Shawn Darragh and Ben Puchowitz of Cheu and Bing Bing Dim Sum are just about ready to debut Nunu, their small, stylish, very red Japanese bar next door to Cheu Fishtown. If all goes according to plan, Nunu will open at 1414 Frankford Avenue on Monday, October 1.
Darragh and chef Puchowitz, longtime friends from the Philly suburbs, started out with Cheu Noodle Bar, a snug spot in Washington Square West serving ramen and a handful of small plates — dumplings, black garlic chicken wings — in a colorfully decorated space. Cheu opened in 2013; in early 2015, they opened Bing Bing Dim Sum on East Passyunk Avenue. While Cheu focuses on ramen, Bing Bing’s menu is more Chinese, though neither restaurant is striving for authenticity — there’s a hint of Jewish flavors strewn throughout.
Last summer, they went across town with Cheu Fishtown, offering an expanded version of the original’s menu. All three restaurants are eclectically designed, with lots to look at. The Fishtown spot has a mural of an octopus slurping noodles.
For Nunu, design firm Rohe Creative went in a different direction, giving the 30-seat eatery a dimly lit lounge feel with big curved red booths surrounding red-flecked tables, small tables tucked under wooden archways, and lots of red lights. (Rohe is responsible for some of Philly’s most interesting restaurant designs, including Michael Schulson’s Harp & Crown and Double Knot.)
Nunu is modeled after Japanese izakayas, with a menu of skewered meats, grilled snacks like avocado with smoked roe, ponzu sauce, and burnt bread, and katsu — cutlets that are breaded and fried. The katsu, available as pork, chicken, or the vegan Impossible burger, comes as a sandwich on Japanese-style milk bread or on a plate with Japanese curry sauce. Neither Impossible dish is vegan as is, but they can be modified. Fries come with Japanese curry and scallion, Whiz and furikake, or “Nunu sauce.”
The food menu is tiny compared to the drinks list. There are white, red, rosé, and orange wines, local and regional beers (and Sapporo), nine different Japanese whiskeys, a few American whiskeys, and multiple options for every other spirit you could want. The whiskeys are used in draft highballs, served regular or “Kobe style”: more alcohol and no ice.
The cocktails are intricate, making use of a range of Asian flavors. If you’re sticking with whiskey, there’s the Blossoms on the Boulevard with rye, sweet vermouth, a sakura aperitif, and rose water. Or try the Little Green Monster with gin, vodka, matcha, Becherovka (an herbal liqueur), and egg white. Looking for sake? There’s a full page, with most available by the carafe or bottle, and a handful of glasses.
Nunu shares a patio with neighbor Cheu, where eventually diners will be able to order from either restaurant’s menu.
Take a tour, and check out the menu below: