Last night, Thursday, December 29, we were stoked to attend chef Mark Henry‘s sold out pop-up dinner and private screening of his appearance on Chopped via Food Network at McCabe’s Tavern. Henry brought it home with the win during his airing and concluded the evening, satisfying us all, by announcing his new restaurant Rooster’s House of Ramen is set to open on North Tejon Street in Spring of 2017.
“This is the first time I’ve done a pop-up like this. Most pop-ups are about the same but this one hit home a little more for me,” says Henry. “With the airing of Chopped, that I had to keep under my belt since August. I’ve been working on this restaurant, pretty much for the last year or so, and really delved into it since my accident and all the injuries. [Henry was in a debilitating motorcycle accident September 2016.] This one, I think, meant a lot more to me than any of the ones I’ve done in the past.”
“Between Seth Jaray and myself, we have been working long and hard and we have finally secured a location,” says Henry. “You will be able to get many of the dishes we served here tonight. Look for a mid-to-late-May opening.”
Chef Henry’s pop-up dinner indicates a good presentation of his appearance on the tube but what can we be expecting when the doors open downtown?
“Everything we had here tonight, plus some extra,” says Henry. “We have some other tricks up our sleeves but we thought this worked very well with the airing of Chopped. Especially since I did the ramen on Chopped. But we rolled it all together.
“We’re thinking fast-casual, some appetizers, some entrees. Definitely ramens and then we’ll have a dessert selection as well. Three to four items that are close to home. Very local ingredients that we can showcase their quality.”
Where does the booze filter in?
“We are going to working on a full liquor license,” says Henry. “I’m thinking some local beers, definitely some local spirits and then working on putting together a sake tasting menu as well, and cocktails.”
Last night’s four-course menu, naturally, focused on Henry’s Asian-inspired approach. We started off with a Korean Caesar salad of romaine, crispy anchovies, and chili oil-infused croutons with a kimchi vinaigrette.
“I think they manipulate flavors and they have technique that’s more fundamentally grounded than a lot of other types of cuisine,” says Henry when asked about his interest in Asian fare.
“There’s a lot less ‘black magic’ or total manipulation of ingredients going on. They’re very seasonal and very technique-driven as opposed to taking an ingredient that’s out of season and doing something to it to make it edible in the off-season.
“With all the people pushing local foods and the local food movement that we’ve been apart of for so long, it just makes sense to embrace that culture and continue to move it forward.”
For the second course, Henry presented his signature ramen, a pillar menu item for his new space and Chopped appearance: Meatball Ramen with pork bulgogi meatballs, alkaline noodles, pickled vegetables, soy egg and bone marrow dash.
The third course was Barramundi Mazeman: Roasted barramundi, an Australian sea bass, featuring house-made udon noodles, ginger-scented bok choy, drizzled in a Thai chili sauce. Sweet heat complimented the flaky fish and delicate, spicy, cabbage leaves, creating a memorable entree.
We rounded out the celebratory evening with Henry’s take on “coffee & tea:” A green tea egg tart with puff pastry — representative of a flaky scone — filled with ambrosia salad, and topped with mocha syrup and cubed coffee jelly.
We get House of Ramen but where does the rooster inspiration spur from?
“The name is from my wife, Amy Henry‘s, roller derby name, Rooster,” says Henry. She skates with the Rocky Mountain Roller Girls league in Denver, Colorado.
Staying true to that intensity, Colorado Springs … it’s time to, unapologetically, “rock out with your cock out.”
“Get ready to slurp,” says Henry.
[Images: Dionne Roberts]