Gary Kim and Julian Armstrong, co-owners of Anju Noodle Bar and its hot sauce and kimchi retail arm SonMat Foods, are taking some big steps forward for 2015. The Kittery Foreside noodle bar has a new menu (see the old and new menus below), a new cocktail program on the way, a new bar in the works, and a new business partner to help juggle it all: Michael Pazdon, who grew up in Durham before spending many years in New York City and then half a decade in Napa, California.
Pazdon will play the role of sommelier and bar manager for both Anju and the unnamed cocktail bar planned for 7 Wallingford Square, Unit 101, a space next door to Anju that the owners have been working on since last summer. They're confident it will open this spring.
Anju itself will be gaining a cocktail menu soon, too, primarily focused on pre-bottled, sparkling cocktails—the kitchen/bar space is tight enough already without having a bartender trying to mix drinks there, one suspects. Another reason for the pre-bottled route: "I want to be able to go to both the new bar and Anju in one night and feel like they're different," Pazdon explained.
While he's not yet ready with a name for the space next door—which will be inspired by the "late 1800s/early 1900s"—the venture does already have an alter-ego: The Crafty Crab, which was a pop-up held in the unit on New Year's Eve. He doesn't want the bar's vibe to be too serious, he said, but he's serious about the food and the drinks. He called the menu direction New American, and said he wants customers to be able to cobble together a meal and not regret it the next day. "We're not going to have a ton of deep-fried stuff," Pazdon clarified.
The drinks expert said he was inspired to take the intense farm-to-table and -bar concept proliferating in sunny California and prove that it could be done in chilly New England. He won't have "persimmons falling on [his] head as [he] walk[s] to work," and he "won't be driving up a nearby mountain to hand-select the fresh citrus for the bar" like in Napa, Pazdon recognized, but he will keep things as fresh and local as possible, pushing the boundaries of the modern cocktail movement. The emphasis on and expertise in pickling and fermentation that Anju's staff has should aid in that goal.
Kittery Foreside continues to grow in prominence as a food destination, and is slowly becoming diverse enough to cover every diner's wish. A hip cocktail bar from a proven team is a logical next step.