The Whelk: ✔
Seems like there’s one missing though…
But alas! I have now been to Bill Taibe’s third Westport eatery, Kawa Ni, which showcases Japanese inspired cocktails (and straight up booze too) and plenty of Far East creations with creative tweaks. The actual term for this establishment is “izakaya,” a place to drink with food as the accompaniment, but rest assured, the food is no slouch and the drinks I sampled were right on par too.
|Took me a while to get this photo since it was packed on this day. I waited out the entire lunch crowd.|
Just to make it official…
Kawa Ni: ✔
Now where were we? Ah yes!
I stopped by Kawa Ni with a group of friends for a Friday afternoon lunch, and most of us are fans of Taibe’s other restaurants, so of course we felt good about what we were about to experience. With Bill’s brother, Jeff Taibe doing the cooking, hey, that was an added bonus. As if that wasn’t enough, Taibe’s Beverage Manager, Jeff Marron was behind the bar that day. So I did what anyone would do (and should do!), I started it off with one of Jeff’s Saké Bomb concoctions.
|Sorry, folks, I was so excited that I forgot to photograph the Bomb.|
|Yes, you can drink your Sake Bomb, but it’s way more fun when Jeff bangs the gong. Pssst! That’s your cue.|
I put my fate into Jeff’s hands and told him to make me whatever he wanted and out came the Nichiyobi Bomb (Sriracha, kimchi, soy, shōchū, beer). I dropped the shot glass in the beer and guzzled. The result was a tasty combo of tomato and spiciness that I likened to a way better version of a Bloody Mary. I wanted to make my way through the entire Saké Bomb section of the menu but I remembered that it was like noon, on a Friday, and I had to get back home. I recommend starting here, whether you can contain yourself at just one remains to be seen. Kawa Ni also has a decent amount of whiskey/bourbon/scotch on the menu, sake by the glass and bottle, wine, beer (including some Japanese brews) and I would urge you to try one (or more) of Jeff’s cocktails.
As I sat there and sipped on unfiltered sake and my pals devoured a beautiful looking salad with nori cured salmon (that I tried and liked a lot), I only had a small sample because I was saving it all for a big bowl of ramen, and I was determined to eat it all. My friends had already placed their orders since I was late. Thanks, I-95 traffic. They were keen on sharing but I ordered up my own bowl of Pork & Garlic ramen, but in the meantime I tried the Spicy Miso with corn, scallions, tofu, soft egg, nori, butter, and miso noodles. The broth on this one was absolutely nailed, spicy and well-seasoned and if anyone can get me to enjoy tofu, well, that’s quite the achievement! I quickly downed a small dish and I eagerly awaited my Pork & Garlic.
|Pork & Garlic. If I think hard enough I can still taste it.|
When the Pork & Garlic came out, I stopped talking and zoned in on this piping hot, aromatic bowl of flavor. The noodles were spot on and didn’t fall apart as they hung from my mouth only to get slurped right down. The broth was perfectly salted and garlicky and at one point I stopped using the spoon and started to drink from the bowl. And how the heck did they get the pork belly to remain a bit crisp as it swam in the broth? It was truly epic.
I still missed a bunch at Kawa Ni like the small plates, dessert and of course I wanted more to drink! I have a strong feeling I’ll be back often especially as the weather gets a bit chillier. Ramen and colder temps are the perfect match. As far as ramen is concerned I have only liked it on the East Coast a handful of times, Kawa Ni was one of those times.
19A Bridge Square
Westport, CT 06880