Les Marchands is a total delight. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night you can order up a bowl, and with it winter (with rain and everything!), what more could you want on a crisp December evening? This is the pork version, decidedly upscale and not what you slurped to save all your cash for drinking back in college. For instance, that's a 53 degree egg (and is their menu wrong or does Richards do his 10 degrees cooler than the temp sous viders seem to generally use? hmmm), looking like it's still in its brown shell but perfectly cooked with a yolk that's just runny, adding more viscous deliciousness to the broth. And then why use bok choy when you can use Brussel sprouts? They've got better flavor for a cabbagy cousin and then roast well too (at least the ones in the soup seem to have bee roasted first).
The two big pork belly strips are cooked to perfection even though they're awash in soup; there's no sense they've been soaking--you'd order them as a dish on their own, fatty, of course--it is pork belly after all--but not just fat. You'll wish there was more. Luckily the broth packs tons of pork flavor, too, and has got a surprising zing to it that might be the only issue with the fine Tatomer Gruner pairing Les Marchands is suggesting for the dish. Why not a wine with a hint of dry apples to go with your pork.
I've left the noodles for last not because they're an afterthought, but because they're delightful. There's nothing like a pasta-type product that still feels alive, with a pleasing chewy sproing to them that might make you a sloppy eater, but you won't care. (OK, this might not be the best first date dish.) They're called alkaline noodles, thanks to the sodium bicarbonate in them, along with flour and water (yep, they're eggless). Richards is appropriately proud of them.
One more good thing--there's a veggie version, too. Unlike one place in town that's very very good but can't seem to make a veggie option soup, Richards makes one with butternut squash, curried coconut milk, shiitake mushrooms, and toasted nori, the milk making the broth almost closer to a sauce than a broth. But you won't care, or at least my wife didn't.
So of course, the place to get noodles is a wine bar.