Ichiran Ramen

flavor concentration booth for one
flavor concentration booth for one

Remember the world in the movie Her, where people walked around blissfully by themselves in their high-waisted pants talking to their operating systems? Had they been born centuries earlier, perhaps they would have frequented Ichiran Ramen, the new restaurant in Bushwick famous for its solitary ramen experience. Customers sit in solo “flavor concentration” booths designed to totally automate the whole ramen ordering and eating experience so that human interaction is unnecessary. There’s an order form that lets you check off how you want your broth and noodles, and all you have to do is slide it across the table, where a faceless server will pick it up for processing. If you have any questions about how different options will affect your ramen flavors, there are detailed flyers hanging in your booth that will explain all of that. And if you want some extra water, all you have to do is press a button and show a card that writes out what you want.Read More

Favorite Foods of 2014

2014 was a good year for food. It was a year that involved an unprecedented amount of travel, due to the record number of friends getting married this year, and many of their ceremonies took place internationally. As a result, this created many opportunities for interesting meals–breakfast sushi at Tsukiji market or unripe strawberries in Copenhagen are not experiences that can be easily had back at home.

While the international meals were memorable, the majority of my favorite meals took place in New York, and Kansas City and New Orleans weren’t too shabby, either. Honestly, with so many chefs training at the same restaurants and then setting shop elsewhere, you can find really good cooking anywhere. But that also means that many of the meals and food trends seem all too similar. It’s amazing how many small plates, Brooklyn-esque farm-to-table restaurants exist in the world.

I personally preferred those meals that still retained their regional traits to the ambiguous New World Global cuisine that proliferated everywhere else. So my favorite food moments in 2014 crosses many borders and price points, a reflection of the glamorous and janky meals that were unique to the cities I ate them in. In no particular order, here is a round up of my favorite foods in 2014.

1. the z-man sandwich from oklahoma joe’s in kansas city

oklahoma joe's - the z-man sandwich

2. the melt-in-your-mouth sea eel from nakamura in tokyo

nakamura - 18 sea eel

3. the epic peking duck dinner at decoy in new york

peking duck

4. the ricotta gnocchi from the eddy in new york

ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, squash, rosemary and hazelnuts

5. the husk meringue with corn mousse dessert from cosme in new york

husk meringue and corn mousse

6. the duck carnitas from cosme in new york

duck carnitas with white onions, radish and salsa verde

7. the duck fat rice with kale and chinese sausage from tuome in new york

rice with kale, chinese sausage and duck fat

8. the beef tartare from manfreds in copenhagen

beef tartare with watercress

9. the breakfast sushi from tsukiji market in tokyo

image

10. the omakase at sushi nakazawa in new york

nakazawa hamming it up with shrimp

11. the whitefish donburi bowl from ivan ramen slurp shop in new york

ivan ramen slurp shop - smoked whitefish donburi

12. the kale and wild mushroom risotto from gato in new york

kale and wild mushroom paella with crispy artichokes and egg

13. the lobster ravioli from cherche midi in new york

homemade lobster ravioli

14. the #1 bagel sandwich from black seed bagels in new york

black seed - sandwich 1

15. the butcher’s steak at st. anselm in new york (my pictures were so crappy and not post-worthy, but i would highly recommend that you brave the no reservation policy and make the trek out to brooklyn for this amazing piece of meat)

Day 2 in Tokyo: Omakase at Sushi Nakamura

Our second day in Tokyo was a lazy one. The early morning sushi wake-up call and the jet lag were wearing on us a little. We decided to do as few planned activities as possible–a visit to the Meiji Temple, and then an open itinerary for the rest of the day.

