East and West came together in piquant and palatable ways last night, thanks to Chef Dan Kern's friendly takeover of Momocho Mod Mex's kitchen for a 1201 Kitchen (from Erie, Pennsylvania) Ramen Noodle Pop-up. Inspired by his recent trip to Japan, Kern shared his experience with us through a well-planned menu. Momocho's team crafted the evening's roster of specialty cocktails. A perfect meeting of the minds.
Drinks for the evening included specialty margaritas; yuzu, "fiery" red bell pepper and ginger. Specialty cocktails included: jinja-fuki plum sake and lemon-ginger tea, kajuu-fuki plum sake and passion fruit puree, kakuteru- tequila blanco and ginger-infused simple syrup. The beer selection for the evening was an Asian classic, Tsingtao. I can say that both the yuzu margarita and the kakuteru were drinks I would love to enjoy again.
We sampled four of the five featured appetizers. Sitting at the chef's table always has its privileges. — this time, they came in the form of a heaping rice bowl, Donburi (which means bowl) sushi rice, seven-hour pork belly, red chile sansho and grilled scallion-wasabi mayo. The expertly cooked rice had an almost nutty quality. The rich belly meat was countered by the heat of the chile and wasabi and softened by the richness of the mayo. A perfect triumvirate of flavors. Kern's spin on dumplings was also a great success. The delicate pasta — fried, steamed and crispy — were stuffed with pork belly, red chile sansho and grilled scallion-wasabi mayo. The wagyu kushiyaki charcoal grilled Snake River kobe with 1201 tare, negi and pickled bok choy. Sensational. We also enjoyed the rbi mayo — jumbo tiger shrimp with Japanese Kewpie, mustard seed, shrimp chip and micro watercress. Every app was perfect. It is hard to believe that these beautifully balanced flavors were concocted for a one-off dinner.
Before our entrees came we were served a plate of pickled veggies almost as a palate cleanser. All good … but I wish I could buy his sweet and sour pickles locally.
Since we sat at the chef's table, we were able to witness his expert abilities in plating. The dishes were a feast for the eye, belly and soul. Especially the noodle dishes served in their unique, savory broths. We ordered two but the chef presented a third for us to sample.
They were all amazing but, the best was the noodle soup that Chef Kern sent over. The Kyoto ramen (assari-kei) pork bone-rendered chicken fat broth, thin alkaline noodle, pork shoulder, menma, aonori, fish cakes, sesame dried shiitake powder and negi. The richness of this broth reminded me of broths/stocks used as a base for demi-glace. The bones are slowly cooked down for days, breaking down the calogen, which gives the soup deeper flavor and velvety richness.
We also enjoyed the Tokyo tsukemen, shoyu shellfish dipping broth with udon noodles, roasted chashu, prawns, menma, crispy fried garlic chips, onsen tamago and negi. The noodles and broth come in separate bowls. We were instructed to dip the noodles and prawns into this briny fish broth, rather than pouring it into the bowl of noodles. A super zesty sauce best used sparingly.
The Sapporo ramen consisted of a spicy red miso broth, jantaboon noodle, roasted chashu, bean sprouts, corn, ginger, pressed garlic, aonori and negi. The spiciest of the three with a tangy, aromatic finish.
Our road trip to Erie was planned before the evening ended.