Revel is the more casual younger sibling to sister restaurant Joule. Cozy up to the long butcher-block counter (the barstools are my seats of choice), and you're basically right there in the kitchen while eating your dumplings, Korean pancakes, rice bowls, and noodle dishes.
I always learn something while watching Beard-nominated chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi put their own twists on classic Asian food, like the Smoky Pork Dandan Noodles ($15). Dan dan noodles are one of my emergency foods at home. They're quick, easy, and I never get tired of eating noodles covered in a spicy pork sauce, complete with pungent preserved vegetables and crunchy peanuts.
At Revel, dan dan noodles get an upscale, Southern-styled update. Instead of ground pork, you'll find five-spice-rubbed pork butt that's slow-cooked overnight and then smoked. Turmeric-pickled collard greens add earthiness, while cracklings are mixed in with peanuts as a topping to accompany green onions. (Note: Revel also has a version of dan dan noodles on the current weekend brunch menu, served with smoked chili, eggplant, Thai basil, and peanut.)
The springy, wide-cut wheat noodles are made in-house, and they're a good vehicle for the sauce —and what a sauce it is. It's a little tangy, a little spicy, and a little earthy. The most prominent flavors come from black vinegar, chili, sesame oil, and Szechuan peppercorn. In fact, there's also Szechuan peppercorn in both the wheat noodles and the crackling/peanut mixture, providing subtle numbing effect that complements the slight spiciness of the dish for a typical "ma la" effect. Overall, the balance of flavors is ideal, though you can certainly request Revel's popular condiment tray to spice things up as you wish.
What I love about dan dan noodles is mixing everything up and then getting different flavors with each pull of the chopsticks. With Revel's Asian/Southern fusion version, some bites have pulled pork, some have collard greens, some have crispy crackling, and more. One thing's for sure: no matter how you eat them every bite is delicious.