Category Archives: Japanese

Ramen Science v2

I live for this. #eastriver #sunset #reflection #brooklyn

When Yuji Ramen released more tickets for June dates, I snatched a couple of reservations up, unintentionally booking them for our anniversary. Yuji and his team had been in Japan for the month of May, eating and getting inspired for their restaurant set to open this year (I hope!).

Some of the courses we had were similar but there were a few changes that I really loved.

House smoked salmon with camembert cheese mazemen
The first two courses were the same as before. However I think we got a little more Camembert in our salmon course. I prefer it with less but it was still delicious.

Squid ink pasta with squid ragu
The squid course is still one of my favorites. I love that the pasta is orechiette, shaped like little scoops to hold sauce in.

English pea palate cleanser
As a palate cleanser, we had a refreshing English pea ramen. The broth was made from kombu and pea shells, with some yuzu oil and a sweet pea flower on top.

Ankimo agnolotti
The next course was ankimo agnolotti, made with soba (buckwheat flour) instead, which is why it is brown and dotty. Topped with fresh wasabi, nasturtium, and ponzu, this was the crowd favorite. The pureed ankimo was sweet and creamy, which was a really nice contrast to the toothsome and slightly gritty texture of the soba. We only got two pieces each but this I could’ve definitely eaten ALL DAY.

Cherrystone clams
The clam course was very similar to the mussel course of the last tasting we did, except a little less vinegar-y and the cucumber was pureed instead of diced. He used cherrystone clams from Connecticut, which are denser and larger than the Manila clams I’ve been eating lately. Again this came with hot noodles to mix into, turning the solid broth to liquid.

Yuji torching the mussel shells

Yuji and Tara preparing our last course

Mussel Ramen
The last dish was the much-Instagrammed mussel course, where he pours the broth into a French press filled with torched mussel shells and bonito. I loved the broth much more this time, as it was made with mainly pork and chicken bones, culled from the Whole Foods meat department. Chicken just adds a little more depth to broth and it’s why the Chicken Paitan Ramen at Totto is my favorite in the city.

If you haven’t done this already, I strongly encourage you to at least try a weekday dinner. The weekend tastings have two more courses and are $65. They are releasing more tickets early next month for their August seatings, and then they will be done with their run at Whole Foods. Stay tuned to Facebook or Kitchit for more information!

And if you can’t wait or don’t want to spend the $40 or can’t get a reservation, they offer dine in and take out options at the Whole Foods Bowery location. Or you can find them at Smorgasburg on the weekends.

After dinner we headed into Williamsburg aka Hell on Earth (no seriously, have you seen Bedford Ave on a Saturday night? It’s like Mardi Gras) to watch Before Midnight. I spied our old Popdust intern Grace at the Sketchbook Project truck, ate cereal milk soft serve, and saw a beautiful sunset at a hidden park by the East River. Great way to end the day.

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Droppin ramen science

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.

Omakase menu

The Salmon Course
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.

The Squid Course
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.

The Uni Course
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.

The Oyster Course
Cold ramen and ponzu geleés with poached oyster, cucumber, and celery hearts. And BACON.

The Oyster Course
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.

The Mussel Course
For the last course, Yuji torched some mussel shells and placed them in individual French presses with bonito and ramen broth.

The Mussel Course
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.

Ass backwards

Sunday started off normally enough, with brunch at Tom’s. Ryan and I both ordered the corned beef hash breakfast, mine with grits and his with homefries. And also a side of bacon.

Tom's

Then we headed into the city for our hot stone massages, which I booked via Lifebooker at East Beauty Day Spa. $29 for an hour massage + hot stones. It’s in the middle of Chinatown right off Canal St, and it shares an entrance with Fay Da Bakery’s back of house operations, but dammit we walked out of there all wiggly jiggly and floating on clouds. They’re also selling their own vouchers for the same treatment for $35 now, so get on it. I guess you can drop my name. Anyway long story short, best massage I’ve had in a really long time.

We originally wanted to go to Curry Ya, but with the heat/humidity I wasn’t feeling curried fried things. So we decided to go with Sobaya for something cooler. They weren’t open yet at 4pm so we went to Chikalicious first. This was my third time but I haven’t been here in about six years or so. Still so delicious, although three of the items on the menu have been on there for the past eight years.

