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Cheu Noodle Bar – Philadelphia, PA

Cheu Noodle Bar – Philadelphia, PA

As their name implies “Cheu  Noodle Bar” (CNB), noodles are the
name of the game and main attraction for most at CNB. With me
being familiar with Chef Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh’s noodle
endeavors all the way back to Chef Ben’s days cooking at Matyson
when they would have a pop-up restaurant called “Round-Eye Noodle”
every now and again seeking investors, I could tell all the way
back then, that what they were doing with noodles was something
special. Well fast forward a few years. They have a restaurant of
their own, a signed a lease for a second location at the former El
Zarape at 12th and Passyunk and Morris Street intersection, and
Chef Ben is being honored by the James Beard Foundation as a
semi-finalist for “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award.

Opening the door to CNB showed without a shadow of a doubt that
the duo of Chef Ben and Shawn has been a very succesful
combination. Not a seat left in-house, jam-packed from front to
back. Great hip and trendy decor splatters the walls and ceilings,
nice music pumping through the speakers, and a staff that was as
friendly as I have ever seen in a place as busy as CNB was that
day. With my heart set on CNB, I was not deterred from having no
where to sit. I went with plan B, take-out. Having had their
noodles in the past, I decided to go everything but noodles that
day. I started out with the Black Garlic Wings.

cheu wings

The Black Garlic Wings consisted of lightly fried chicken wings
with shishito peppers, lime, and cilantro. At first sight I was a
little taken aback and unsure, but after first bite I was hooked.
They were perfectly balanced in flavor, cooked to perfection with
a nice crisp on the exterior even with all of the sauces applied
while being nice and juicy on the inside. The combination of
spices and sauce really were something special and I highly
recommend you have an order to start any meal at CNB. My main
course would be CNB’s version of Fish and Chips.

cheu fish ribs

cheu fries

The Fish and Chips would be Smoked Fish Ribs and a side of Cheu
Fries topped with miso truffle aioli and fish flakes. I will call
this the Yum and Yummy. The smoked fish ribs worked on so many
levels, even for a certified bbq judge as myself who loves pork
and beef ribs. The skin was extra crispy while the fish was as
tender and soft as biting into a cloud. The glaze on the ribs
worked beautifully giving each bite a wonderful array of tastes
while still being light enough to allow the profile of the fish to
shine. If that was not enough, the fries were amazing. I have
never had such a combination top my fries before and it was
wonderful. The fries were cooked just the way I like them as well. Not
too soft and not too crunchy. Just the right texture and with the
topping of the miso truffle aioli and fish flakes it made them
spectacular.

With CNB specializing in noodles and being able to produce so
extraordinarily with not a single noodle dish in my order, Chef
Ben and Shawn certainly have nothing to stop them from a long and
successful journey in the culinary world. I only hope the
consistency and quality can still be upheld with multiple
locations on the horizon. If this can be done, Chef Ben and Shawn
may be in the same sentences as the Vetri, Garces, Starr and
others who have created Philadelphia to be the great dining
destination it has become to be known globally now. Will the day
ever come that Philadelphia is not synonymous with cheesesteaks
and soft pretzels? I do not think so, but with CNB joining the
crowd we have so many more interesting things to eat and talk
about, and that is always a good thing.

Overall
Four and Half out of Five Stars

Zeppoli – Collingswood, NJ

Zeppoli – Collingswood, NJ

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to hear Mozart play for the first time, watch Michelangelo paint one of his masterpieces, witness Einstein figure out an equation, or be the first person to repeat any of the famed one-liners that so many people love so much from Benjamin Franklin. They must have been magical moments in history, and Chef/Owner Joseph Baldino of Zeppoli is serving up his take of what the culinary world will remember of him.

Zeppoli is situated in a tiny strip mall on Collings Avenue, and when I say tiny strip mall I mean TINY. They are also located outside of the main section of Collingswood on Haddon Avenue know as restaurant row. With them situated away from the hustle and bustle of the regular town and hosting in such a tiny location that only seats a maximum of thirty-five guests, the feeling of dining here truly feels exclusive and special, especially with the perfect ambiance and décor they have chosen.

I am not going to go into detail of what each dish tasted like or their nuances as I do not want you going there as saying “Oh, I did not taste this or taste that like he said”, but what I will tell you is that the meal was perfect on every level for me personally. The two extreme highlights were the Gamberetti e Fagioli which would be a crime not to order as an appetizer and as odd as it may seem; the other knock my socks off surprise moment was my beverage of choice, Sicilian Orange-Blossom Lemonade. With Collingswood being a dry town, no one should have to even think about consuming alcohol with a drink as tasty as that one is. Bravo, great job!

Now I am not the only who has witnessed Chef Baldino’s talents. Zeppoli was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. This is truly an honor to be nominated, and he has created something fantastic and unique in a small and cozy South Jersey town. I only see bigger and better things for Chef Baldino, as he deserves the recognition for the excellence he has created.

Should you go there ASAP? YES! Without a doubt, Zeppoli is a gem and culinary destination for South Jersey and the execution presented here is heads above most around the area and even Philadelphia.

Should they expand their empire and would this experience be the same elsewhere? I do not know, but I think given the proper tools and location, I have confidence Chef Baldino could make culinary magic work anywhere. In its current state though, Zeppoli works perfectly as it stands and everyone needs to experience it there.

FIVE out five stars

Below are the pictures of the meal:

Bread and Olive Oil mix, Sicilian Orange-Blossom Lemonade, Gamberetti e Fagioli, On the house sampling of Gnocchi alla’ Argentiera, Tagliatelli al Limone with Sicilian bottarga, and Coniglio Pizzaiola.