We’re going to resist the temptation to make pho puns for this entire review. Why? Because our meal was so fucking good (not PHOking good) that puns just wouldn’t do it justice. Ok, so let’s see if we can do this . . .
Wayyyy back in 2013 when we wrote about Mecha Noodle Bar opening up in Fairfield, we were excited to see Fairfield County’s first devoted ramen bar boiling over with praise and popularity. And, when we shared that they’d be opening up closer to us, in SoNo (where Pasta Nostra used to be), we nearly cried with joy.
Now, a little bit of back history here. Tony Pham and his family own Pho Vietnam in Danbury and expanded out into Fairfield with Mecha. Going along with the expansion was Richard Reyes, who grew up in Bethel and whose family owns Mezon. Between Tony and Richard, they have a ton of experience and know what works in restaurants . . . and it’s pretty obvious after one experience at Mecha.
When we first entered, we immediately were drawn to the large community table by the door. This communal seating reflects their belief that a meal is much more than just eating good food, it’s about sharing experiences together. You can also sit at the Ramen bar, where you can (of course) order more than just Ramen. Or, there are a bunch of other tables in the back where you can just slurp and relax. And all the seats are fun, beautiful little stools rather than your typical chairs.
Ok, so onto that shared experience . . .
The drinks are hand-made here, from the bottom up, even featuring housemade syrups. Now that’s legit. The first drink we had was the Lotus Sangria that had warm, winter spicy notes with a gentle wine flavor. Just sweet enough for us and a good choice for more gentle dishes. We also had their Bubble Tea with an add-on of Nuestra Soledad mezcal, which brought all the child-like fun of Bubble Tea to a grown-up level. It was tropical, it was wild, and the bubbles were just so chewy and yummy. A must try!
But, that’s not it. Can you review a drink menu with just two drinks? Psshhhh! Third up: Yuzu 2.0 with Aylesbury Duck vodka, creole shrub, lemon, and yuzu. We don’t know what 1.0 was, but this was a great drink. It was lemony and had a nice kick at the finish. Along with that lemon came a nice tart and exotic flavor coming from the yuzu. Also, we took down 99 Problems with Laird’s bonded applejack whiskey, perfecto amor, housemade ginger beer, and lemon. You may have a lot of problems in life, but this drink ain’t one. The ginger beer adds some bubbles with a gentle spicy undertone . . .and that whiskey added a nice kick.
Fifth up that night was the Voodoo Priest which had a warm bourbon burn and some fruity notes to it. Nice, nice burn at the finish! And, lastly, we had the Love Potion that was sweet (a bit too much maybe?), rosy, and just a bit citrusy. It also had some nice, exotic, peachy flavors going on.
So, we had some difficult choices. When you’re invited into a restaurant and you’re given an open invite to order anything, what do you do? Yeah, you order as much as you can stuff into your faces. So, we got some appetizers, a bowl of pho and ramen, and (of course) dessert.
Mushroom Dumplings. These had a crispy wrapper with a wildly rich and silky filling. On top was a bed of fresh arugula that cut nicely into the dumplings adding a peppery bite to this dish.
Red Oil Dumplings: Not gonna lie, we were most excited about these plump buddies . . . and holy crap were we right. They were meaty, rich, and just so damn delicious. The red oil they are bathed in was the right amount of spicy with a nice ginger and garlicky kick. Pro tip: save the leftover red oil for your pho and ramen. ;)
KFC Bao: Short for Korean FAN-FRICKIN-TASTIC Chicken. Okay, it’s really Korean Fried Chicken, but you get what we’re throwing down. The bun was light, fluffy, and wasn’t too thick like some other spots do with their Bao. The pickles added a nice bite and tanginess and the fried chicken was so juicy on the inside, super crispy on the outside. Such a complex, fun dish. And, pulling it all together was the gochujang that added a nice and spicy bite. We could eat these every night.
Mushroom Bao: Okay, so we’re a bit obsessed with bao, enough that we knew we’d have to also try the veg version. Well, even though this was meatless, it still had a nice steaky meatiness to it. Adding to that was a spicy, creamy sauce that made this dish a winner for us.
Pork Belly Bao: Alright, alright, alright. Stop judging! Seriously, we can’t help ourselves. That pork belly was cooked so nicely, with the perfect balance of meat, fat, and skin. The veggies brought a nice crunch and vinegary kick, adding more complexity to it all.
Brussels Sprouts: No menu is complete without these guys, right? The sprouts came out nice and crispy with a fun mix of mint and peanuts. Adding in a very interesting twist was the blood sausage. It was very dark, rich, and moist (which most blood sausage isn’t) and was a nice contrast to the sprouts. We’re not sure if we completely loved these two competing flavors, but we appreciated where Mecha was going with this.
Vietnamese Crepe (Banh Xeo): The crepe itself is fairly simple, but what you need to do is dig down into the goodies underneath. Serrano ham, mung bean, shrimp . . . it all came together nicely with the crepe, almost like having a breakfast skillet with hashbrowns. Pulling it all together was the fish sauce that added a nice little burst. A totally unexpected dish, but it worked.
Pho Tai: The pho here is housemade and is a mixture of chicken and beef broth with a medley of cilantro, scallions, and onions. The result is a beautifully rich and silky broth that isn’t overpowering at all. The vermicelli noodles were cooked just right and went down well with the slices of rare beef. We added in some of that red oil and, wow, did it boost up the flavor.
Ramen Tonkotsu (with pork belly): Because, hey, you can never really have too much pork in a meal, right? The answer is no. Just no. The bonus we dug about this well-executed ramen is that you can pick from four varieties, then have them throw in some add-ons like tamago, menma, kikurage, nori, and Togarashi chili oil. Oh, and charred corn, which we had added in. And, if you find yourself low on noodles during all your slurping, you can shout out Kae-dama please. Or, just say it at normal volume to your server and you’ll get more noodles for just $2 more. Whatevs.
Mochi Cake: The cake is chewy and spongy, like you’d expect with a mochi dish. It was savory with a gentle touch of salt, but our favorite part was the black sesame butter cream frosting on top. It was so incredibly smooth and just melted away within seconds, adding a nice rich finish. The peanut and black sesame crumble around the dish added a fun crunch and contrast, too. A playful dessert worth ordering for sure.
Within just a few weeks of opening, Mecha has become a go-to favorite for people in the area who are out for a great lunch. Just ask a couple of Kristien’s co-workers, who go at least twice a week and have a serious addiction. And, it’s also packed at night, even when we went on a random Thursday. Oh, plus they’ll be even more packed starting tomorrow, 2/11, for their Late Night menu! Stop by on 2/11 for a party that starts at 10 and features special treats and even complimentary chicken sandwiches. Then, from Thursday-Saturday, be sure to check out Mecha SoNo for special late night food and drinks.
When it comes down to it, Mecha is a place that gets us excited. It stands out in the swarm of Italian, American, and New American spots in SoNo. Sure, those spots have their place, but there’s something to be said for trying more uncommon foods, exploring new flavors, and getting addicted to something different.
Without a doubt, we’re counting down the days until we go back again, because this place is FOR real (not PHO real . . . you’re welcome).
Although we were invited to try the food at Mecha, our opinions, feelings, words and tasting notes are our own.
Mecha Noodle Bar
Noms: TBD after a second visit, but definitely high up there.
Address: 116 Washington Street
Park in the back, they’ll validate a portion of your parking ticket.
Phone: (203) 295-8718
Address: 1215 Post Road
Phone: (203) 292-8222