--5 Snaps! You MUST go!
Do you remember that concert where two of your favorite bands played and at the end they jammed together and shook the house down? Take that same dynamic and apply it to a couple of rock star restaurants. That's what happened at The Bricks in Ybor city on Saturday night when Ichicoro took over half the kitchen for a ramen pop-up night of Japanese flavor deliciousness. The chefs and bartenders from The Bricks and the three different Ichicoro locations unleashed their talents in a culinary concert that featured specialty dishes along with craft cocktails developed just for the evening.
Ichicoro offered four different varieties of ramen dishes and The Bricks served up a limited menu that offered some of their standard dishes along with a couple of Asian inspired tuna plates. Adding to the Asian theme, Kung Fu movies played on flat screens above the bar. Throughout the night and Deejay Sirius (@moonsovermysammy) cranked out high energy music.
We start with a couple of custom cocktails. The first was House of the Rising Sun, a mix of Nobushi Japanese whisky, Nob Creek rye, lemon, sriracha, egg whites, paprika dust, and sesame seeds, served in a dual handled bowl with chopsticks. (I'm not sure what the small chopsticks were for, but a nice Asian tip of the hat). The drink was created by The Bricks mix master Kyle Nalls and is delicious. The whiskey flavors mesh together perfectly and that touch of sriracha leaves a trace of heat. Our server tells us that it took a couple of weeks to develop the cocktail menu. My table mate has a Celestial Mirror, a combination of Hendricks gin, creme de violette, Salers gentianne, elderflower, lime, blanc de blancs, and rose water. Look at that ingredient list! It's like an over-the-top ginger ale. The cocktails are a great opening act jam.
Going into the second set- food- we start with Ichicoros version of an Egg McMuffin called Bacon, Egg, and Cheese pressed Bao. It's just like it sounds but instead of bacon they serve crispy pork belly, a Japanese omelette, and a bacon Mayo spread. Bao is typically steamed (think sticky buns), but these are pressed, forming a wonderfully crisp outside with the texture of a pancake inside. What a dreamy combination of flavor from that pork belly, sweetness from the bacon Mayo spread, and texture of the bao. I'm going to remember this song.
Brothless Ramen Abura Soba is next. This dish was created at the Seminole Heights location. It is a bowl of hot spiced ramen noodles topped with another wonderful portion of roasted Marcinek Farms pork in the form of pork belly and bacon pieces, a poached egg, pickled ginger, marinated shiitake, and sesame. The fountain of flavor that flies out of this dish is hard to describe. The pork belly played the bass line, the bacon- with the texture of a soft jerky- played rhythm guitar, and those shiitake mushrooms hammered out a solo that I'll remember for a while. The egg yoke added harmony throughout this whole jam.
Harvest Moon Udon Noodles played the final song. Udon is a fairly simple dish of noodles, chicken broth and a concentrated soy sauce. But it's hard to get the flavors right. Not this time. Those fat udon noodles (I think of them as chubby spaghetti) rock the broth, spiked with scallion and bonito flakes for a mouth full of complex melody. The poached egg adds a creamy fullness and leaves the audience standing.
An encore comes in the form of complimentary Mochi, a soft Japanese rice cake stuffed with vanilla ice cream and drizzled in an intoxicating miso butterscotch sauce. The saltiness of that miso combines with the sweetness of that ice cream and dark flavor of butterscotch bringing this crescendo to a screaming end. Wow.
The meal is over but it's hard to leave. My mind is still spinning from what just happened. I can't get the songs out of my head.
Both eateries can be proud of this collaboration. It's my first full pop-up meal and I want to go again. The concept of unleashing your kitchen and bar talent to create special dishes and cocktails is brilliant. They get to step out of their normal routine and menu, collaborate with other industry wizards, come up with edgy good stuff, and the public is left to benefit. Hell yes!
If you like culinary talent or are the least bit foodie, keep your eyes open. When you see anything like this happening again, just go! I'll see you there.
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