photo: fb @SPOyster Fresh Air and Great Food in Mystic Warmer weather in New England…
Crisp days are better with soup. Or, better yet, ramen with freshly-made noodles. Downtown Mystic has just the place: Samurai Noodle Bar and Grill. Forget every preconceived notion you have about living on rehydrated blocks of noodles during college. Steaming bowls of luscious broth filled with flash cooked freshly made noodles are the stuff of dreams. Tastes of the lovingly-prepared broth and expertly crafted noodles my dining companion and I tasted elicited huge grins and several quiet moments as we savored perfection.
Spicy Ramen has several pieces of tender pork flash-grilled and is topped with bean sprouts, corn, butter, nori, menma, and scallions. The heat from the light, flavorful broth is balanced by surprisingly sweet and slightly elastic ramen egg noodles. Each of us adds a drizzle of luscious sesame oil for an extra layer of yum but additional layers of heat may be added table-side.
Noodles are made on-site using a high ratio of wheat flour to water. This makes the noodles opaque, chewy and a bit sweet. Each bite is perfect even as the noodles remain immersed in broth so subsequent bites soften. The flavor and texture cannot be matched by premade inferior noodles. Cooking times are limited to a minute or two but diners may request how al dente or soft they prefer their noodles.
The Tuna Poké Bowl is Japanese rice topped with a small dice of sushi-grade tuna, perfectly-ripe avocado, black sesame seeds, scallions, and a lightly balanced, salty-sweet dressing. Tastebuds delight as each fork or chopstick bite contains each harmonious ingredient. In Sushi Nachos tuna & avocado are served with pico de gallo, guacamole, salsa, cilantro and tobiko (mild fish roe).
Samurai Pork Buns (2) arrive with Kontatsu pork, pickle, carrots and spring greens on a steamed, pleasantly chewy bun. The combination is delicious but glorious pork flavor shines through spicy sauce. The gyoza (pot stickers) and pork buns are the most popular appetizers.
Wok-fried Ramen entices us to nibble a bit more and this combination of shrimp, chicken and vegetables is slightly sweet and very comforting. Less-adventurous diners will find a happy home among the gentle flavors and recognizable ingredients.
At a grill table in the rear of the restaurant we enjoy a la carte servings of white miso rib eye steak and white soy sirloin cooked on our table grill. Each piece of gorgeously marbled beef is presented as a perfect cross section of full-sized steak but cut smaller for ease in handling. Each diner has his/her own pair of long metal tongs for applying or moving the food on the grill which has been oiled just before cooking.
The center is the hottest point. Cooked pieces may be moved to the outside edges to stay warm or directly onto individual serving plates. White miso slightly sweetens the beef with delicious results. My meat is seared but pink at only one minute per side but my companion prefers her meat well-done. Sirloin has a beefier flavor while the ribeye is meltingly tender. Each meat is superb and I’m inspired to stock white miso at home.
Entire BBQ meals may be prepared. Kabocha squash and corn come from nearby Whittle’s Farm. Many dishes include red & green peppers, red onion and shitake mushrooms. When grilling both vegetables and protein, it is best to cook vegetables first as they take longer to cook. They’ll happily stay warm on the outside edge while your meat sizzles. Miso and sesame soy dipping sauces are served on the side. Grilling options include garlic soy shrimp, teriyaki squid, mixed vegetables, shiro miso short ribs, garlic soy lamb chops and more. Some details are similar to Korean BBQ but the entire menu is focused on Japanese cuisine with additional Asian influences.
Other entrée options include Seared Tuna Salad with avocado over greens, hot wings, and Udon noodle soup. Shrimp, beef, or chicken stir-fry is new and popular. Dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian options are available. Kids Ramen is a delightful bowl of luscious chicken broth, ground chicken, and noodles; perfection for even the fussiest young eater.
Ricky Au has deep, golden culinary roots in Groton and graduated from Fitch High School. He owns Pink Basil and Thai Sawasdee in Groton and Spice Club in Niantic. As a boy he ate late night breakfasts and desserts with his grandparents at the beloved Bee Bee Dairy in downtown Mystic. Bee Bee Dairy is no longer part of the community but Ricky has transformed an ordinary retail location into a 180 seat restaurant in the heart of scenic Mystic.
The front of the restaurant is divided into a long, sleek bar with 20 seats and a few deuce high top tables. 24 hyper local and craft beers on draft and a thoughtful wine selection add a nice touch to any meal. Comfortable table seating is adjacent. In order to enjoy table-side BBQ one must eat in the larger rear section. Each of those 12 tables has its own center gas grill and retractable vent. An enclosed patio with boat views is available.
The investment in beautiful, interior grills and vents is conspicuous and pleasant. Samurai Noodle is setting down deep roots in a community hungry for the exquisite pleasure of freshly made noodles, luscious stocks and fun table-side grilling. Elevated comfort food for both casual and sophisticated diners is a welcome change of pace from fish & chips, burgers, and pizza.
Happy Hour discounts on appetizers and beverages are offered 3-6pm daily at the high top tables or bar with its fabulous blue under-lighting. Ginger Martini and Coconut Martini are popular and pair well with diverse food. Three TVs allow quiet enjoyment of sports.
Arrive in time for Happy Hour drinks & appetizers at the bar. Move to a table for dinner.
The front section is cozy and quiet but cooking fans in the rear section make intimate conversations difficult. Cooking table-side is fun for adults and older kids.
Drawing noodles to your mouth over the bowl and biting them is the proper way to eat ramen.
Watch noodles being freshly-made on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the day.
Ramen and other dishes may be served at the grill tables as long as a grill item is ordered.
On-street parking or parking validation from 9 Water St.
Stay tuned for a NEW sushi menu beginning mid-October!
27 West Main St. Mystic, CT. Monday-Friday 11:30-10:00. Sat. & Sun. 12-10. 860-415-9317