Before opening Buxton Hall Barbecue with business partner and restaurateur Meherwan Irani last year, chef Elliott Moss hatched several pop-up restaurant concepts from within Irani’s Wall Street establishment, MG Road. Punk Wok gave Monday nights new flare, with Asian dishes making their way from his hands to the bar’s temporarily punked-out lounge area.
In addition to attracting an unexpected number of fans, the series — which ran during Buxton’s early development, from December 2013 through October 2014 — afforded the southern chef more creative license than he’d experienced during his former runs at The Admiral and Ben’s Tune-Up. With the return of Punk Wok this winter, he’ll pass that freedom along to his own employees at Buxton. The pop-up runs 6 p.m.-midnight Mondays, Feb. 1, 8, 22 and 29.
“I wanted to do it mainly for the kitchen,” Moss says. Sous chefs Sarah Cousler and Dan Silo, line cook Jimmy Lee, other members of Buxton’s back of house and potential special guests will take the reigns after he leads the first iteration. “It’s a way to give them something to do that’s not barbecue, you know? I have a lot of really talented folks that work with me in the kitchen, and Punk Wok is a way to give them an outlet to be creative.”
By design, the series will utilize the “tons of pork, pork bones and all this delicious, smoky pork broth” that the kitchen produces during normal operations. “We’ve been using the stock for our collard greens and a lot of our sides since we’ve been open, but we have so much of it, because there are times that we cook so many hogs,” the chef says. “You can only make so many collard greens.”
Moss’ team has been experimenting with new ramen recipes using the house-made broth, which may rile the cult-like following he amassed while serving the dish at Ben’s Tune-Up. “I’m excited to have some ramen in Asheville,” he says. “I think I was the first person that had ramen here with Ben’s, but I could be mistaken.”
Anarchy in the South Slope
But Punk Wok isn’t just an extra menu for customers to consider. “We’re doing it in our mezzanine, which we’re calling the Remingtin Room. You could be [at Buxton] three or four times and not even know that room is upstairs,” Moss says. “If there are tourists in town, they’d have no idea Punk Wok was even going on, so it’s kind of like a secret, locals-only kind of thing. [That’s] what I was envisioning.”
In keeping with tradition, upcoming Punk Wok will happen on Mondays. Since plenty of other eateries close that day, it encourages an industry vibe, which Moss hopes to maintain.
The original Punk Wok menu, Moss says, “was always this weird mashup of whatever we wanted to do,” including “all kinds of crazy spins on fried chicken sandwiches” inspired by his years working at Chick-fil-A. The chef also expects dumplings, raw meat, raw fish, specialty cocktails by bar manager Kyle Gray Beach and other adventurous dishes, such as Cousler’s take on Filipino lumpia (small fried spring rolls).
Pastry chef Ashley Capps will reinvent halo-halo sundaes. Moss explains it as a “shaved-ice dessert that you eat with a spoon … with weird jelly fruits and red beans,” but even he is unsure how Capps will serve the treat. “She’s been mysterious about it, but she always comes up with such amazing stuff,” he says.
“I think [the broad menu] is indicative of chefs having a very free range right now in American cuisine,” says Michael Files, brand director for Buxton, MG Road and Chai Pani. “There’s certain things in Asian food like ramen that caught on because it’s a peasant food, and it’s very warming and very comforting. I think that plays well with Elliott’s background, which is Southern food that’s very comforting and hearty.”
Buxton Hall Barbeque is at 32 Banks Ave. Punk Wok will take place in its upstairs Remington Room 6 p.m.-midnight Mondays, Feb. 1, 8, 22 and 29. Visit buxtonhall.com for more information.