Food & Drink
FOOD: Philly’s CHeU Noodle Bar
by Danny Barron
Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard to always sit at the bar, or counter. At CHeU Noodle Bar, it’s the best spot in the place. It’s a treat to watch dishes being prepared, and even more of one if you can pick out yours from the line. On 10th Street, tucked between Locust and Spruce in Center City, CHeU is a new and special little treasure in the city, having recently opened in the spring. It’s an Asian/American fusion-y kind of place, self-professed to not be authentic in the least, but it can be considered honest and wholly unpretenious, run by two dudes who have planned to cook what they want, and what they like.
And it’s awesome.
In addition to the noodles, the menu runs through a gamut of cuisines from Korean to Pennsylvania Dutch. We ordered a trio of small plates: dumplings in chili oil, a pork belly bun, and scrapple topped with pickles and soy sauce. Whatever CHeU lacks in focus is totally made up for in flavor. Each bite is surprisingly and novel, hopefully without being a kind of one-hit wonder.
The pork belly bun came out around the size of a JFK half-dollar, filled with cucumber and cilantro like a tiny banh-mi, though the pork belly gave it an extra burst of flavor. The dumplings, pork and mung bean, had soaked in the chili oil, providing a pleasant bite to the savory dumplings. But the scrapple, in all of its simplicity, stood out for me. The pickles and soy sauce were the perfect compliment for what is usually considered a breakfast meat.
The noodles, as an entree, were served in generous proportions. The brisket option was an interesting take on tradition. Almost like a Jewish pho, the bowl contained a mix of spicy broth with thin noodles, a matzo ball and a perfectly yolk-y poached egg. The egg seemed fairly unnecessary to the dish, but it was more than welcome to join in. (I am a fan of putting an egg on pretty much everything.)
Our other noodle dish was the hand-torn noodles with lamb neck and mustard greens (pictured at the top), a heavy meal in itself, and incredibly savory. Bits of dates cut through the heaviness like a sweet spark that begged you to continue eating.
I’ve heard someone say once that it’s only the first bite that matters before you become accustomed to the taste of a dish. With every mouthful at CHeU being it’s own ‘wow’ moment, it’s more than enough to dispute, with proof, any sort of that line of thinking.