Helpful ReplyRamen, in Connecticut and elsewhere

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Ketteract
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2015/06/28 14:43:09 (permalink)

Ramen, in Connecticut and elsewhere

Apparently I hadn't had enough driving this weekend.  Two days after lunching in Mystic, I decided to lunch in Fairfield, at what seems to be the only bonafide ramen place in the state: Mecha Noodle Bar.
 
I got here shortly after they opened at 11:30.  The seating is interesting: you can sit at the bar, at a huge communal table, or in one of a few booths.  I sat alone at one end of the table, which I imagine bypassed the ambience they were going for, but I could see how it would be appealing.  
 

 

 
They started to fill up within about 45 minutes.
 

 
Though my mom is Japanese, we never had ramen like this growing up. Sukiyaki, sushi, cold soba noodles, plenty of other stuff, but never this. She was a fan of just dressing up the instant kind. (I figured that, in Japan, ramen was something that you didn't usually make yourself.)
 
I'd never had a soup quite like this before. 
 

 
The pork literally melted in my mouth, as did the egg yolk. I didn't know pork could do that.
 

 
The broth was rich, fatty, oily, and one of the most complex things I've ever tasted - like six or seven different flavors going on at once, only a few of which I could tell apart. Remarkable.  I may have a new standard for comfort food.
 

 
The housemade chili oil was an extra $1; it added a lot of flavor but very little heat. This could, of course, be how the style is intended.
 
If I have one complaint, it's that they seem to nickle-and-dime you for every little thing.  I can see that for pizza toppings, but my understanding is that ramen is supposed to have a lot of different ingredients in it; you have to spend an additional $6-8 to get your meal to where it already should be, $20+ in the end.
 

 
As you can see, they even charge you $1 just to increase the heat level (separate from the $1 chili oil)!  To me, that's like if Dunkin' Donuts charged you for sugar in your coffee, and I doubt that's how they do it in Japan, but of course this isn't Japan, it's Connecticut.
 
Unfriendly cost structure aside, I have to rank this place at the top of my list simply due to the quality of the food. 
post edited by Ketteract - 2016/12/15 17:39:35
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/28 15:52:48 (permalink)
Ketteract

 

This is not the ramen of my youth.
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leethebard
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/28 16:58:48 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Twinwillow 2017/01/18 20:25:33
Fat Ass
Pretty much looks like someone took a dump in a bowl.


Not funny,Fatass!!!!
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mar52
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/28 18:35:41 (permalink)
Why isn't that Fat Ass person banned?   Good thing I'm not an Admin.
 
Ramen is wonderful.  That's a very nice looking bowl.
 
What other things did they charge extra for besides the hot sauce?  From my experience the different places offer so many different selections of ramen and if one is not quite how you like it... then you pay for them to make it your way by adding whatever you want.
 
I can't find Mabo Ramen to my liking anymore so I order two different bowls and combine some of one into the other.
 
It's wonderful stuff!
 
 
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/28 18:56:49 (permalink)
He's been flagged and Abuse reports were submitted a couple of hours ago.
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ann peeples
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/28 20:45:03 (permalink)
Boy, that really looks good to me!!
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Ketteract
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/29 06:06:10 (permalink)
mar52 
What other things did they charge extra for besides the hot sauce?  From my experience the different places offer so many different selections of ramen and if one is not quite how you like it... then you pay for them to make it your way by adding whatever you want.



Egg was $2, bamboo was $2, chili oil was $1. If you run out of noodles and want some more to use up the extra broth, it's $2. Increasing the spice level (which you specify before they cook, and which is separate from the oil) is $1. That one in particular bugged me. Basically, anything at all done to the noodles on top of how they're originally given to you is extra; it would reeeeally go a long way toward making the place seem more friendly if something other than water was complimentary.   They've survived a few years in Fairfield, though, so I expect they're profitable.
 
