Ramen from Mecha Noodle Bar always used to hit the spot…
Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield, CT
And I really mean that when I ask… because things seem like they’re falling apart as the Mecha Noodle Bar brand is beginning to expand into new territories.
It’s funny because this is like… my letter to you.
I’m proud of you, really, for all of the great things that has been accomplished. People are flowing consistently into your restaurants and it’s outstanding. We’re excited about your Norwalk restaurant, not excited about the unbelievable amount of one way streets that it took for us to get from the 95 or the Merritt, but no big deal. When we crave Ramen, we immediately think of Mecha… but maybe not anymore?
The last two times we visited Mecha in Fairfield, we were sorely disappointed by the service we received. It was just so sad. We were huge fans. Still are… I think.
The first of the two visit was just disappointing and kind of disturbing. We happened to get a server who wasn’t as familiar with the menu or the kitchen’s capabilities which resulted in a pretty rough lunch. I’m the type who needs to be in the mood for spicy food and it so happens that I’m in love with Mecha’s Spicy Miso Ramen, both with and without the chili oil.
During our visit this time around, we were told by a server that there was no way to produce a Spicy Miso Ramen that wasn’t spicy. She was adamant about it. So… okay, I went ahead with one. Again, it’s my favorite bowl of deliciousness but… I just wasn’t up for spicy that day. In fact, it pretty much ruined my day because I’d only travel 45 minutes to have a bowl of Ramen that I really want, and this wasn’t it. We assumed that maybe this was just a change in the way the kitchen was being handled. Like… No substitutions or changes to the menu, which is fine… but being told that they’ve never been able to separate the spiciness from the broth and that they will not be able to do that for us that day was a different story. Long story short, she was wrong.
Here’s the Spicy Miso Ramen on a normal day:
And here’s the Spicy miso ramen with the chili oil on the side:
They were able to do this without hesitation in Norwalk, as they always were able to in Fairfield prior to the above described visit.
If you think about it and take things a step further, if the Ramen was made the way the server indicated — with the spicy component of the broth mixed in, and that spicy broth was boiling and reducing throughout the course of a day, that’s gonna make some pretty spicy, no? And on top of that, I’m sure it’ll be much harder for a chef to maintain consistency in that level of spice that way, than it would be to simply mix in a standard amount of chili oil the minute a bowl is ordered, right?
We miss the times when there were people who just knew the menu, understood how Ramen was made, and shared it with customers because they cared. Back then, literally only a year ago, Mecha was so classy and so true to itself to the point where I was even under the impression that it was at the same level as some of the Ramen shops in NYC. Before the Norwalk branch opened, we used to drive up to 45 minutes just to enjoy a bowl of incredible Ramen, some of the most unique and delicious Baos, and experience some of the best service we ever thought we’d get in the Fairfield area.
Sadly, they’ve proven us wrong, especially after the last two visits. During the last visit of the two rough ones, the host did not manage the seating properly and it was disappointing. Just as a heads up, there’s a communal table at Mecha in Fairfield. And, similar to most if not all communal tables, it’s totally not effective. In fact, it may just be a huge waste of space, considering… no one ever wants to sit there.
People would prefer separate two top tables, 1 inch apart from one another, that could be brought together to make a four top, rather than a long table that seats what… 16 people? and requires a Tetris master to figure out how to seat parties comfortably and in a timely manner.
Either way, this is what happened with us:
There were four parties in line:
- Party of Two
- Party of Two
- Party of Three
- Party of Three (us)
- Party of Two
At the communal table, there was a two top that had opened up. It was by the door. There was also another two top opening up at the back of the restaurant, at the same communal table. As the initial two top was cleared up at the communal table, the host began to guide the first party of two to that spot. The two expressed (in an oddly rude way) that they wanted to sit at a table because the positioning at the two top was too close to the door, and it’s cold by the door. He could have had them wait for the second two top that was clearing up… but instead he went ahead and sat them at one of the open tables, a 5 top, towards the back of the restaurant. First Error. He should have kept that table for the first party of three because getting a combination of seats at the communal table for a party of three is much more difficult than getting seats for a party of two at the communal table.
Seeing that acquiring a table was so easy for the first party of two, the second party of two also expressed their dissatisfaction in being placed at the communal table and fought to get their own table. It so happened that as this was happening, another 5 top had just been cleared and… surprise, he led them straight to that table. Second Error. He should have kept that table for the second party of three because, again, getting a combination of seats at the communal table for a party of three is much more difficult than getting seats for a party of two at the communal table.
That left the two parties of three and another party of two still in line with two available but separate two tops available. It’s not difficult to figure out who was seated next.
If the Host had stuck to his guns, or if he had just looked around to see the activity that was going on at other parts of this already small restaurant, he would have noticed that another two top was just finishing up with their payment and was getting ready to leave. Had he stuck to seating parties of two at the communal table, he would have been able to succeed at seating four of the five parties that were waiting at that time. The two pairs at the communal table, the two sets of three person parties at the tables, and within moments, possibly the two person at the communal table. Instead, he was able to seat the three two person parties, but had the three person parties waiting.
What could have been a five minute wait for all four parties turned into a two minute wait for the two parties of two, and, what?, an additional half an hour wait for the two parties of three.
I can’t emphasize enough that the communal table complicates things. You have two spots open at one and, and then two spots open at another… and you can’t bring them together. With two separate tables, if you really were pressed or wanted to accommodate guests, you could pick up one of those two tops and join it together with the other one.
There are less chances of getting a spot in the communal table for a party of three than there are for a part of two. It’s kind of obvious. And in terms of comfort? It’s much nicer for a party of two to sit across from each other at a communal table than it is for a party of three to make… some kind of a triangle or having one of the three people sitting across from another person who was also part of an odd numbered party.
As he was seating the party of two that came in after us, we left and went to Shake Shack instead.