Dressed in a headband and a pair of geta (traditional Japanese wooden sandals), chef Jonathon Sawyer welcomed the first official diners into Noodlecat last Thursday. Following a few days of "friends and family" dinners, when the staff fine-tuned food, drinks, and service, the Japanese noodle bar opened to the public on Tuesday, July 19.
The interior of the 55-seat eatery is warm, woodsy, and just a bit funky. Diners sit on low metal stools in the front room and at long communal benches in the rear. A small bar offers additional seating. Tables are topped with just the essentials: sriracha sauce and a receptacle filled with chopsticks, napkins, and Asian soup spoons.
At last week's preview, openers included fun-to-eat Ohio "edamame": grilled local sweet peas dusted with pepper that you eat like their soy counterparts. Alternatively, a pickle sampler provided a bounty of vibrant house-pickled cucumbers, onions, radishes, carrots, and ghost-chile-fueled green beans. (Future renditions will feature house-fermented vegetables.)
Of course, noodles are the star at Noodlecat. Sawyer, along with chefs Jonathan Seeholzer and Brian Reilly, offer traditional Japanese renditions alongside modern versions.
That means diners can go old school with cold soba noodles and dashi dipping broth, or contemporary, as with the Yudayajin (Jewish) ramen: noodles, brisket, and matzo balls in chicken broth. The tsukemen ramen is served the traditional way, with noodles and meat — in this case sliced pork belly — served separately from the broth, a heavenly scented pork stock.
There are about a dozen noodle bowls in all, with prices in the $10 to $13 range. Creative sides and add-ons allow diners to customize their bowls with items like soy-braised eggs, sake-cured roe, and firm tofu.
Beverage director Dean Sauer oversees a tight selection of cold sakes, house wines, approachable beers, and original cocktails. The Collins Cloud, for instance, blends Ohio-made gin, berry syrup, and frothy egg whites.
Noodlecat is at 234 Euclid Ave. Reach them at 216-589-0007 or at noodlecat.com.
The team behind ABC Tavern and XYZ Tavern has expanded again. Last Friday Linda Syrek, Randy Kelly, and Alan Glazen took possession of Ponte Vecchio, the seven-year-old Italian restaurant with million-dollar views. The restaurant sits on the Superior Viaduct, around the corner from the Detroit-Superior Bridge.
"The building owners came to us to see if we were interested in taking it over," explains Kelly. "It's a great opportunity. It's a beautiful restaurant, so we don't have to lay out a lot of money. It's a diamond in the rough, no different from the Parkview, ABC... There was nothing wrong with these places — except they didn't have us."
Heading up the kitchen is Nate Williams, who for years worked with Karen Small at Flying Fig.
"Nate's been holding down the Fig for years," adds Kelly. "We're giving him the chance to shine, which he deserves."
When the restaurant — likely to be called Viaduct Lounge — opens in September, diners can expect an eatery with a much more laid-back vibe. The sunken portion of the dining room will be transformed into a lounge. While the menu is far from established, Kelly says affordable champagne and a raw bar will be part of the action.
"We're not fine dining," he says. "We're fun dining."