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New Yorkers have plenty of ramen options. There’s longtime student favorite Rai Rai Ken, the enormously popular Ippudo and new locavore standout Chuko, along with the cult bowls at David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar. But now a Williamsburg ramen joint is bringing a completely new style to the city—mazemen, a dry “mixed” version served without broth that’s been hot in Tokyo for a few years now.
Mazemen comes to Gotham, and perhaps the U.S., via Yuji Ramen, a new pop-up eatery in the back of Kinfolk Studios. The spot is run by Yuji Haraguchi, a seafood salesman, who has supplied pristine specimens to the city’s top eateries (Per Se, Marea) through True World Food for years.
The Japanese native originally thought about opening his own ramen soup place, but then he noticed something different about the slurping habits in America. “In Japan, you finish ramen in five minutes or less, but Americans spend about 20 minutes eating a bowl,” says Haraguchi. “So a lot of U.S. ramen restaurants use a special type of noodle that doesn’t get soggy because it doesn’t absorb any broth. Rather, it becomes rubbery.”
To avoid the soggy or rubbery fate of American ramen, Haraguchi decided to focus on combining the dry-style ramen he encountered in Tokyo with his sources for primo local ingredients. Working his food-world connections, he found support at Roberta’s, where co-owner Carlo Mirarchi let him test out his creations in the kitchen after-hours, and another partner, Brandon Hoy, hooked him up with the crew at café-bar Kinfolk Studios, which was looking for pop-up projects.
In late January, Haraguchi started dishing out bowls in the back of the joint Thursdays through Saturdays, while Frej, a modernist Scandinavian concept, set up Mondays through Wednesdays. The seasonal menu changes often, but the base is always curly ramen noodles, crafted by a friend in Los Angeles, tossed with a homemade concentrated sauce called tare and oil. Recently, he crowned one dish with uni, miso, nori and shiso, and another with spicy tuna, chili flakes and pickled cucumber.
“I really believe [that in] New York, you have to make absolutely delicious food that is also going to sell in Tokyo,” says Haraguchi. “That’s [how] I set the standard.”
90 Wythe Ave at North 11th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (646-262-1358)