With no extras, my bowl would have had pork, green onions, and some kind of thick soy sauce. I think there were some bean sprouts underneath too. Enough to be tasty, but again, ramen is supposed to have a bunch of different things. Having to tack on so much extra money to get it to where it already should be just feels wrong.  
 
The place is unique enough, though, and good enough, that I can definitely see myself making another road trip in the future, despite the distance and cost.
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leethebard
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/29 08:52:38 (permalink)
When we're in The City(NYC) we often look for noodle or dumpling bars. Love the stuff. 
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wanderingjew
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/29 09:02:30 (permalink)
mar52
Why isn't that Fat Ass person banned?   Good thing I'm not an Admin.
 
Ramen is wonderful.  That's a very nice looking bowl.
 
What other things did they charge extra for besides the hot sauce?  From my experience the different places offer so many different selections of ramen and if one is not quite how you like it... then you pay for them to make it your way by adding whatever you want.
 
I can't find Mabo Ramen to my liking anymore so I order two different bowls and combine some of one into the other.
 
It's wonderful stuff!
 
 




Mar
 
You do know as a lifetime Angeleno (and don't feign ignorance as it's not something that I made up in my head) that LA is the Ramen Capitol of the nation.
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/29 09:43:49 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Ketteract 2015/06/30 16:34:57
Having lived in Japan 3 years, that is real-deal.  A low end bowl of ramen in Japan currently is only $3-4. But again, that's like a McDonalds low end burger/bowl.  You up scale to a famous name place you'll drop $15 easy, add in a side and an ice cold beer, $25.  So for a really good bowl that's $20 in the US...  you're not too far off.
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mar52
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/29 10:40:21 (permalink)
wanderingjew
mar52
Why isn't that Fat Ass person banned?   Good thing I'm not an Admin.
 
Ramen is wonderful.  That's a very nice looking bowl.
 
What other things did they charge extra for besides the hot sauce?  From my experience the different places offer so many different selections of ramen and if one is not quite how you like it... then you pay for them to make it your way by adding whatever you want.
 
I can't find Mabo Ramen to my liking anymore so I order two different bowls and combine some of one into the other.
 
It's wonderful stuff!
 
 




Mar
 
You do know as a lifetime Angeleno (and don't feign ignorance as it's not something that I made up in my head) that LA is the Ramen Capitol of the nation.



Dale, I totally believe that.  I grew up very close to a Japanese neighborhood (And of course we have Little Tokyo Downtown) and I've been eating "The Real Deal" for years before others even knew about the ten cent boil your own Ramen.

It's only recently (15 year?)  that Ramen shops have been opening all over town.
 
I love it!
 
For you lovers of seafood, try a bowl of Champon.  (I think that's how it's spelled)  It's a bowl of a thin white broth, ramen and a lot of different types of seafood.
 
I like to drink Calpico with Ramen.  It used to be only one flavor which I can't describe, but now you can get it in other fruit flavors.  The original is the best... white and blue can.  It's also white but it's a soda.
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Ketteract
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/06/30 16:35:24 (permalink)
WarToad
Having lived in Japan 3 years, that is real-deal.  A low end bowl of ramen in Japan currently is only $3-4. But again, that's like a McDonalds low end burger/bowl.  You up scale to a famous name place you'll drop $15 easy, add in a side and an ice cold beer, $25.  So for a really good bowl that's $20 in the US...  you're not too far off.




Interesting!  I guess I don't know how what I had compares to high-end ramen from Japan.  Too bad you're in Nebraska and can't perform a comparison for me.
 
To me, it was really, really good, but then, I thought the same thing about Nardelli's until I branched out and tried some hidden grinder gems.  
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Ketteract
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/10/11 07:15:01 (permalink)
Returned here today with a friend.  Tried the paitan (chicken) ramen this time, with some egg, bamboo, peppers, chili oil, and wood ear shrooms.
 

 
My friend had what I had last time, but with extra egg, peppers, chili oil, and wood ear shrooms.
 

