away… so I often have to be content with making my own. Thanks for the comment!
Wow, that looks good…even first thing in the morning. There is nothing like that here in Los Angeles that I can find, unfortunately.
However, I found these on my own a little while back – Shirataki noodles.They are available at most Asian food stores and some specialty markets and are delicious, even though they can smell slightly fishy. (Warning: I found some at Whole Paychec..excuse me, Whole Foods, that were just awful…imagine wet rubber bands.) It is also much cheaper at Asian markets – about a $1 – $1.50 for a 6-8 oz waterpack. The noodles are made from a Japanese Yam (so, gluten-free) and contain about 10 calories per serving. (Yes, you read that correctly.) There is another delicious version that is also made with tofu that has a few more calories – about 40 calories per serving. You just open the pack, rinse them, and place in boiling water to heat. They will never get mushy and will always be somewhat Al dente. Just about any kind of sauce is good with them too!
Interesting! I have glimpsed these noodles in the store and didn’t quite know what to make of them. The low-cal aspect is very appealing. A bit like spaghetti squash!
Yes, which I love. I love squash anything. But these noodles actually taste like pasta, but lighter. But, in my opinion, they must be eaten with a sauce. I can each spaghetti squash with maybe just a little salt and olive oil.
Hey Linnet, Did I mention my husband owns a wine store? 🙂 He knows a thing or two about wine. I will ask him if he sells this.
You mean the Vitiano? He might. It seems that every state has its own wine distribution system and what each region gets access to can be quite different. There was just an interesting piece in the NYT on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/dining/why-cant-you-find-that-wine.html?_r=0
Noodlecat’s Westside Market location makes a far better Dan Dan in my view. I much prefer over regular restaurant. This is a mystery to me…because it seems it would be more difficult to produce quality in such a small, space…with so many people demanding at once. But, Westside market does it better. Wish I could re-create. I was on-line looking for a recipe now (vegan Christmas idea) when I found your review. Hope you check out Westside Market location, too.
Many thanks! I’ve not been to the market location. I’ll have to check it out!