Longtime owners of Asian restaurant open noodle shop in downtown Lawrence
photo by: Nick Gerik
I’ve always been skeptical of Chinese street food. (Walking and chewing gum is difficult; walking and using chopsticks can lead to an unwanted body piercing.) But a new downtown restaurant is open that has some Chinese street food on the menu, and it aims to create a fusion of Chinese, Japanese and other east Asian flavors.
Ondori opened late last month at 1008 Massachusetts St., and chances are you already know some of the people who are behind the venture. The owners of Encore Cafe — an Asian restaurant that has been open in downtown for about a dozen years — have opened Ondori, which is basically across the street from Encore.
The two restaurants, though, have significantly different menus, said Rebekah Sheridan, Ondori’s general manager. Ondori’s menu focuses a lot more on noodle and broth-based dishes, and with that type of comfort food, the restaurant is designed to have a different feel from Encore.
“We are much more casual over here,” Sheridan said, noting that diners order at a counter, although wait staff does bring the food out to the table.
As for the food, there are both familiar and unfamiliar noodle dishes. One that I haven’t heard much about (granted, the chop stick did temporarily damage my ear drum) is Mala Tang.
photo by: Courtesy: Ondori
Sheridan said it is a traditional Chinese street food that is particularly popular in the northern cities of China. Indeed, it does look like a dish that would warm you up on a cold day. It features a broth made with a Szechuan peppercorn oil and uses sweet potato noodles for its base. Ondori pairs it with a number of meat offerings, including brisket, shrimp, pork belly and beef riblets. In a nod to the idea of blending different Asian flavors, the restaurant also has a couple of meat offerings that aren’t usually associated with Chinese food — SPAM and narutomaki, which is a cured fish dish more often associated with Japanese cooking.
Ondori, though, also aims to be a place for ramen fans. The menu includes about a half-dozen ramen dishes that pretty much all feature a pork bone broth that takes about 10 hours to make, Sheridan said.
The broth and noodles then are combined with a variety of meats and spices. Sheridan said an early favorite of diners is the black garlic ramen, which includes a tender chashu pork that takes about seven hours to prepare.
The other main part of the menu is another broth-based dish, pho. It uses a house-made beef broth that also incorporates fish sauce and rice noodles. It also comes with a variety of meat options, including the brisket and pork offerings I mentioned earlier, but also meatballs and tripe, for those of you who have acquired the taste for stomach linings.
Sheridan said Ondori decided to build a menu around noodles and broth and spices, in part, because the owners had noticed the handful of similar dishes they offered at Encore were very popular. Plus, Sheridan thinks the dish works well for downtown Lawrence, either for pedestrians who want to warm up on chilly fall or winter day, or perhaps for some students who might be looking for another type of cure.
“Downtown is an active nightlife spot,” Sheridan said. “There is nothing quite better than a big bowl of noodles and broth to help bring you back from the night before.”
Ondori is open every day at 11:30 a.m. It closes at 10 p.m. every day besides Sundays and Mondays, when it closes at 9:30 p.m.