There are plenty of fusion and sushi restaurants throughout Connecticut, but few places that incorporate Asian comfort food. Most notable of the latter is Mecha, which means “mom and pop” in Vietnamese. Mecha has three locations in southwest Connecticut, and they look less mom-and-pop than modern chain restaurant. A large dining area, shiny wood floors, uniquely patterned walls and ceiling, and a groovy bar area are all signs of an up-and-coming trendy Asian eatery with upbeat music, friendly waitstaff, and casual atmosphere.
The line was long for a mid afternoon lunch and there was little waiting space. Mecha clearly is a popular favorite. Our waiter did a fantastic job explaining and translating the menu. We decided to go with a specialty beverage, a few appetizers, the most popular vegetarian ramen with a side of fried rice.
Temple of Sun bubble tea tastes as exotic as it sounds. A beautiful balance of passion fruit and pineapple gives it strong fruity flavor, with plenty of boba to slurp and enjoy with appetizers. Edamame, a classic Asian restaurant app, was prepped in a not so classic way. Labeled as Herbed Edamame, the vegetable came in a heaping portion with garlic confit, rosemary, and sea salt crusting. This preparation adds a tasty twist to a normally plain dish.
Our second app, the steamed pork belly baos, were recommended to us by the waiter. Comprised of hoisin, pickled carrots, and kewpie, they are like a tiny taco with a softer and doughier base. The pork belly is crisp on the edges yet tender and flavorful inside. The sharp taste of the pickled carrots and thick barbecue-like soy glaze creates a taste contrast that pulls it all together. Baos come two to an order, so share with a friend and have plenty of room for what follows.
Ramen bowls are the main event. Shoyu Paitan — chicken ramen — comes with egg, seaweed, and bamboo addons. It’s a classic presentation, average portion size, and is packed with flavor. With great thin noodles, thick broth, and surprisingly good bamboo shoots, this dish is a winner. Veggie Ramen makes up for its lack of meat with strong shiitake mushroom flavor. A thin broth and thick juicy noodles make this an ideal option for vegetarians.
Those looking for meat but wanting rice more than noodles will like Kim Chi fried rice. Though somewhat oily, the flavor of the chicken and bacon bits add a serious blast to the taste buds. It is listed as an appetizer, but could be a meal on its own.