Friday, January 14, 2011

Revel in Asiany Goodness

Want to eat at a restaurant that's probably going to be amazing but want to be so cool that you eat there before everyone else does? Then, when the place becomes incredibly popular and everyone else has to wait two hours to get in, you get to walk by on the street and say, "Oh I've been going to that place for forever. Yeah, their ramen is amazing. Sorry that you'll need to wait a couple of more hours to experience it. Tell Chef Rachel hi for me."

Perhaps that was a little exaggeration, but Revel in Fremont is going to be a hit; it's a casual Asian-fusion comfort food joint with a menu reminiscent of the Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York. (Think East meets West in the best way - homage to the East with incredible Western ingredients here and there). Nick had been following the restaurant's development for a while and as soon as it opened a week ago, he has been clamoring to try it out. One morning, when we were trying to figure out where we wanted to eat for brunch, Nick suggested that we try Revel.

Revel was started by Chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chrichi of Joule fame.  It's a very Fremont-appropriate urban spin-off of Joule across the street from Kaosamai; it's open with a giant counter by an open kitchen, nondescript from the outside but chic, minimalist and hip on the inside with white walls splashed with local pop art. Nick and I entered through the bar Quoin and weren't even sure it was open at first since we couldn't see into the restaurant area.

The folks working the line were warm and friendly; they greeted us immediately once we were seated at the counter. However, with the exception of Rachel, we could tell that the chefs were still being trained and were still learning the menu. The waitstaff was courteous and accommodating, but hadn't fully explored the menu yet, telling us that it had only been their second day serving brunch.

We later learned that the day before, an excavator outside had struck their water main so they had to stop brunch service until the situation could get fixed by public utilities. They apologized and let us know that technically we were dining on the first full day of brunch service. It's okay. We like being guinea pigs if we get to experience the beginnings of great food.

Their menu was concise but everything sounded lovely: Korean hangover soup with blood pudding, chocolate and kumquat pancakes, eggs, bacon, scallion hash browns and toast. Nick opted for the pork belly kimchi ramen and I had the kitchy shrimp egg foo young with thai basil. He was in love with the ramen. The noodles were housemade, the broth was rich, the pork belly fact I'll him discuss the dish himself:

"I've been a noodle slut lately. Maybe it's been the back-back head colds, or just the general dreariness of January in the Northwest, but all I freaking want most days is a big bowl of noodles. I've been making a ton at home, usually dressed down versions of Momofuku's ginger-scallion noodles.

The kimchi ramen with soft egg and pork belly sounded perfect to me this cold Sunday morning. Earthy, elemental, with the right amount of heat and sweetness to pair against the deep savory broth and egg yolk. Loved the three thin slabs of pork belly, falling apart between my chopsticks. And a nice trio of mise garnish: uniform sliced scallion, nori and sliver-thin ginger. I could literally have that every morning for the rest of winter, and be completely content (not to mention, about 20 lbs overweight)."

Nick's "I want to eat this every day" ramen
Egg Foo Young Omelet
My egg foo young was tasty with perfectly cooked prawns and was smothered in a savory oyster-style sauce although I would have liked the eggs to be either a bit more well cooked or creamier and fluffier rather than wet. An arugula salad adorned the omelet to help cut the richness and saltiness of the sauce.  Another perfect addition to this would have been a little pan-seared crispy rice cake and I regret not giving them that feedback. Their lunch and dinner menu seemed delicious and I wish I could have had a smidgin of the food on it. That menu listed amazing things that my friend Skye would cook: korean-style savory pancakes, dumplings and tuna rice bowls. Comforting stuff with yummy ingredients like green onions and shortribs just like mama Skye would make.

Our suggestion?  Try it now but don't hold any grudges against it yet.  It was blatantly obvious that they were still working out the kinks. Everything we experienced including service and food was promising although not yet perfected. But if you wait for the joint to be straightened out a bit, you may have to wait in a long line. Might as well get yourself a cocktail.

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