As I briefly alluded to last week, my sister, parents and I gave up meat except for fish for Lent, so on Easter, we were excited to finally eat meat again. We hadn’t eaten ramen in a while, so we were excited to eat at Mecha Noodle Bar, a restaurant we commonly frequent. The Asian restaurant has a cool, casual atmosphere, with multiple locations throughout Connecticut. As explained in the “About” page on their website, they don’t like to be referred to as an Asian-fusion restaurant, but more so “American-Vietnamese-Japanese-Thai-Chinese-Korean-New England-Momofuku-Totto-and-Ippudo-inspired,” referencing popular modern Asian restaurants, Momofuku, Totto and Ippudo. The menu features seasonal specials of appetizers, entrees and drinks, like kimchi ramen and tan tan men. Mecha also holds a “Pho King” Happy Hour from 3 – 6 p.m. on weekdays (excluding holidays) featuring marked down drinks, baos and noodle soups.
The restaurant’s Instagram does a great job of featuring its offerings, which led me to order their new, bright green “pandan-monium” cocktail with plantation 3-star Caribbean rum, pandan, sake, pineapple, cinnamon, lime and mint. The drink had a nice hint of pandan, a popular Filipino and southeast Asian ingredient, balanced with a strong hit of rum, although I wish the pandan flavor overall was punchier.
My family usually orders the pork belly or Korean fried chicken bao ($7 for two) or the red oil dumplings for appetizers. This time, we ordered the dumplings, which are densely packed with a pork and shrimp mixture and served in a Sichuan vinegar, chili oil with cilantro ($10), and the Saigon egg rolls with ground pork, nuoc mam and mint, which you could wrap in the provided lettuce wraps ($8). The egg rolls were nicely fried, but the wrapper was kind of thick. Wrapping the roll in a lettuce leaf added a nice freshness. I think I would still go with the dumplings, which come with the delectable chili oil, or the KFC bao, which are served in the fluffiest buns.
Like I do with most restaurants, I gravitate towards the specials menu with my mindset of wanting to order something different from what I can eat at home or at another place. This season, Mecha is offering crispy coconut shrimp bao with chili lime sauce, cilantro and pickles ($9); gai lan salad with roasted Chinese broccoli, herbs, Thai chilies, onion, egg and crispy shallot ($15); black pepper beef and broccoli with Shanxi noodle, confit brisket, hon shimeji mushroom and fried shallot ($14); and wonton noodle soup with spinach, roast pork, fried shallot and black pepper. I was torn between the beef and broccoli and the wonton noodle soup, but after seeing the big flat noodles served with the former dish, I decided to go with the beef and broccoli.
I was slightly confused when they came out with a bowl of soup as my order. Turns out, they put down the beef noodle soup, a special from last season, as my order. They ended up taking it off of our check and bringing out the actual beef and broccoli, but they let us keep the beef noodle soup. That was a nice surprise, since I’ve ordered the beef noodle soup in the past and enjoyed the hearty, spicy broth, tender beef and wilted greens, and didn’t think they were still offering it. The noodle soup is reminiscent of Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The beef and broccoli had a nice kick with a heavy hit of pepper and tender, thick slices of beef. The noodles were a bit bigger than I like — I low the flat rice noodles served in Chinese chow fun — but they were delightfully chewy. It was definitely a different dish than I’ve had before.
Mecha is always a solid option for my somewhat picky family, with yummy noodle soups, appetizers and fun drinks. The prices are reasonable, and the vibe is cool and eclectic without being too alienating for families. The quality varies from location, but more often than not, I have a good experience.