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Rock On with Punk Wok

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Rock On with Punk Wok
Photos by Keia Mastrianni

As a young chef, Elliott Moss fantasized about a restaurant where geishas in kimono presided over the tables, ninjas mixed the cocktails, punk posters suffocated the walls, and the Misfits blasted through the sound system. He would call it Punk Wok.

Every Monday and Tuesday nights in Asheville, the lawless dream of a young punk rock chef comes alive inside MG Road, the Chai Pani bar and cocktail lounge owned by Meherwan Irani. Since last December, the decidedly Indian cocktail lounge deviates into something a bit more anarchic. The room transforms into a crimson den adorned with red lanterns, old monster movie posters (Think Wolfman and Godzilla), and plenty of chopsticks. The 10-item menu, which changes weekly, features the mad genius of Moss.

After leaving Ben’s Tune Up last August, Moss had some unfinished business with Asian cuisine. The Punk Wok menu reflects his well-studied love for Thai and Vietnamese flavors, Japanese cuisine and the fermented tang of Korean cooking. Inside a tiny kitchen, Moss cranks out small plates of Asian-inspired dishes underscored by his South Carolina roots. An amuse arrives on a dumpling spoon—pickled ramp grits with miniature cubes of tofu and Moss’s fermented cabbage and fennel—the perfect creamy bite awakened with a “made-in-jars” kick.

Moss weaves whey-braised tempeh with smoked yogurt. Pork belly rillettes and chicken liver paté are paired with a whimsically bruléed sriracha custard. A near perfect Southern fried chicken sandwich gets a swift kick to the other side of the world with nori mayonnaise and kimchee. Ramen is “Mossified” with house made squid ink noodles, tender octopus, pulled pork, black garlic dashi, fennel, and a tea egg marbled with black garlic dashi and soy. It’s more than food. It’s a happening.

Go with friends and order everything on the menu. The Punk Wok “occurrence” is every Monday and Tuesday nights, 6 p.m. until the food runs out.