“No noodle, no life,” reads a quote from just one of the many murals at Mian Noodle House in Fredericksburg. After much anticipation from the community, Mian opened on February 27, adding another aspect to the already diverse downtown culinary scene. Housed in the same building of the long-shuttered music venue The Otter House, anyone who used to frequent that establishment may not recognize the place, what with the top-to-bottom renovations that have happened over the past year. Crossing the newly remodeled threshold, visitors are immediately hit by the sights and sounds of a sleek, modern Asian Fusion experience. I got a chance to sit down with owner Jonathan Chen to ask him a few questions about the restaurant’s journey from concept to reality.
Where did you start?
We started in Ansonville, North Carolina; we lived there for three and a half years. We were trying to move closer to New York City because we used to live there. We decided on D.C., but then we didn’t like the city life and we ended up south in Fredericksburg. We opened Umi, a Japanese sushi restaurant, on July 29, 2009.
How is Mian separate from Umi?
At Mian, we are trying to do something healthier and easier. Ramen is also becoming more popular especially in big cities like San Francisco and D.C. For me, since I’ve owned Umi for so long, I know it takes a long time to train a sushi chef. It takes up to two or three years, but a noodle chef it probably takes a month. There is nothing else like this in Fredericksburg.
Are the ingredients local?
All the veggies are local. When we first opened up, we did try to make our own fresh noodles. Rolling it, figuring out how long it takes to make entirely, was difficult. The max amount of noodles we could make for service was about 60, but now [with pre-ordering] we sell more than 200 bowls of noodles a day.
Who is the head chef?
His name is Scott G. Yamada and he has been a noodle chef for eight years. I’ve known him for a long time. I met him when we used to live in New York. Before he became a sushi chef, he was working at a ramen place and learning how to make ramen.
What was your vision for Mian? What kind of goals did you have?
We wanted the system to be much easier and more economical. Our system is when you walk in the door, you come to the counter, you order and you sit down, and the food will come to you. This is a new concept restaurant for me and I am still learning how to make it better. We definitely get better every day.
When ordering at Mian, you get to choose exactly which ingredients go into your bowl. With several options of broths, proteins, noodles, sauces, and vegetables, it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but trying new combinations is part of the fun. For my broth, I chose Dan Dan, which originates from Chinese Sichuan cuisine, then rice noodles, yuzu pepper sauce, broccoli, and bean sprouts. The broth was so delicate, spicy and creamy, complimented by green onions to really accentuate everything.
What is your favorite type of ramen bowl?
I like the tonkotsu broth, it’s a creamy Japanese broth. It takes about ten hours to make. We make it with pork bone, chicken bone, veggies like corn, white onion, green onion, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms. The broth turns white and milky and you get a really rich creamy flavor.
How do you make the pork chashu?
Pork chashu is a big piece of pork belly. You cut the skin off and then roll it. It’s kind of like a sushi roll because you roll it and then tie it up. Then you put it on the griddle and sear it on both sides. For the broth, you put soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Japanese cooking wine (which is kind of a sweet wine), green onion, white onion, and kombu kelp which is a seaweed. Bring that to a boil. Put the grilled chashu into the sauce for a couple hours, then cut the pork into small pieces. Pork chashu is the thin piece of seared pork; it is a common garnish for ramen bowls.
Who painted these murals?
The artist is from Spain—his name is José Roldan Rendon. I designed everything. I wanted customers to have a comfortable, clean dining experience. It makes the atmosphere different. People think ramen is fast food, but this is something different.
If you had a life motto, what would it be?
Be the change you want to see in the world. I always want to do something different, something I’ve never done before. Even now, I’m still trying to come up with new ideas.
Mian Noodle House is located at 1005 Princess Anne Street in Fredericksburg. Open seven days a week, for more info call 540-371-8666.