Dinner at Cheu Noodle Bar (Philadelphia, PA)
Cheu Noodle Bar is a very new restaurant located in Washington Square West neighborhood in Philly that is owned by two friends, chef Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh. This restaurant started out with pop-up dinners and the restaurant came into full fruition in April. This narrow, 30-seat restaurant has red painted walls and one being shellacked with squiggly instant ramen bricks behind clear plastic with a collage wall above it, containing Chinese good luck phrases and what seemed like randomly placed photos. Opposite of that is an open kitchen with a long chef’s counter bar made of strips of honey colored wood.
Cheu is an eclectic Asian restaurant that has a mix of small plates and steamy bowls of various types of noodles that are made from scratch. It’s not a ramen restaurant nor do they strive to be one either. These young men cook what they want to eat. It’s meant to be weird and experimental even though it’s based on various Asian cuisines.
This prompts us to be curious nevertheless since we like eating something unusual.
We started with drinks of non-alcoholic honey ginger mint iced tea and jasmine honey iced tea were great to cool our heels with and it’s not sweet (in a very good way). One of the day’s special drink was a take on the mojito called the Mo-Cheu-To ($9) made of rum, lime, Thai basil, and simple syrup that was refreshing like the mojito but with a different accent.
We shared small plates of long beans ($7) fried quinoa and burnt onion that had good flavors from the nutty, crunch quinoa and the onion but execution was an issue with the fried long beans were unfortunately limp and soggy from grease.
The foie gras meatballs ($9) were lusciously moist, pink in the center and tasty. It infused with clove and star anise and wonderful with the butter lettuce leaf wrap topped with slightly crunchy pickled banana blossoms and Thai basil.
The BBQ pig tails ($8) were delicious bar snack type of food. Meaty chunks of meltingly tender pork meat that slips right off the bone. It’s spiced with togarashi and hickory smoked, glazed with finger-licking Korean barbecue glaze topped with kimchi-cured ramps. My dining companion said this would be fantastic with beer and I would agree.
The bowl of lemongrass and coconut broth with corn, favas, and rice noodles ($11) had good vibrant flavors of lemongrass though we prefer the broth to be richer and the rice noodles were too soft.
The clash of cultures (Jewish and Asian) in a bowl of brisket with poached egg, matzo ball, chile broth, thin egg noodles ($12) generally worked. Tender, fatty, slightly smoky brisket slices and the springy, alkaline egg noodles were delicious. However, the matzo ball would benefit from a lighter, acidic broth than the rich chile-brisket broth.
The ramen with roast pork shoulder, egg, sea beans, miso broth ($12) was an unusual but the closest rendition to the traditional bowl of ramen. The cloudy white, rich pork broth infused with seaweed, briny sea beans, snappy alkaline noodles, tender pork, topped with a soft-cooked egg was simply very tasty.
Cheu Noodle Bar is a good place to stop by for a casual meal with lots of edgy energy and if you’re open to have your food be a relative experiment by these chefs. It will be fun and intriguing. I can see the chefs refining their execution of their dishes as time progresses.
To view more photos of this visit, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set):