Yuji Haraguchi is doing awesome things with noodles. I first had his Uni Miso Ramen at Chuko and Yuji Ramen’s first collaboration together almost a whole year ago in Aprl. Since then, I have also been to his pop up at Kinfolk and have slowly been tracking his progress. When I heard he was doing a test kitchen/tasting menu, I was dubious.
David Chang’s horrific Momofuku Noodles are what really brought ramen into the mainstream’s eye, but I have been enjoying it in NYC since the days of Chikubu’s Friday shoyu special. Minca’s itis-inducing pork bath. David Chang’s noodles are served in warm dishwater and have no depth. So to me any newcomer is met with a great deal of skepticism.
I thought Yuji’s ramen was good, and I was curious about his new project. Starting at Smorgasburg, he moved into Kinfolk for a few months, and is now working towards his own shop in Williamsburg. The Test Kitchen at Whole Foods Bowery is crowdfunded through Kickstarter, and when they opened up new timeslots a couple of weeks ago, I jumped on it and booked a weeknight dinner. I should have booked them all.
House smoked salmon, creamed Camembert cheese, fried salmon skin, shiso, nori. Basically, lox and cream cheese in ramen form. Super delicious – this is available for dine in/take out as well, but without the salmon skin.
Squid ink orechiette, squid bolognese, tempura crumbs (?) and nori. The pasta is made in house with ramen dough, and its shape is chosen for its “bounciness.” I asked Yuji if he made all his noodles. He is working with Sun Noodles in NJ to develop custom noodles for himself, but for the Test Kitchen I believe they are all made by him.
Uni and white miso ravioli topped with purple shiso, more uni, tangelo. The ravioli is made in house and the uni is from Maine, which is brinier than its sweeter California counterpart. In the past I have preferred CA uni but in a dish like this, a less creamy version works.
Served with warm noodles, the geleés melt into a ramen broth when mixed together. The result is a briny, vinegar-based refresher. Yuji said this is vinegar-based style of ramen is common where he grew up, and is usually eaten after BBQ.
After about a minute we were instructed to press down, crushing the shells, and then to pour the broth into a bowl of noodles and mussels. The result was a smoky, buttery broth enhanced with beef and chicken fat (see that white glob at the bottom left – MEAT FAT!!), as well as oil leftover from deep frying scallops.
Hands down the most surprising meal I’ve had thus far – very little waste is produced, and he is constantly tweaking, improving, and testing. Throughout the meal he asked how we liked everything and made sure to explain each dish and his inspiration for them. I complimented him on his choice of dishware, and he mentioned that he spent about two months choosing each dish, thinking about what would go in it and where in the menu it would be presented. Everything was thoughtful and carefully executed. I highly recommend giving his new restaurant a visit when it opens (hopefully in June) by the Lorimer/Metropolitan stop in Williamsburg. He is still playing around with the concept, but there will be Japanese street food, a tasting menu, and of course noodles.
I’ve always said I prefer west coast seafood to east coast. In particular, the oysters, because they are sweet and creamy. But Yuji’s love for the variety and brininess of east coast seafood shows me that west is not always the best. Most of the time, but not all the time!
I’d also like to point out what an amazing thing the Brooklyn Flea is – Yuji, Liddabit, Rick’s Picks, McClure’s Pickles, People’s Pops, Whimsy & Spice… It has been a great way for small businesses to flourish and get their names out there.
Coming up soon, field trip to Mitsuwa + Santouka face stuffing.