Noah's takes first in Cast Iron Cook-off
If you go
What: Su-Tei restaurant
Where: 5711 MacCorkle Ave. SE, Kanawha City
When: Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday; noon to 11 p.m., Saturday; noon to 9:30 p.m., Sunday
Info: 304-925-7562, www.su-tei.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In case you didn't see my tweets — or hear my squeals! — all the way from The Greenbrier this past weekend, Charleston culinary gem Noah's Eclectic Bistro was named "grand champion" at the 2014 West Virginia Cast Iron Cook-off after taking on some regional restaurant heavy-hitters.
Including The Greenbrier itself.
I'm so in love with the food being served at this tiny little place on McFarland Street that I cheered louder than Chef Noah Miller did when the night's big winner was announced.
I was initially a little worried the panel of esteemed judges might not see Noah's food the way I do, but then thought, "How could they not?" The food here is truly in a class by itself.
If you're one of those who still haven't stopped in to try it, I don't know what else to say. You have no idea what you're missing.
Charleston favorite Paterno's at the Park also had a good showing at the competition, winning "Best Use of Appalachian Ingredients" and the "Whistle While You Work Award" for a lively team spirit.
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Another local restaurant making waves is Su-Tei, and I know what you're thinking . . .
"You mean that place in Kanawha City that used to be a Ponderosa, then a Blockbuster and now has a temporary (I hope?) vinyl banner tied out front announcing its opening?"
Yeah, that place. And don't let the outside fool you.
The food is incredible and the inside has been transformed into a gorgeous, stylish, Asian oasis that will make you feel like you're dining in New York City, if not the Far East.
Ultra-cool lighting and decor, large high-back ivory leather chairs and semi-circle booths, cozy tables surrounding a soothing fountain, lots of fabrics against contrasting sleek, dark accents. Seriously, this place is amazing.
If you don't believe me, ask a friend or check out all the top-notch reviews on Yelp, Urban Spoon or TripAdvisor. This restaurant has quickly attracted a legion of loyal followers and I'm one of the biggest.
Su-Tei is owned and operated by Andri Purwanto, a 37-year-old native of Indonesia who managed five New York City restaurants before escaping to West Virginia, where he ran Kimono Japanese Restaurant in Beckley.
After a while there, he said he saw a need for more upscale dining in Charleston so he made the move north to open Su-Tei late last year. This guy clearly knows what he's doing, business-wise, and the food is just as strong.
A full menu offers an array of sushi, hibachi-style entrees, bento boxes, Thai curries, noodle dishes, rice specialties and a handful of other really creative options. You can enjoy them at a small sushi bar, cocktail bar or in the main dining room, which includes a separate room for small groups.
You can get all of the traditional dishes you'd expect at such a place (sushi, spring rolls, edamame, teriyaki) but they're better than what you've had elsewhere.
For appetizers, the gyoza (fried pork dumplings) and, especially, the "duck
unwrapped" (shredded sauteed duck with carrots, red onion, celery, sweet chili sauce and teriyaki) are to die for. The cold papaya salad with shredded green papaya, carrots, tomato, peanuts and sweet-spicy lime dressing is unique and refreshing.
For entrees, the green curry is incredible. I'm an admitted green curry aficionado, which makes me extremely picky, and this is the best I've had anywhere — although hotter than most.
Better still, the yellow curry (coconut milk, onion, bell pepper, tomato) is not only one of the best curry dishes, but one of the best meals I've had anywhere. Second best lunch of my life outside of Paris — no joke — and only $7.
Can't stop thinking about it.
During another visit, the waitress kept raving about the ginger fried rice cooked with eggs, ginger, asparagus and onion. So simple but ridiculously good. Could not stop eating it.
Stopped in for lunch another day and had a bento box with a California roll, spring roll, chicken teriyaki, rice and choice of soup or salad. I got the salad, which a friend of mine aptly described as "just a simple little bowl of iceberg lettuce with a carrot strip and a tomato." But she adds "it has that creamy dressing you just want to drink with a straw" and she's right. I almost did.
The pineapple fried rice with eggs and ginger is served in a giant, hollowed-out pineapple. So good. There's Pad Thai, a few udon noodle dishes, "drunken noodles" and several other choices you might expect at an Asian place.
But then you get to the entree page and there's spice sauteed lobster, crispy snapper, grilled lamb chop, jalapeno seafood and red lava seafood (mussels, calamari and shrimp with red onion, carrots, broccoli, bell pepper, basil and mushroom stir fried with red curry paste.)
They're known for their signature duck dishes here — spice duck and crispy duck swimming in either a red, green or yellow curry sauce. I haven't tried either duck curry yet, but friends describe them as otherworldly.
Service has been mostly great, although a tad slow at times as crowds started to grow. And as much as he can, Andri dutifully greets and thanks guests personally as they come and go.
Although I'd love to see the outside of the building match the incredible transformation that has taken place inside, curb appeal isn't what's important here.
What matters are the experiences you have once you walk through those doors, and so far mine have been phenomenal.
You gotta check this place out!
Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Daily Mail. He can be reached at 304-348-1721 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.charlestondailymail/foodguy.