Inside an unassuming Westport shopping center with a distinctly New England-vibe is this distinctly un-New England bar and restaurant modeled on a Izakaya (Japanese pub). There are communal tables, house-made sake, lots of things I couldn’t read written in Japanese, a small but excellent craft beer list (on my last visit offerings included beers from Kent Falls and Beer’d), truly craft cocktails, and bathrooms with bidets. But the big draw here is not the Tokyo-in-Connecticut vibe or high end attention to spirits and beer, or even those bidets, it’s the food. Owned by Bill Taibe, the culinary genius behind The Whelk and the now defunct Le Farm, Kawa Ni offers Japanese inspired cuisine so good you’ll want to dust of your best kimono, read up on your favorite ancient samurai words of wisdom and head for Westport.
Start with the smoked bone marrow, a delicious smoky immersion that will let you know in one bite exactly what the bone marrow craze is all about. After that move on to the ramen. Of late, Connecticut has seen the arrival of many excellent new noodle establishments offering a great assortment of noodle soups, but in this increasingly competitive market Kawa Ni’s ramen dishes stand out for their complexity of flavor, quality of ingredients and just plain old fashioned deliciousness. Like grandma would make, only better. I always opt for the pork and garlic, which features oh-so-tender pork served with a hardboiled egg in a broth so flavorful I might order it if it didn’t come with anything in it. Corinne’s favorite dish is the Paitan chicken, a slightly less heavy option with equally great flavors.
This ramen-tic spot is a perfect date night option that is reasonably priced for Westport and definitely worth traveling for. It is also where Corinne and I first fell in love…with ramen.