Morris Ramen kicks off guest chef series
Late-night collabs bring new items to the menu
Francesca Hong, chef and co-owner of Morris Ramen, had so much fun making ramen with guest chef Maggie Roovers of Forequarter during Madison Area Chef Network’s Chef Week in March, that she decided to do it again. And again. And again.
Announcing Morris Ramen’s “Guest Chef Late Night Ramen Series,” Hong invites different chefs to join her in the kitchen once a month on Thursday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight to cook up steamy bowls of ramen never seen before on the Morris menu.
“I wanted to feature different cooks around town who also want a creative outlet,” Hong says. “A lot of us make the same things every day, so it’s fun to make something different and work with different people. I think this idea of collaboration will be really good for our community and I wanted to run with it.”
Morris Ramen officially kicked off the series on Thursday, April 26, when Hong invited Megan Travers and Michael Signorelli of Each Other to join her in creating a $25 prix fixe menu for guests including two bowls of ramen– one created by Hong and one by Signorelli — and a dessert from Travers. Travers, former head baker and pastry chef for Underground Food Collective, recently started working for El Grito Taqueria and new venture Mijo Frozen Treats. Signorelli has a background in whole animal butchery and is also a cook at Casetta Kitchen and Counter.
Each Other is Travers and Signorelli’s side project with Jacob Wolf and Tim Smith; the foursome prepares food for pop-ups and special events like last summer’s Makeshift Festival at Olbrich Park. Travers says she and Signorelli got to know Hong from eating at Morris and from Hong eating at Casetta Kitchen. “We’re big fans of Morris,” Travers says, “and it’s always a good time collaborating with friends from other restaurants and different backgrounds.”
For April’s late-night ramen feast, Hong prepared a shio (salt-based broth) ramen with chicken, mustard greens and purple daikon. (A vegetarian version of Hong’s ramen was available — calling ahead to make this request is helpful.) Signorelli created a cumin lamb ramen with lamb meatballs, scallions and chili oil. Travers says the guest ramen dish was inspired by their love of Szechuan food, calling the broth “a bit of a barnyard brawl made from lamb neck, chicken feet and pork neck bones.”
For dessert, Travers served a toasted coconut fudge bar with a kinako (roasted soy bean flour) shortbread crust and sorghum vinegar caramel. “Sorghum vinegar has become a kind of staple around our house,” Travers says. “We usually cook steak with it or use it in a braise, but its fruity, almost chocolatey acidity goes well with sweets too.”
Expect a $25 set menu each month with two bowls of ramen and an additional item like a side of pickles, dessert or a beverage depending on who’s in the kitchen. Grab a seat at the bar facing the open kitchen and listen in as each chef takes a turn explaining their dishes to restaurant staff right before 9 p.m. “I don’t know anything about ramen,” Signorelli jokes as he explains his entree. “I eat it here and that’s it.”
As customers start rolling in, Hong and Signorelli take turns scooping broth and plating garnishes. Although it’s a little hectic, the vibe of guest chef night is playful. Ten minutes into service, Hong suddenly shouts out “How could I forget?” Those within earshot look concerned until she points her phone at the overhead lights which start flashing different colors. “Rainbow lights!” Hong says.
Look for the next guest chef night on May 24 featuring Molly Maciejewski, executive chef of Madison Sourdough. Dan Jacobs and Kristen Schwab of Milwaukee’s DanDan, an American-Chinese restaurant in the Third Ward, will join the Morris Ramen crew on June 24 and Matt Schieble of Mint Mark will spin off-theme a little and make pho, a Vietnamese soup, on July 12. “We look forward to working with people who are as passionate and excited about ramen as we are and are looking to collaborate,” Hong says.
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