Oodles of Noodles: Grant Nooe’s new venture in Fondren brings unique Asian flavors to Jackson

Portico September 2013Portico Jackson
September 2013

If you have explored Jackson’s food scene at all in the last 30 years, no doubt you have heard the name Grant Nooe come up a few times.  The Jackson-native has been the mastermind behind several successful meto-area restaurants.  However, his newest enterprise – the recently opened M!SO in Fondren – may be his most exciting venture yet.

After graduating from Murrah High School, Nooe originally thought he wanted to pursue a career in music.  Ultimately though, he decided food was the path he wanted to take.  Nooe attended culinary school at the former Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts), eventually going on to work in several restaurants in and around the Windy City.

You can take the boy out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the boy.  After being away for so long, Jackson began to beckon Nooe home.  He returned in the late 80’s and soon after opened his first restaurant – 400 East Capitol – in downtown Jackson.  He would later open other restaurants in the surrounding areas including Brick Oven Cafe in 1993, Fresh Market Cafe in 2002, PanAsia in 2003, and Grant’s Kitchen in 2010.

When the opportunity arose to move into the former Fatsumo Sushi location on the corner of Duling Avenue and State Street in Fondren, Nooe immediately recognized the potential the space had to offer.  Because of Fondren’s reputation for embracing out-of-the box ideas and creativity, he thought another Asian-inspired restaurant would be well-received.

When asked why he is drawn to Asian cuisine, he says, “The U.S. is such a melting pot, that I think all chefs are influences by all types of different cuisines.  I love Asian flavors and have always enjoyed cooking with them.  Living and working in the area, this is the kind of food I would like to eat and I thought it would be something that Jackson would support.”

Nooe is quick to point out, however, that M!SO is not just another neighborhood sushi bar.

“It is completely different.  Our emphasis is on our noodle bar and fresh ingredients,” he explains.  “We have also completely remodeled the space.  People who visited before we opened are amazed by the change.”

As soon as patrons pass under the brightly colored awnings and through the double glass doors of M!SO, they are greeted by an impressive menu offering a wide variety of unique Asian dishes.  Noodle dishes include favorites such as drunken noodles and Pad Thai.  Better yet, try a big steaming bowl of Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup made of oxtail broth, vegetables, an spices (and just so you look like you know what you are talking about when you order, it’s actually pronounced Fuh).  M!SO also serves Ramen, but it is nothing like the cheap noodle soup you lived on in college.

“When most people hear the word ‘ramen,’ they automatically think of that dried package of noodles that is full of chemicals and MSG,” Nooe says.  “Our ramen is made with fresh pasta, homemade chicken stock, and fresh vegetables.”

Another fun and unique feature is the restaurant’s wok bar.  Diners can build their own noodle bowl, soup, or stir fry from a selection of vegetables and meat, adding rice or noodles, and topping everything off with a freshly made sauce or one of three homemade broths.

However, what Grant hopes will soon become a signature attraction is the “Blow Fish” Bar, named for the unusual lights that adorn the bar made from actual blow fish.  The full-service bar, under the direction of manager John Swanson, will feature tiki drinks made from authentic Polynesian recipes dating back 80-100 years.  For added flavor, the bar will use freshly squeezed juice, house made tonics, and their own five-spice syrup.  Nooe has also acquired a sugar cane extractor so they will be able to press their own sugar cane when it becomes available in the fall.

Explains Nooe, “These drinks are full of nutrients.  They are made from real sugar, not processed, so they are clean and nutritious.”

From his first restaurant in downtown Jackson to embracing the eclectic vibe that surrounds his new eatery, it appears Nooe has come full circle.

“I am really glad to be back in Jackson, specifically Fondren,” he says.  “The Fondren community is really supportive and genuinely wants to see businesses succeed.  This has really grown to become a go-to area that offers a lot of options.  With Swanson running the bar and [kitchen manager] Stephen Jackson running the kitchen, I really have a great team.”