When I bumped into Amelia Sawyer, better known as the Chef’s Widow, at the recent Best New Chefs soiree in New York, she could barely contain her excitement over why her talented husband, chef Jonathon Sawyer, couldn’t be in attendance for the event.
“He’s busy opening our new restaurant,” she told me with a bit of reserved glee.
“It’s a noodle house. A Japanese-American mashup,” Chef Sawyer shared with me earlier this week. “My first restaurant, Bar Cento, was based on my time in Rome. It was about introducing Ohioans to traditional pizzas, but also with a play on more modern pizzas, so we had five classic, five modern, etc. This will be much the same.”
Sure, but a noodle house?
“What I wanted to do with the new place is take a step down from the seriousness,” he explained. “The tavern is huge and it’s so serious. We really wanted a place that’s more about smiles and a bowl of noodles than it is about pretension and price point.”
According to Sawyer, who trained under another Cleveland favorite, Chef Michael Symon, and was recognized last year as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, Noodlecat will be located just around the corner from his Greenhouse Tavern in downtown Cleveland, will seat sixty, and offer both lunch and dinner service.
“Ever since we lived in New York, we’ve loved eating these fast, healthy, foreign flavors. But there’ s a total Japanese void in Cleveland. You can get Pho, Korean, Thai. I thought a single country, single-minded approach would be best.”
The menu itself will be focused on the noodles, with most dishes under $15. More “grassroots dishes and approaches”, no “miso-glazed fish, sushi, teppanyaki”. Diners can expect both traditional and modern dishes as well as the utilization of local food stuffs, like Lake Erie perch and Ohio grass-fed beef.
“I want people to understand that it’s easy to cook good food, no matter what cuisine you’re cooking,” said Sawyer.
With an expected opening of late July – “we’ve been in the space for five months, so it may happen faster” – the menu wasn’t the only thing on Sawyer’s mind for the new restaurant’s development. It’ll also be certified by the Green Restaurant Association – only the second restaurant in Ohio to be awarded such a certification (The Greenhouse Tavern was the first).
“I hope it will convince others to go green as well.”