 
The chicken ramen was rich and delicious, and a tad lighter than the pork, as one would expect.  I'm glad I tried it, but ultimately the pork is more satisfying.  Can't blame the soup for that, though - I don't think any chicken could stand against fatty pork belly.  We both got the medium level of additional spiciness (they name the levels as 3, 6, and 9, as shown in my first post) and agreed that 9 would probably have been too much.  
 
We took advantage of the alcohol on the menu this time and got Downeast cider.  It was sweet, crisp, and a perfect accompaniment to this kind of soup.  A couple of friendly patrons informed of us of a place in Westport called Kawa Ni that offered ramen.  Looked rather pricier than Mecha, but my visit is inevitable; I was amazed to find a second such place in CT!
 
post edited by Ketteract - 2015/10/11 07:16:37
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/10/11 11:38:48 (permalink)
Ketteract,Where I live, ramen stores are as common as Starbucks. And what you have is the real deal. The pricing is normal too-------in the places I go to, they always charge extra for additional items and even more for higher heat levels. It's worth it though-----hard to beat a good bowl of ramen. Here's what I like--------pork ramen with black garlic miso.This is from a place called Hakata Ikkousha Ramen near my house. 
 

 

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ann peeples
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/10/11 11:48:49 (permalink)
I need to find a good ramen noodle restaurant around here. These pictures are mouth watering!
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2015/10/14 00:37:54 (permalink)
You inspired me to make Maruchan for dinner.
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Ketteract
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2016/12/15 17:37:16 (permalink)
Ramen has finally come to Hartford: Bob Ramen opened just a few days ago on Capitol Avenue, and I found out yesterday, when a coworker informed me.  I went that night.
 
I spent most of the time comparing my meal to what I'd had before at the Mecha Noodle Bar.  It really came down to the version of ramen and ramen ingredients that I prefer; the two establishments are quite different.
 

 
Whereas MNB uses the thin, straight style of noodles, Bob uses the thicker, wavy ones; MNB's pork is the luscious, fall-apart chashu pork belly, while Bob uses the leaner and less decadent pork loin; MNB's eggs are "ajitsuke tamago", with a jellylike yolk and served halved, while Bob's are closer to "onsen tamago", with a soft, custardy white, liquid yolk, and served whole.  
 
All of those differences are perfectly acceptable and authentic, but I personally found MNB's choices to create the more satisfying experience, and there was a difference in quality as well: MNB's broth had a certain addictive "oomph" that Bob's lacked (for all I know, this could come down to MSG), and also, Bob's noodles were cooked al dente - honestly not what one wants for this particular dish.
 
One nice touch: an awesome chili oil available for self-serve.
 

 
I ate at the bar, which is, truthfully, a very Japanese way to do it.
 

 
I actually found the pork in the steamed pork bun (bao) to be better than what was in the soup: crispy, salty, delightful.  It was $5, and to be honest, I could see myself coming in and creating an excellent lunch from two or three of those.  
 

 

 
They have some work to do, but they're trying, and they apparently intend to expand their menu as they get more comfortable with their operations.  I imagine I'll be back in the near future, simply because they are, currently, the only ramen game in the Hartford area... but if I want better, I know where to get it (unless the Tiger Belly Noodle Bar, which opened a little while ago up in Granby, surprises me!).
post edited by Ketteract - 2016/12/15 17:40:46
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leethebard
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2016/12/15 18:21:14 (permalink)
Oh, that's great looking stuff. Love it!
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TnTinCT
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2016/12/19 11:45:54 (permalink)
Ketteract, really interesting timing for this post, as we decided to try the Tiger Belly Noodle Bar last night. I was in the mood for pho, and there's a good place near the airport, but Tim wanted to try the ramen. We started with a couple of appetizers; the "KFC" fried chicken wings, which weren't very good; they were marinated then doused in sauce, and I didn't taste anything other than salt/soy.
 

 
We also had the gyoza, which I thought were good, not great, I like a delicate wrapper, and these were a bit toothy.
 

