Have you been to Kawa Ni in Westport? It’s the latest sibling in the Westport le Farm and Whelk restaurant family. Kawa Ni appeared on the scene in August and I love that it’s open for lunch – even on Saturday! If you’re thinking about dinner, know that they’re currently offering a “call before you leave and we’ll add you to a wait list” system. I’ll happily take that over a flat “no reservations” policy. Kawa Ni is small (40 seats), and it’s often hoppin’ in the evenings – especially the weekend. I know because we’ve tried stopping in for a drink after dinner at the Whelk, and found it impossibly crowded. Always double check the hours before you hop in the car, just to be on the safe side.
On to the food…
First up at lunch: a plate of karaage. Really, you can’t go wrong with fried chicken.
If you’re eating with friends or family, it’s fun to share a few plates and explore the Yushoku section of the menu.
If you’re unsure of what to try, ramen is easy place to start.
You’ll get a steaming hot bowl of noodles topped with locally-sourced ingredients.
Now that that Kawa Ni’s had a few months to settle in and serve up its take on Japanese cuisine, a few friends have mentioned to me that they are unsure of what to order. Kawa Ni is an izakaya-inspired restaurant. What does that mean, exactly? An izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves up small plates of food. So you’d expect a serious focus on drinks and we’re happy to find our friend, Jeff Marron behind the bar. He’s offering up a nice cocktail selection and several variations of the Kawa Ni signature drink, the sake bomb. These make a fine start when you arrive, but I’ve I found I prefer just sake with my meal. Cold sake, all the way.
Have no fear, I promise we’ll get back there to photograph more of the cocktail menu.
My family is Japanese, so many of the dishes and ingredients at Kawa Ni are familiar to me. Since there aren’t many Japanese restaurants serving up traditional flavors beyond just sushi/hibachi here in Connecticut, I can understand the uncertainty in navigating the menu. My first recommendation: talk to your server. If you need help, they can elaborate on any ingredient or preparation. Go to any of Chef Taibe’s restaurants, you’ll notice that all his servers are well-trained and extremely knowledgeable. As soon as I’ve made a first pass scanning menu, I like to ask what’s new and what we shouldn’t miss.
Check out a sample menu and you’ll have some idea what to expect. Just don’t get too attached to any one dish. The menu changes frequently, as dictated by seasonal availability. In case it helps, the current menu structure breaks down like this:
Yushoku: If you’re dining with someone else, start off by sharing a few of these plates to round out your meal.
Onigiri: I grew up calling them musubi, but whatever the name – they are really just rice balls with different toppings/fillings.
Sashimi: If you enjoying eating raw fish (hold the rice) at your favorite sushi bar or crudo at the Whelk, this section is for you.
Donburi: Literally, a rice bowl. Another good place to start, if you like white rice. Japanese rice is a short grain, and a little on the sticky side compared to other varieties.
Men: Ramen is popping up everywhere these days. But at its core, it’s simply a noodle soup. If you like the other ingredients in the description- give it a try. The noodles have a different texture and thickness, so ask your server if you want to know more. And if you don’t like a lot of broth, consider the mazemen.
Enjoy your meal at Kawa Ni!
If you’ve got any favorites let me know so I can try them on my next visit!
More photos, please:
Kawa Ni preview
What’s the deal with ramen noodles?
Inside Sun Noodle, the Secret Weapon of America’s Best Ramen Shops
I want to try a traditional izakaya, but without getting on a flight to Japan:
Head to New York City. I like Sakagura (Midtown Manhattan, a short walk from Grand Central Terminal)
Where else can I get ramen in Fairfield County?
Mecha Noodle Bar Brick Walk in Fairfield.
Kid-friendly. No reservations.
Any other recommendations for Japanese food in Connecticut?
Norimaki in Washingtown Depot
Get a dinner reservation, it’s long drive to Litchfield County
Miso 9th Square in New Haven
Sit at the sushi bar with Chef Jason Tay. Consider going omakase.
Or order the specials, they are expensive, but some of the finest sashimi I’ve eaten in Connecticut.