After a peaceful walk through the Meiji Temple, in which we witnessed a traditional wedding ceremony take place, we made our way to Shibuya to check out potential sightings of crazy Harajuku street fashions (of which there were none), as well as to eat gyoza at this highly popular place Harajuku Gyozaro. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed for renovations, so we decided to eat at a nearby Southeast Asian restaurant called Chao Bamboo. Judging by the line of locals out the door, we figured that the food must be pretty good. Eating pho and papaya salad in Japan might sound a little weird, but our meal was very tasty, and that Indonesian fried rice was outstanding.

chao bamboo food stall
chao bamboo food stall
chao bamboo - pho
spicy pho noodles
chao bamboo - papaya salad
blue papaya salad
this mutton tasted like curried lamb
fried mutton with cumin and fennel (tasted like curried lamb)
indonesian fried rice was so good, we almost ordered another
indonesian fried rice was so good, we almost ordered another

After more window shopping, we went back to our hotel to freshen up and met up with some friends for pre-dinner cocktails at the historic Hotel Okura. It was pretty clear that this hotel was from another time, probably in the 1950s where well-dressed Japanese people would come here for cigars and a classy cocktail or two. I ordered a moscow mule, which was well mixed and very refreshing.

hotel okura lobby
hotel okura lobby
a well-stocked bar
a well-stocked bar
moscow mule with a side of japanese crackers
moscow mule with a side of japanese crackers

But really we were biding time until the real highlight of the evening, an omakase at Sushi Nakamura, a Michelin star establishment in Roppongi. As soon as 9 pm arrived, we took a taxi over to the restaurant, which was housed behind a set of non-descript wooden sliding doors. Once inside, we were seated around a small sushi bar managed by a very zen-like chef whose shaved head and simple robe enhanced the monastic vibe that he gave off.

Sometimes omakase dinners aren’t the most relaxing experiences, in which the sushi chefs call you out if you aren’t consuming the dish properly, and they sort of point-blank ask you if you liked each piece. This chef, on the other hand, was low key and non-confrontational, which I liked. He gave you something, you’d eat it, probably love it, and then move on. The only exchange of words needed is if you want extra pieces of the courses you especially enjoyed, which is an option at the end of the omakase, and something you’ll likely take him up on. The eel here is amazing, it’s nothing like the tough, salty, boney strands that are slapped on rice beds in your run-of-the-mill sushi place. You can’t taste any bones here, the meat dissolves in your mouth like foam, which is pretty unreal and fantastic. The toro of course was excellent, as was the Santa Barbara uni and the egg custard, which was very similar to the Jiro kind. Here are some pictures of each course in the omakase.

nakamura - 1 menu
the omakase menu – not sure what it says…
nakamura - 2 clam soup
clam soup
nakamura - 3 clams from the soup
clams used in the soup
nakamura - 4 octopus
octopus
nakamura - 5 abalone
abalone
nakamura - 6 seaweed salad
seaweed
nakamura - 7 pike and radish
a very oily fish (i think pike mackerel) and radish
nakamura - 8 the requisite sake
the requisite sake bottle
nakamura - 9 white fish
some sort of white fish
nakamura - 10 squid
squid
nakamura - 11 toro
toro
nakamura - 12 shrimp
shrimp
nakamura - 13 uni
santa barbara uni
nakamura - 14 fatty toro
fattier toro
nakamura - 15 roe and rice
roe and rice
nakamura - 16 seared toro
seared toro (delicious)
nakamura - 17 miso soup with meatballs
miso soup with meatballs
nakamura - 18 sea eel
this eel was like a dream
nakamura - 19 uni
uni roll, this time from japanese waters
nakamura - 20 tamago
egg custard

Rather than trying to follow up this grand finale with another epic meal and risk disappointment if it didn’t measure up, our last supper was a simple bowl of ramen noodles at Gogyo. Japan is obviously the ramen epicenter of the universe with endless varieties to choose from, many of which we’ve never had, including the burnt miso ramen, which Gogyo is known for.

burnt miso ramen
burnt miso ramen
gyoza
gyoza
pork over rice
pork over rice

The burnt miso gets its name from the charred bits of lard residue that are poured into a miso flavored broth, resulting in a thick and savory tar pit that is more sauce than soup. There’s no way you can actually slurp the broth, since it’s probably 100% fat and extremely dense. It’s meant to just coat the noodles like a tsukemen or mazemen, which was disappointing because the broth is one of my favorite parts of ramen. But I got over it, because there were many more epic meals to look forward to on the rest of the trip…onwards to Hakone


Sushi Nakamura
7-17-16 Roppongi, Minato-ku,
Tokyo, 106-0032, Japan
03-3746-0856

Chao Bamboo
6-7-12 Jingumae, Shibuya
Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
03-5466-4887

Gogyo
1-4-36 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku
Tokyo, 106-0031, Japan
03-5775-5566