New (to me) kind of ramen in my old neighborhood

During the four years I lived in Williamsburg and even the year before that when I was nearby in Greenpoint, I was always aware of the small, tucked away Japanese restaurant known as Okonomi by day and YUJI Ramen by night, but I never went. It was supposed to be great, everyone told me. Tiny, with only a few seats. No reservations. Great Japanese breakfasts till 3, then a new name and awesome ramen after 6. It was even on an episode of Master of None last year which is pretty much a stamp of approval from cool people in the food world.

But every time I walked by there was a crowd outside, people reading books or scrolling through their phones, all killing time till their tables were ready. So I kept putting it off, pretty much for four straight years, until my very last week in the neighborhood. On a random night in the middle of the week, alone as I made my way back to my mostly packed up apartment after a day of work and errands in the city, I thought on a whim, to see if there might be a spot for one.

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It didn’t look like any ramen I’d ever had but it immediately became one of my favorites.

And whaddaya know? There was. There were two actually, right at the bar, but almost immediately after I walked in, someone came in after me and took the other one, and not long after him several others popped in to be added to the waitlist. I hadn’t even ordered yet when I heard someone quoted 40 minutes for a table.

The menu was brief, which I, as someone who suffers from chronic menu indecision, appreciated. Pretty much just a couple of appetizers, a selection of ramen and a selection of mazemen, or ramen without broth.

Now, I love ramen, especially when the weather’s cold, or grey, wet and dreary like it has been for the past week here in New York. But the night I stopped by Yuji, a few days before Labor Day weekend, it was still steamy and hot outside and the idea of a brothless ramen sounded pretty perfect.

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The last couple of bites of a really delicious bowl of mazemen.

The bacon and egg mazemen I ordered was a beautiful bowl of yellow, ribbon-like noodles, thick-cut hunks of bacon, onsen tamago (pretty much a Japanese poached egg), mustard greens and bonito flakes (super thin dried, cured fish shavings). Before stepping away to let me fully geek out over my meal, the server had recommended that I stir everything up before digging in. I went for the egg first, poking it with a chopstick and letting the orangey-yellow yolk ooze out, seeping into the little spaces between noodles and bacon, sliding around the greens and bonito flakes that seemed to wiggle and shimmy in the heat rising from the bowl.

In the absence of broth, the yolk kept everything from being too dry and gave the noodles a silky, almost custardy consistency. The greens, meanwhile, added a green, peppery bite and the bacon, as it always does, a rich, fatty flavor. I wanted to savor every delicious bite and never reach the bottom of the bowl, but with no one to distract me and several people waiting for the very spot I sat in, I also couldn’t help slurping down every little bit of that mazemen in what felt like entirely not enough time.

My only regret at this point is letting all those years go by without trying this whole other type of ramen or without wolfing down a few more bowls of the particular bacon and egg version I had that night. I might live in a new Brooklyn hood these days, but I can tell you right now I’ll be back for those eggy, delicious noodles.

(Check out a little clip of the mazemen swirling action on my Instagram!)

When carbs collide

I’m the worst sometimes. I really am.

I talk all this big talk about changing my neglectful blogger ways, I put up a couple of posts, and then… I go off the grid.

So, uhm, sorry about that, if you care. It’s just that I’ve been kinda busy recently, not with any one thing in particular,  but just the usual business of living: working, running, forgetting, laughing, coping, traveling, turning 30 (!!!), rinsing and repeating.

But rest assured, mixed throughout I’ve had some great food. Some healthy, some not, some bizarre, some more normal, and then hybrids like this guy: the ramenritto from the somewhat random West Village cafe, Press Tea.

The ramenritto: a burrito stuffed with ramen.

The ramenritto: a burrito stuffed with ramen.

Ramen burgers (a burger sandwiched between ramen instead of buns) have been have been having a moment in New York recently, but the ramenritto is, as the name might suggest, a burrito stuffed with ramen. Along with a ton of noodles, each ramenritto is stuffed with saucy, flavorful veggies including corn, onions and greens, and a meat, in my case pork.

I’ve been trying to watch my carb intake recently (you know, now that I am a woman of a certain age) so this is definitely not something I can say I’ll be eating frequently but for the novelty that it is, I rather enjoyed it. The whole thing had a sort of mushy consistency to it, but if that’s not a problem for you, the ramenritto could be a good time.

If nothing else, I could see myself getting stoned and absolutely loving the ramenritto. Now, what was that I was saying about turning 30?

 

Mission (Chinese Food) Accomplished

Man oh man do I love the satisfaction that comes with crossing off things on my to-do lists. Even better still when that satisfying feeling of completion comes along with the happy, stuffed high of a great, big delicious meal.

Such was the case earlier this week when a friend and I finally, after talking about it over and over and meaning to go for the past year or so, went to Mission Chinese Food, the tiny, much-raved about Americanized Chinese food joint made famous in San Fran and now also located in the Lower East Side.

Dinner service starts at 5:30pm and hungry folks line up outside before the door’s even unlocked and neon sign turned on just to claim one of the few spots in the no-reservations restaurant. Right there in that line, was us, ready to scarf down our hipster Chinese grub version of an early bird special. Even though I hate early dinners, especially when the sun’s still out, I’d gladly do it again because the food totally, if you ask me, lived up to the hype.

Chili margarita

Chili margarita

To celebrate our success at A.) getting our acts together and finally making it to the restaurant and B.) actually getting seated right away, we ordered ourselves some drinks. The chili margaritas, with their orangey pink color, citrusy bite and toasted chili kick were the perfect way to start things off.

Mapo ramen

Mapo ramen

Food at Mission Chinese comes out as the kitchen finishes it and for us, first out was the mapo ramen, a generous bowl of fatty pork broth, seaweed, coddledegg, mapo tofu and ramen noodles. Like many of the dishes here, this one wasn’t shy about being packed with bright bold flavors and a fiery kick that had me breaking out in full on nose sweats. (You know, when the bridge of your nose beads up with spicy food induced sweat. Not exactly my best look.)

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Cause we’ve all been there before

 

Go on and admit it, this is funny. And it's funny cause you've been there before.

Maybe you’re a broke college student, or maybe you’re a broke graduate, or maybe you’re neither but you’re still not the filthy rich millionaire you always thought you’d be by now, but whoever you are, chances are you’ve at some point or another found yourself face to face with one of these, a sodium-laden package of ramen noodles.  If you haven’t… well then lucky you. For the rest of us, Urban Outfitters has this hilarious ramen to make us feel just that much more embarrassed and ashamed for stooping so low.

When the going gets cold, the cold get soup

Hate the cold? Quit your bitching and get some soup.

Twice last week, I woke up to a city blanketed in fresh snow. On Monday, I walked to work, wrapped up to my ears in a thick scarf, while my fingers, though gloved and burrowed in my pocket, went numb.  At 8:30am, the thermometer struggled to creep up into the double digits.

Today, the snow was back, swirling in pretty white gusts outside my window, big fat snowflakes fluttering by dizzyingly.

Needless to say, winter is in full force in New York, and while some people absolutely hate it and are already counting down the days to spring, I for one, am enjoying it.  And why would I not, when there’s so much good soup to be had! Continue reading