Get Ready to Rumble

9/8/2017 - Erin Stuckey

Ramen Rumble Kenosha WI

Let’s get ready to Rumble! Friendly competition is in the air last when two local chefs square off! The Ramen Rumble series, hosted by Sazzy B and Mangia Wine Bar, has been a new addition to the Kenosha culinary scene this year. Chef James Shields of Mangia Wine Bar and Chef Mary Radigan of Sazzy B have had two epic battles so far in 2017 to see who is the master of the noodles. My family and I had the opportunity to attend the second event, and were delighted by the creativity, detail, and imagination demonstrated in each dish and drink! Y’all ready for this?

We arrived at the event promptly at 4:00 and were welcomed and seated. Even though the event was just beginning, the restaurant was already pretty full. Our place settings were adorned with chopsticks, napkins, soup spoons, and a black-and-white drawing of the two competing chefs as a placemat! Crayons were provided on the table as well to color in the picture. The menu for the event was printed on a card with the ingredients for each ramen dish on one side and the ingredients for a corresponding beverage on the other - without telling which chef created which dish or drink!

Not long at all after we were seated, our server brought over two signature beverages for each of us. The cocktails were created by good friends and General Managers of both restaurants, Tre Mantuano (Mangia) and Riki Tagliapietra (Sazzy B)! The two cocktails were very different in taste and appearance. The cocktail on the left, moniker “wax on,” was a sweet, cool cocktail made with Bombay Sapphire gin, cherry and ginger liqueur, and offered notes of hibiscus, pomegranate, pineapple and lime. The cocktail on the right, or “wax off,” was a light, fun, textured drink prepared with lychee liqueur, green tea, evaporated milk, rhubarb bitters and boba pearls. It’s obvious that the two mixologists had to be aggressive and took their time through trial and error to make these drinks unique!

I spoke with Riki about the inspiration for his cocktail and he said he really enjoyed the challenge of trying to sync and complement flavors with his chef’s Ramen dish. He told me there are no criteria the chefs have to follow in the competition, other than to create a ramen dish – which means the cocktail portion is free reign, too. In the spirit of the competition, he kept quiet as to which cocktail was his creation. He stated that his favorite part of the Ramen Rumble competition is being able to introduce a “casual feel into the restaurants while fostering a creative environment for the chefs.” He said this event is unlike any other promotion at Sazzy B, and even though it is technically a battle between the chefs and Managers for best dish and drink, the diners are always the winners!

I also spoke with Tre Mantuano from Mangia who told me the inspiration for the event came from experiencing similar events in Chicago. The Mantuano family owns and operates a number of prominent restaurants in the Chicago area, in addition to the popular Mangia Wine Bar here in Kenosha. He shared that the Ramen Rumble locations alternate between the two restaurants, with the September event returning to Mangia. The final showdown will be back at Sazzy B in January 2018. Eventually, the managers hope to open the competition to other area restaurants as well. I should also mention that I got the scoop on Round 1 results, too. Chef Mary from Sazzy B took the noodle round and Tra from Mangia conquered the cocktail. I was on pins and needles all night as we prepared to cast votes in the second competition! 

Ok, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event! Our ramen dishes arrived and the servers carefully placed them on either side of the place setting in correlation with the menu card and cocktails. We were all very impressed with the presentation of each ramen bowl. My brother-in-law even said, “These look too good to eat!”  After admiring the stunning display in front of us, it was time to dig in! The “left hand” dish was a savory lamb broth with -roasted lamb shoulder, garnished with a perfectly poached egg, spicy serrano chili slaw, and crunchy napa cabbage. The piping hot dish was excellently seasoned and deliciously salty.  Since some of our group were more talented with the chopsticks than others, I eventually switched to the soup spoon, which was a little more user-friendly for the chopstick-challenged.

The “right hand” dish was complex and delicate in flavor and depth. Served with a tomatillo sea broth, shiitake mushrooms, mussels, scallion, powdered egg, soy, and sesame tomato with shiso and cilantro, this dish won my family’s vote! The flavor profile of this dish seemed to change with every bite and the noodles were cooked to perfection. 

There wasn’t an empty bowl at the table when we were finished with dinner and each of us eventually made our difficult choice for the winner. The votes were then tallied after patrons circled which beverage and ramen noodle dish they preferred. The competing chefs definitely pumped up the jam for this edition of Ramen Rumble! The results for Part Deux were the same as Round One – Mangia took the cocktail title and Sazzy went home with noodles!

Want to be a judge in the third round? Get your tickets for the September 17 edition! The Chefs are ready, the mangers are perfecting their cocktails, and the atmosphere is sure to be on fire! Your taste buds could be the ones that give Chef James his noodle victory and earn Riki cocktail bragging rights! Reserve your space by calling Mangia Wine Bar – and trust me when I say you won’t want to miss this battle of the bowls!

Erin Stuckey

Community Blogger

Social butterfly. Lifelong learner. Relentless optimist. Night owl. Bad joke enthusiast. Registered Nurse. I love sunny days and exploring Kenosha, meeting wonderful people along the way!