Sunday, January 5, 2020

Staj With Me - Staj Noodle Bar, Naples (Na)

I chose a Saturday afternoon smack in the middle of the holiday season to take a walk through one of Napoli's  snazzy chic parts of town.  A crispy clear cold sunny day, you know - the kind that Naples is famous for this time of year.  I chose that particular Saturday to take an early afternoon stroll, window shop, but most importantly - have lunch at Staj Noodle Bar.

Staj - opened up last June and is noted as the first (and only) noodle bar in Naples.  To some a risky decision taken by Chef Lucio Paciello and Rosario del Priore. Naples loves their pizza and traditional dishes.  We'll see. 
I arrived a few minutes before 1 pm - right before the lunch rush.  That was a good thing, because I needed some time to study the menu, absorb all that Staj had to offer.  I must confess that I was a little overwhelmed at the choices - I didn't know where to start.  That's where Paciello stepped in, and sat down.  
Chef Lucio Paciello
He helped me narrow down my choices so that I wouldn't over do it on my first visit to Staj. Including the choice of beer -Whatever - produced by friends of his that he met during his time in Australia.

So we agreed on the following journey- starting with the starters.

Yakitori - grilled chicken skewers, glazed in soy sauce, with sesame and chives

Fried ravioli filled with vegetables,  mustard mayonnaise and rice vinegar

 Fried tofu cubes, with spicy mayo and shitake mushrooms marinated in black tea and soy sauce
 Then it was time to move on to the buns - the bao buns.

 We narrowed the choices down to two...

Bao bun with fried chicken - tartar sauce, daikon, pickled carrots, coriander and toasted sesame

Bao bun with braised pork belly - daikon, pickled carrots, soy glaze and crunchy almonds

 I still had some room - for what really had my curiosity.  Ramen!  Not that add hot water to a cup ramen that got many of us through our college on a budget years - but that real ramen.  Like the type that I enjoyed when I lived in Japan.  That type that you see in the anime movies, as my son would say.  It has been over 25 years since I have eaten real ramen and had forgotten how complex this noodle dish can be.  Paciello and I decided on Ramen Shoyu and he even invited me into the kitchen as he plated up.

Ramen Shoyu - chicken and dashi broth, chashu pork shoulder, soft yolk egg, noodles, daikon, narutomaki and watercress.  By the way, Paciello's noodles are homemade, prepared with soft wheat flour and with buckwheat.

I followed the dish out to my corner table.  Paciello followed me.  He was curious if I knew/remembered how to eat ramen the right way.  He gave me a quick lesson.  Raise the ramen out of the broth with my chopsticks and place the spoon underneath.  Blow softly to cool it down.  Then the crucial part - eat.  Eat it all, without breaking it up.  In other words slurp! 
Here's how it went down.  You be the judge.

Fantasticaaa! - In fact the whole meal - including the beer of choice -

Unfortunately I didn't have room for dessert, though the choices were tempting.  Yea, I eavesdropped on the table next to me as the dessert menu - which included cheesecake - was being read.  No no - resist resist.  That will give me something to look forward to my next visit.  And the one after that.  And the one after that.

So back to my earlier observation - you know - the one about opening a noodle bar in Naples.  Was it risky?  Sure!  As the saying goes - you gotta play to win.  Months of full houses and hot press tells me that the risk is paying off.

So glad I finally staj-ed!