Chef Jonathon Sawyer is perhaps best known for his much-loved Greenhouse Tavern on the trendy East 4th Street in Downtown Cleveland. But Greenhouse Tavern isn’t all Chef Sawyer has up his sleeve. His goal? To bring a good, noodle-centric menu to Cleveland. Enter Noodlecat: a modern take on traditional Japanese noodle dishes featuring a variety of styles including udon, soba, and ramen.
Service and Atmosphere
Noodlecat has an authentic charm to it: words like hip and funky immediately come to mind. The walls are adorned with cartoonish cat paintings, the seats are stubby bar stools that look like they were salvaged from a college science lab, and you’ll be forced to talk over the indie music playlist–not a bad experience, just very different and certainly unique.
We walked into Noodlecat and were almost immediately greeted by a hostess who guided us to our table. Our waitress was nice enough, but she seemed pretty impatient and I felt coerced into ordering quickly. All in all, the service was speedy and efficient, and our food came out quickly after we ordered.
Noodlecat offers a good variety of sake both by the glass and by the bottle, a few signature cocktails, and a decent sampling of craft brews from favorites like 21st Amendment, Avery, and Dogfish Head. Sapporo is always on draft at Noodlecat, and you can score one for just $3 during happy hour.
Noodlecat’s menu features a variety of salads, noodle bowls, entrees, and steam buns (Japanese white bread sandwiches), all with a focus on using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and accommodating most dietary restrictions.
We started out with the BBQ pulled pork steam buns ($2 each), perfectly tender meat topped with tangy pickled onions, house-made slaw, and scallions–we could have easily made a meal out of these!
I opted for the half-sized portion of spicy tofu udon ($5) with kombu broth, kelp, peas, and carrots. Sadly, my dish came out lukewarm, and the broth was a tad too salty for my liking. However, the spiciness of the dish was perfect (and beware, it’s pretty spicy), and the udon was really tasty. All in all, not a bad dish, but I’m not sure that I would order it again.
Also sampled was a half-sized portion of the college ramen ($5), a concoction of poached chicken, shiro chicken broth, corn, peas, and scallions. The chicken and noodles tasted good enough, but the overall dish seemed to be lacking in flavor–a little too bland and boring for me.
Join Noodlecat for a tasty happy hour Monday-Friday from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. and all day on Sunday. Enjoy half-sized noodle bowls for just $5 (half sizers should be enough food for an average appetite, especially if you start out with some of the highly-recommended steam buns) and steam buns for only $2 each. Happy hour drink specials include $4 cocktails and sake, as well as $3 draft Sapporo and $1 Black Labels.
While Noodlecat may not have been my perfect cup of tea, I can only appreciate Chef Sawyer’s dedication to serving locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients to Cleveland diners. Though it wasn’t the best meal I’ve discovered in Cleveland, I still encourage others to check it out: grab yourself a pint of Sapporo for $3, down some $2 steam buns and $5 noodles, and call it a day!
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