Friday, July 12, 2013

The 7 Course Omakase at Yuji Ramen - Whole Foods ! Bowery !

In a little sleeve of a kitchen on the second floor of the Whole Foods Bowery is Yuji Ramen's pop-up.  From a Brooklyn popup over a year ago, Yuji has recently exploded with recognition on the New York ramen scene for his mazemen-style ramen (brothless).

Yuji's creativity and mastery with the noodle is something I've been dying to taste, though their limited seating for omakase (6-8 seats) have been in serious hot demand - scooped within minutes of release.    But I had a lot to celebrate this weekend ! Our nation's independence ! Traci's wedding ! Greeshma visit ! And Yuji omakase !  Yay !

Sweaty from our warm walk from the subway, the boy and I cooled down quickly with the initial snack, a boat of pickled cabbage, cauliflower and cucumbers.  Lightly brined, I could eat salads like this all summer.

Then we watched for our first course!  All seats face the kitchen, where eaters get to witness their plates being beautifully created, and I secretly lusted for these giant chopsticks.

The seven course tasting menu focused solely on seafood.  On the day we visited, the scallop and oyster were substituted with clam and fluke.

The first course featured salmon, cream cheese, and lemon zest. A playful nod to Jewish flavors, but cream cheese and noodles?  With seafood?  It's crazy.  Yuji is crazy.  And it's good - the cheese enveloped the chewy noodles wonderfully adding such luscious creaminess, and the salmon was quite fresh.  

Squid was showcased in two ways: the squid ink pasta and squid ragu.  Sweet tomato, crunchy crumb and chewy shells - a lovely balance of flavor and textures.

The softshell dish was one of my favorites.  Softshell crab pulverized completely until it becomes a beautiful silky emulsion coating each strand of noodle.  Fried softshell crab bits are sprinkled across the top to add crunch.  Completely dreamy.

Fluke sashimi in a fava bean broth was unbelievably earthy and refreshing.  Yuji described how the kitchen strives to use every ingredient as much as possible, and according to Yuji, any kind of bean shell can make fantastic broth.  Amazing! 

Yuji's creativity also translates to playfulness, having eaters interact with their food.  The next course incorporated their cold collagen-filled broth, made from the bones from the butcher department downstairs,

into a bowl of piping hot noodles.

The collision of the two melts the cold broth, creating a perfect room temperature bowl of noodles with delightfully sweet clams.

Monkfish was pureed and bundled into two gorgeous pockets of ravioli.

We were instructed to eat it in one bite, and what an explosive bite it was, such unctiousness unfolding on the palate - sweet, creamy, earthy, with a tinge of wasabi to break the astounding richness.

And finally, for the last course, Yuji described how we were going to create our own ramen broth, using the hand-roasted mussel shells to add smokiness to the dish.

Toasted mussel shells, brittle under the flame, are placed into a French press, and after 5 minutes, eaters are instructed to crush the shells and pour the amber liquid over the noodles.

The house shoyu broth, lightly infused with smoke, was absolutely delicious - remarkably less salty than typical ramen broths (e.g., Ippudo), flavorful with notes of soy.  It was a great way to end such a fun tasting experience, popping plump pieces of mussel into our cheery mouths.

Yuji's first brick and mortar location in Williamsburg is still in the works, off the Lorimer station, with expected opening in the fall. When speaking to him about it, you can tell he's impatient for it to open, and I am too !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: So fun!  So inventive!  If you can't grab an omakase ticket, definitely stop by anyway as they have a regular menu also - I watched the bacon and poached egg mazemen created a half dozen times during our meal, and I yearn for that yolk to be wrapped around their awesome noodles.

Yuji Ramen
2nd Floor of Whole Foods Bowery
95 E Houston
New York, NY
Yuji Ramen on Urbanspoon

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