Dear Food Diary:
Yuji Ramen took the spot at Smorgasburg Whole Foods Bowery last week. The Brooklyn based Ramen Lab has been a regular at Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea, serving up his experimental Mazemen (ramen sans broth) with local and sustainable ingredients.
Until May 12th, Yuji gets a chance to show off his signature mazemen creations lunch/dinner/takeout. At night, he’s full on play mode, torching ingredients and re-shaping ramen dough for his unique 5 course Omakase Tastings ($40). 2 seatings of 6 seats at a time, all tickets sold out in 2 days.
We were there last Wednesday, their second night. Sitting by the counter, everyone had a front seat view of the action. Yuji and Luke interacted with the 6 of us and eloquently described every component in our bowl.
Because the menu was vague, every course was a surprise.
5 course ramen omakase tasting
1. SALMON House cured salmon, camembert cheese with heavy cream, lemon oil, salmon skin
The ramen had fantastic texture. Chewy and bouncy. The bright lemon oil was perfect with the creamy cheese and tender salmon. Sweet umami and that awesomely crunchy salmon skin. With the seaweed strips on top, it sorta had a faint resemblance to a Philadelphia roll, very faint, as this was pretty amazing. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, lucky for you, this is one of the dishes served daily unfortunately without the salmon skin
2. SQUID Spicy squid ragu with ramen broth, homemade ramen dough shell, english muffin breadcrumbs with nori, ground squid
This had a familiar flavor, yet it was totally fusion. The sesame oil was a surprise with the tomato base. The ramen dough made it a great version of orecchiette. Thicker than the usual, it also had that nice chewy al dente texture. The nori in the breadcrumbs added that nice salty crunch.
3. UNI Homemade ramen dough miso ravioli, shiso leaf, blood orange
Almost too pretty to eat. Umami filled pockets of ramen dough topped with more uni and a miso citrus sauce. There’s a sweetness from the blood orange and that deep luscious creamy sweetness from the uni. A splash of the ocean with a trip to the orchard. A bite of unexpected flavor combinations that took my tastebuds by surprise. A bit on the sweet side, but I liked it, in a very “I’m not sure what to make of this but it’s interesting” way.
4. OYSTERS Ramen broth gelatin, ponzu dashi gelee, oyster juice, cucumber, celery, torched bacon
This was a pretty neat step by step course. The cold gelatin and gelee melted as it came into contact with the hot noodles. And voila! there was broth in my ramen again. Luke warm, the flavors smokey bacon flavors were good with the ultra bouncy noodles, but a prominent acidity overpowered the dish for me. I loved the idea and bacon of course, but flavor wise, it was my least favorite.
5. MUSSEL Torched mussel shell, homemade lamb, pork and beef broth
Getting the crazy idea from a coffee shop Yuji visited, he torched the mussel shells as they did coffee beans. The smokey flavors were then trapped in a French press with his broth.
Unlike the regular saltier and heavier ramen, this was nice and clean. Like a consommé, Yuji aimed to make a simple ramen that he could enjoy at home. The spring onions here did wonders. Pops of big flavor in tiny little pieces, swimming in that smokey “surf and turf’ broth. It warmed my tummy in a perfect ending.
Overall, it was unique and fun. Unexpected ways that redefined what I thought ramen is like. I thought I would be stuffed after a ramen tasting, but the portions were just right for me.StalkerBoy however, left a little hungry, so we stopped by Pomme Frites for a snack. You might need a little something else to feel full.
I can’t wait to stop by for that Salmon Mazemen and the Eggs with Bacon Mazemen.
P.S. Chubby’s Rating:
Whole Foods Market Bowery
95 East Houston St.