Amuse at Chikalicious
The amuse, yogurt with blueberries and yellow watermelon sorbet. This was so delicious – really great mixture of flavors and textures. Creamy, icy, sweet, tart. Super refreshing.

Dessert first at Chikalicious
Ryan got the Fromage Blanc cheesecake island thing with sherry and I ordered the Darjeeling Panna Cotta with plum sorbet and gelees. It came with Moscato d’Asti. I tried to make this for him back in November for his birthday, with a tangerine granita instead. Needless to say, mine was not as light or silky as this, even after throwing out the first batch. Need to tweak the recipe, obviously.

Petits Fours at Chikalicious

Petits fours for the end – coconut marshmallows, chocolate cookies, and pecan sandies. I think I’ve unleashed a monster because I can see us making many return trips here. Fine by me, as long as we always do dessert first. It’s a timing thing.

Sobaya
Soba at Sobaya. Ryan was craving uni and so ordered the Uni & Grated Mountain Yam soba. I ordered Ikura & Grated Daikon. The soba here is not as good as Sobakoh’s – some of it was stuck together and it was not as fresh-tasting. Also, a lot of them were broken! Gah. Grated mountain yam (tororo) has a texture not unlike snot, which is off-putting. It’s a weird dish to eat, and I much prefer the Uni Ikura Soba at Sobakoh.

Dinner was a mixture of antipasto and cold cuts from Whole Foods (prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, gigante beans, olives, marinated mushrooms) as well as a wedge of morbier and some Innis & Gunn and Alba Scot’s Pine Ale. True Blood & The Newsroom are on tonight. Great way to end this day of languid hedonism. Ha.

I fucking love New York

SKEET SKEET SKEET

Saturday turned out to be the stupidest day ever. But all those fails don’t matter when you have the East Village a couple of train rides away. Ryan wanted tako wasa and I couldn’t think of any places in Brooklyn that served it, so we went to Sobakoh, which serves fresh housemade soba hot or cold with different toppings/sauces/broths. I’d been wanting to take him for a long time:

Uni Ikura Soba at Sobakoh

This is the cold Uni Ikura Soba, which is one of my favorite things ever. Thinking of doing a “Top 5 Dishes” type post in the future and this would definitely be on it. Ryan got the Softshell Crab Tempura Soba served hot. The crab came on the side and the noodles came in a broth that tasted like tempura dipping sauce, which is essentially dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. Both were excellent in completely different ways. I loved the freshness and creaminess of mine, and also the crunchy-saltiness of the tempura. I love when you dip it into the sauce/broth and it gets soft, then you have to eat it right before it turns soggy. SO GOOD.

They don’t have tako wasa there so we headed to Decibel where they serve the biggest bowl of it that I’ve seen yet. About half a cup for $5! So we got some sake to drink – Kaori Ginjo & Rihaku Nigori. I have been coming to Decibel since I first moved here and it is still as crowded and crazy as ever. I hope that never changes.

Sundae time

After Decibel we headed to Chikalicious Puddin for dessert, which was pretty packed. They serve a huge variety of things now…I remember when it was just soft serve, chocolate chip cookies, and the three puddins – Adult Chocolate, Brioche, and Creme Brulee. They have green tea shaved ice with adzuki beans now, a ton of cupcakes, NY Cheesecake, eclairs… We got some chocolate chip cookies and a hot fudge sundae to eat on the way home. It has crunchy bits and nuts in it, and we finished it by the time we got down to Dallas BBQ. That’s about 5 blocks.

The cookies are my favorite because even though they use a lot of chocolate chips, they are semi sweet. And the cookies are chewy and thin and pretty greasy, IE: perfect. Puddin is the outpost of Chikalicious Dessert Bar across the street, which is seriously a three-course dessert spot. You get an amuse, then the main dessert, then a plate of petit fours. I haven’t been there in years so a return visit is due. They have wine pairings as well, or you can have coffee/tea.

It is 8:30am and Ryan is still sleeping. I am going to eat a cookie.