Inside Look: Whisky & Ramen, Anchorage

Identical to the hanging juxtaposition of strolling by a small, historic storefront in downtown Anchorage right into a three-level, Japanese izakaya–styled restaurant and whisky bar, Whisky & Ramen is a research in contrasts. In our Could/June 2023 challenge, we head to Anchorage, Alaska, the place James Beard–nominated restaurateur, president of Regionally Grown Eating places, and Alaska native Laile Fairbairn provides a tour of her must-visit consuming locations. Sitting squarely atop the record is Whisky & Ramen, which opened final September and which Fairbairn describes with Oz-like surprise: “You’re not in Anchorage anymore.”

Rehabbed Historical past

Whisky & Ramen
The open-concept kitchen with bar eating pays homage to conventional ramen spots in Japan. | Picture by Connor David Images

Husband-and-wife co-owners Jon McNeil and Nicole Cusack bought a historic constructing that occupied a slot on the primary drag in downtown Anchorage for greater than a century. “We purchased the constructing from the unique household of householders, the daddy being the primary mayor of Anchorage, courting again to the Twenties,” says Cusack. “Their household ran a retailer out of it for many years.” Preserving the unique, board-formed concrete shell of the 6,000-square-foot constructing, the couple spent years on a meticulous build-out that features a brilliant and lofty eating room, open kitchen with bar seating, and a comfy, subterranean whisky bar. “The concept was to create an area that conveyed the sensation of a standard whisky bar, an approachable, old-timer Alaskan lounge, and an izakaya all on the similar time,” says Cusack.

The design idea relied closely on regionally sourced and repurposed historic supplies, bespoke interiors, and classic finds, however the finish result’s strikingly cohesive. Alaskan birch planks carry a light-weight, ethereal high quality to the primary eating room, with the central give attention to a tree that Cusack and McNeil lower down and preserved within the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban, through which the wooden is charred and sealed with oil. In the meantime, repurposed bricks from a 1919 firehouse in Portland, Oregon, create a moody entrance to the whisky bar. “The Whisky Bar space of the restaurant is subterranean and an space friends form of uncover by the brick doorway,” says Cusack. Throughout the bar are extra private touches. The custom-designed wallpaper by Alaska artist Tasha Jeffries options Alaskan topography crisscrossed by little float planes. “[They are] my dad’s float planes that we grew up flying within the Alaska bush,” says Cusack.

Japanese Meets Alaskan

Cusack’s lifelong love for ramen (or “obsession,” based on her) finally contaminated McNeil as effectively, however the choices in Anchorage have been restricted. “We simply needed to eat good ramen, and we felt this irrational compulsion to feed it to the individuals of Anchorage,” she says.

Whisky & Ramen
BB Queen: Toki whisky, ardour fruit, pomegranate, L’apertivo Nonino, all topped with a citrus smoke bubble. | Picture by Connor David Images

Cusack moved to Japan to check below a number of ramen cooks. The restaurant had a noodle machine shipped over and now makes their noodles in-house each day, below the helm of Chef Michael Dodge. The remainder of the izakaya-style menu will get inventive with choices like steam buns full of whisky-miso crisped pulled pork.

And whereas the drinks menu most actually enhances the fare, the choice simply stands by itself, anchored by a stable whisky choice. “Our assortment idea is to be as expansive as we will with Japanese whisky, function all whisky produced in Alaska, and be extraordinarily curated with all of our different expressions,” Cusack explains. The record at the moment hovers round 250 expressions.

Created by bar director and lead bartender Cory Leicester, the cocktail program goals for a well-honed collection of inventive originals that pull in Japanese elements or strategies married with native elements (like wild blueberries). The result’s cocktails just like the Flowers of Edo (sesame-washed rye, honey-ginger syrup, orange bitters, smoked ume oolong tea) and the Stroll Down Takeshita (tequila, sakura-infused Calpico, sakura-sencha tea, elderflower).

“Whereas we take the execution critically, the cocktails are typically playful, with enjoyable displays for the bartenders and the friends,” says Cusack. It’s an perspective mirrored within the area as a complete. “There’s no room for pretension in Alaska, and we’re having none of it,” Cusack notes. “Folks can roll in from the bush or a day of fishing carrying muddy XtraTufs or are available in dressed up for a special day. We’re pouring PBR and Yamazaki 25.”

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