Category Archives: Tasting menu

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.

New York I love you…

This past Friday was my 10-year anniversary in New York. Most people say that you’re officially a New Yorker when you hit that point. I’m sure native New Yorkers have never said that.

When I first moved here, it was 2003, the day after Valentine’s Day. All I knew about New York then was Twilo, the Limelight (pre-shopping center, post Party Monster), Times Square, Union Square, and Yakitori Taisho. I ate at Republic and Chat n Chew a lot. I lived on 9th Avenue right across from B & H, and above the Cheyenne Diner (RIP). It was a weird middle-neighborhood, in between Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea. A few blocks south and I had boutiques and XXX DVD stores. A few blocks north, I had Manganaro’s and a few vegetable markets. And crackheads.

After that first year I moved into Brooklyn and I haven’t looked back since. To celebrate V Day, 10 years, and us, Ryan and I had dinner at Aska on Sunday night. The deal here is 6 courses for $65, with an additional $40 for the wine pairing. I say wine pairing loosely, because though we did not get it (I was getting sick, and usually we end up wasted after finishing all that booze), we watched as surrounding tables got theirs. Sake, beer, and mini versions of cocktails were poured, as well as wine. Next time – it’s a must. I was trying to stave off my sick with a hot toddy. This is what we ate:

Snacks at Aska

1. Amuse: Molasses shortbread, smoked cheese, cured & grated fish roe
2. Snacks: fried shrimp heads with raw shrimp tails; pig blood chips topped with some sort of jam
3. Poached oysters, cucumber, rape seed
4. Beets, roasted onions, vegetable broth
5. Pig’s trotter with sunchokes, apple
6. Monkfish, monkfish liver, salsify; bay leaf broth
7. Raw scallop with scallop broth
8. Pork two ways, caramelized cream, mustard, rutabaga
9. Palate cleanser: Whey sorbet, lingonberries, oat chips
10. Cardamom ice cream, brown butter cream, hazelnuts

Everything was really excellent, my favorite course being the pork two ways. One piece was fatty and smoky, the other brined and almost like a corned beef. The caramelized cream is hard to describe, not as heavy as you’d think, and more like a creamy puree or pudding.

It’s a really nice dining experience because it’s a casual atmosphere, but the food and service are impeccable. Highly recommended.