 
The pho was good - beef broth, brisket, green onion, bean sprouts, herbs. There were some add ons for additional cost that I didn't get, but this hit the spot for me. Thin noodles similar to angel hair pasta, great flavor of beef, and I could taste ginger and lemon grass. They brought out a spice mix of hot chili oil and chili paste, and a bit of that mixed it gave it the warm punch I was looking for.
 

 
The ramen had a more complex broth, and was presented beautifully in a black bowl - they call it "the darkness". Pork belly, pickled egg, mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions. They suggested adding some hot miso paste which gave it some heat. We've never had ramen, so we don't really have anything to compare it to, but it certainly hit the spot on a cold winter night.
 

We'll definitely go back; it's nice that it's only 10 minutes away for us.
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leethebard
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2016/12/19 15:25:32 (permalink)
If you love authentic Ramen,next time you're near Edgewater NJ,across the river from Manhattan. head to the Japanese super-store, Matsuwa.There are several eateries there who make authentic Ramen. Large Japanese population in Edgewater, and they shop and eat there. Great stuff!! This is the REAL thing. Check out the other Japanese restaurants at Mitsuwa!
http://www.mitsuwa.com/re...urants-sushi/santouka/
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Ketteract
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2016/12/19 17:39:25 (permalink)
TnTinCT
The ramen had a more complex broth, and was presented beautifully in a black bowl - they call it "the darkness". Pork belly, pickled egg, mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions. They suggested adding some hot miso paste which gave it some heat. We've never had ramen, so we don't really have anything to compare it to, but it certainly hit the spot on a cold winter night.
 





I'll say unabashedly that I like ramen as a dish much better than pho - and that I wish there were as many ramen shops as pho shops... perhaps that will, one day, happen. 
 
Proper ramen broth, as I've come to learn, has real body and complexity, a rich umami flavor that no pho I've ever had could approach.  Especially tonkotsu pork-bone broth (which is what it looks like you had) that's been simmering for hours... oh lord.
 
I'm very interested to try Tiger Belly and see how it compares to Mecha Noodle, but unless I go tomorrow, my next opportunity will be the 28th, since I'll be in Iowa eating rather different types of food! 
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Ketteract
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Re: Mecha Noodle Bar - Fairfield, CT 2017/01/18 15:37:51 (permalink)
Apparently there had been another ramen place near me all this time: the Genji Ramen and Sushi Bar, situated inside a Whole Foods in Glastonbury. Given their upscale location, I was expecting good things - maybe not quite Mecha Noodle quality, but good. Better, at least, than what I had at Bob Ramen.
 
Well... they were. In some ways. 
 

 
This was another tonkotsu ramen, and the broth was satisfyingly rich, the way a pork-based ramen broth is supposed to be, though still not quite at Mecha's level.
 

 
It's fortunate that the broth was that decent, because it ended up having to compensate for a few key deficiencies, including a hard-boiled egg (not at all the advertised "ajitsuke-tamago"), missing seaweed, and a somewhat skimpy portion of the pork itself.
 
They had white pepper, crushed red pepper, and garlic available, and I added all three, because they're damn good - especially the white pepper, which I consider to ramen as ketchup is to French fries - and because I think the best ramen is all about complexity.
 

 
(I must whine about there being nowhere to rest your bowl as you actually spooned on these things.)
 
I ordered some extra noodles as well for $2.50. They had congealed by the time I'd actually eaten enough of the dish to make way for them, but a little resting time in the broth helped loosen them up.
 

 
The full non-sushi menu.
 

 
It's possible that I just caught the staff on a bad day. Maybe I had a new person that left the egg cooking too long, and simply forgot the seaweed. This place did just reopen after some renovations that took place inside the Whole Foods... although I've never had of kinks that needed to be worked out after a re-opening. I don't know. They could be better, and I'll give them the same second chance that I'll give Bob Ramen.
post edited by Ketteract - 2017/01/18 15:39:28
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