In Korean, the term ‘Anju’ means ‘drinking food’. And while there’s certainly plenty to sip. There’s oh so much more to slurp, and savor at Anju Noodle Bar.
Anju Noodle Bar is the brainchild of owner Julian Armstrong; a restaurateur who wanted to bring the flavors of Asian cuisine to Kittery, Maine.
“Every day I would find myself driving far off Portland, Boston to find the food I wanted to eat. And when it came time for me to open my own restaurant. I said, these are the flavors I’m going to dive into. It’s the food have always loved. It’s my biggest passion in the world, you know, Asian food of all kinds.”
It’s all done out of an open kitchen located right in the dining room.
“We like people to be a part of the cooking experience. We love when people sit at those first few seats to the bar, talk to the chef’s watch what we’re doing full transparency, and it’s it’s designed for communication for being part of the kitchen and having an open interactive experience.”
And while they’re known for their steaming hot bowls of ramen, there’s a lot more to this menu. From perfectly seared sea scallops served over a hot and sour coconut broth. To Thai style chicken meatballs served with an herb salad and lettuce cups. And then there are the pork buns- a symphony of flavor for your palate.
“You get this fluffy, sweet, kind of cloudy bun and then you hit the crunch the top your mouth hits the crunch of the cucumbers, cilantro and red onions that gives a kind of a fresh sharp but also herbaceous tastes and then you get the kimchi mayo and pork at the same time which is just meaty. The mayo kind of brightens it up a little bit and it’s just it’s it’s hits all the all the flavors.”
You won’t mind eating your veggies if you order the Tahini Crusted Roasted Cauliflower.
“It’s amazing. You see and you’re like this looks like a lot of food but once you cut into it it just keeps giving and by the end of it it’s kind of all falls apart on the plate and you’re scooping up the sauce with all the ginger and it’s just magic.”
The Okonomiyaki is magic for your mouth and your eyes. This Japanese style pancake is spiked with pork belly, shrimp and kimchee, topped with kewpie mayo and okonomi sauce and topped with bonito flakes that really bring this dish to life.
“The bonito flakes kind of sway and flow with the wind. It gives it this playfulness. It comes to you and your and it’s and it’s moving but then it’s not just aesthetic. The flavor is it melts in your mouth. The smokiness it’s just it’s fantastic.”
If the Okonomiyaki is too much for you to handle, you can always opt for good ol’ chicken wings. And the sauces on these beauties are anything but ordinary.
“We have a gochujang, which is a kind of sweet, spicy, tangy Korean flavor. We have a black garlic which is this umami bomb. We do a Vietnamese caramel and then we have our hot honey, which is our hot sauce, mixed with honey. So it’s just like it’s kind of straight, spicy sweet play.”
Of course, no trip to Anju would be complete without a bowl of their signature ramen.
And you won’t go wrong if you order the Shio Ramen.
“So shio is more of our clear style broth. We season that with dashi, bonito flakes mushrooms, so and then we reduce that and that’s basically our seasoning for our shio broth. We top it with a tahini Sambal. We top it with black garlic, scallions, our soy marinated soft poached egg and woodier mushrooms. We have the the pork ; the charsiu pork which is a pork belly rolled up, marinated, slow roasted that just melts in your mouth. The egg yolk just perfectly kind of gooes everywhere and it’s just all the flavors marry perfectly.”
Other Mains include the Khao Soi – a spicy Burmese curry soup and something called Kimchee Yakisoba
“Kimchee yakisoba is more of like a cream based pasta. What we do is we have a broth of coconut milk milk, mirin. We cook that down with our housemade, kimchi and at the end you have this creamy rich but also spicy and slightly acidic flavors. It’s amazing. It’s It’s everything you want from a carbonara or like a broccoli Alfredo. But even more.”
For dessert you can opt for the Crumble- made with fresh Maine Blueberries or try got for the Matcha Tiramisu. An Asian spin on an Italian classic that is oh so tasty.
“The matcha tiramisu is it’s incredible. It’s got this tea, like earthy funkiness from the from the matcha powder, but it’s got that creaminess and that fluffyness from from the cream and the cake of the tiramisu.
It’s like an earthy, delicious sweet clouds. Just amazing.”
But what’s more amazing is the feeling Julian gets bringing his favorite flavors to his friends and neighbors.
“I do this because I love the food. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I just want to bring happiness and hospitality to everyone that enters into Anju.”
Anju Noodle Bar
7 Wallingford Square
Kittery, ME 03904