1401 N Ashland Ave
Rating: 3 Flutes
The genre "Asian-fusion" makes me cringe. The typical translation: bogus restaurant capitalizing on the Asian-influence trend serving you mediocre food with soy sauce aaaand you just wasted $100. But Mott Street is different. This restaurant is a sister spot to ruxbin, which has been churning out long waits AND great food consistently for nearly five years. Shocking that the two of those things would go hand-in-hand. John and I had been to Mott Street before, but it was over a year ago, so we relied on some advice from our server. She was great. Super energetic, but maybe a bit new to know all of the dishes inside and out. The cocktails she recommended based on our tastes were spot-on. I asked for something clean, not too sweet but not too boozy, and she served up the Thomas Crowne's Affair. It was a bourbon drink (David Nicholson if that means anything to you) with lemon, ginger and some other jazz. Other jazz = turmeric, demerara, osbourne sherry and Mott St lime bitters. I don’t know what most of those things are, so “jazz” it is. John wanted a dark spirit cocktail that was strong. She recommended he get the Delilah & the Fox. He said it was reminiscent of a Manhattan, and any fan of those would be a fan of this. It started sweet but finished clean and balanced. His was garnished with a paper-thin slice of preserved lemon and mine with a cute little leaf.
I’ve heard it’s March Madness, so we will refer to this meal in terms of halves. The first half was played by the B-team for sure. It’s not their fault… they’re good kids. They just aren’t stars of the team. Frankly, they are lucky to be warming the bench. There’s no Bench Mob here. We ordered the brussels sprouts, crispy shrimp and oyster mushrooms. For $10, those brussels sprouts better shine. Shine bright like the Purple Pig’s (sang in my best Rhi Rhi voice). And they just didn’t. They sounded exciting with lamb pancetta and maple brown butter, but it was deceiving. The crispy shrimp was the definition of “meh.” There was just nothing to it. Air ball. I will give the oyster mushrooms some cred. It was like they went up for a lay-up and got fouled but didn’t get that and-one. They were steak-y and rich, but nothing exceptional. I will say, the miso butter sauce was tasty. It was like a miso-flavored marsala, which I can appreciate. Solid effort.
Thank god the buzzer rang and the first half ended. It was time for a locker-room pep talk from the coach. The steamed dumplings were up next and started the steps to redemption. They come in orders of three, but the server asked if we wanted to add one more so it was an even split. She could obviously sense the looming hostility that came with the thought of splitting a dumpling in half and sharing it. This girl had intuition. The dumplings were great. Send them swimming in that little bowl of black vinegar soy sauce and they are even better. I still favor Fat Rice and Sumi Robata’s, but these were delicious.
Next play: menteiko udon noodles. Menteiko is marinated cod roe. The texture of it made for a bolognese-like sauce to coat the udon noodles. (I am seeing a pattern develop here…) The dish comes out piping hot topped with bonito flakes and little seaweed strips. When bonito flakes (dried, fermented fish) are put on a steaming hot dish, they dance around like they’re at a Phish concert. It’s like when you put a droplet of water on a scrunched up straw wrapper and it moves like a worm. It’s a little entrancing, not to mention an umami smack in the face. I would order this dish again in a heartbeat.
And then the magic happened. She brought out the stuffed cabbage and I forgot about everything I had eaten before it. Like, in life. Ever. I feel like they should change the name of the dish to read “Order This or I’ll F’ing Kill You” so people don’t leave without experiencing it. “Stuffed cabbage” sounds so… boring. It’s not! This is beautiful Korean lasagna. Instead of pasta, ricotta and meat sauce, you get pan-seared sticky rice patties layered with kimchi and fall-apart pork butt. I am so pissed that we ate it all. I wish I had leftovers to bring home and eat for breakfast. I would put a fried-egg on top so it would be socially acceptable to eat at 10am. Slam dunk.
Go to Mott Street. Just go there and order the stuffed cabbage and I honestly don’t care what else you do with your life. WHY AM I SO ANGRY ABOUT SOMETHING SO GOOD? Lucky for you, they take reservations now. Also, their patio looks sexy for summertime.
(DROPS THE MIC)