Yuji Ramen: The Little Test Kitchen That Could

A Little Rant

Ramen, like sushi, is a Japanese dish that has nestled itself into America’s eating consciousness, though this isn’t always a positive thing. Ask a typical American college student what they think of ramen and you might get a groan or a chuckle and maybe a story about “that one week I couldn’t leave my dorm” or an anecdote about the dangers of a high sodium diet. Like several actors’ careers (I’m looking at you Adam Sandler), ramen appears to get by due to its ease of preparation, availability, and overall infamy–people are willing to overlook just how cheap and terrible for their life it might because it’s a familiar, reliable poison. However, I digress. Most of these grievances are reserved for the microwave and instant variants of ramen. Put simply, there is good, gourmet ramen out there, just not at most grocery stores. . . Whole Foods on the Bowery, however, is a game changer!

Revolutionary Ramen

Located in the form of a counter on the second floor of an ordinary-looking Whole Foods, Yuji Ramen is an extraordinary eatery that takes one’s assumptions about ramen and flambes them into sweet, delicious oblivion. Starting off as a Smorgasburg vendor then a Whole Foods-sponsored pop up shop, Yuji’s popularity has earned it a permanent placement upstairs and a large, loyal following. After eating countless bowl upon bowl of noodle-filled Nirvana, I have to say this positive reception is completely deserved.

Most people might doubt that a ramen-based restaurant could succeed in catering to different clients and tastes, but Yuji offers customers two radically different types of ramen.

The “Daily Shoyu” is your typical meat broth-based ramen but comes with the added twist of being different just about every day. Using fresh cuts of meat from the Whole Foods butcher, Yuji ensures a uniquely delicious experience every day of the week. From blue fish to tuna to mussels to pork to turkey, the shoyu is a favorite for carnivores and a delight on a cold winter day.

Daily Shoyu with Blue and Lamb

Daily Shoyu with Bluefish and Lamb

The second type of ramen is the “mazeman” a newer variant that is made without broth and cooked by an open flame. Using a profusion of savory oils, fresh ingredients that alternate between crunchy and gooey, and perfectly firm and textured noodles, Yuji’s mazeman is a refined kind of ramen that one might liken to an al-dente pasta dish. Instead of your standard pork or chicken, Yuji brings customers original and dazzling concoctions like Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg with Kale or Salmon and Cheese. Spicy Tuna and Uni Miso (Sea Urchin) also have their own mazeman on the menu. For vegetarians, there’s also a Miso Roasted Vegetable mazeman, though I admit I have never sampled it because of my love for the meat and seafood selections.

Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg Mazeman on the left, Uni Miso cooked in Sake on the right.

Smokey Bacon and Poached Egg Mazeman on the left, Uni Miso cooked in Sake on the right.

At roughly $9 a pop, Yuji’s prices are reasonable for an up and coming business, and certainly for the quality of the ramen you get. I typically find that one Shoyu leaves me stuffed. However, when it comes to the mazeman, I usually try to make room for two–they’re just THAT yummy. For $12 you can get the combo with cold barley tea and pickled vegetables on the side. Starting this year, Yuji is offering a small selection of desserts.  Additionally, every month, Yuji offers a full seven-course Omakase (Chef’s Choice) Dinner. I plan on sampling it and presenting my findings later this year.

If you like creamy things, meat or fish, or noodles of any kind, then I highly recommend you give Yuji a visit soon–you’ll probably run into me sometime!

Yuji Ramen

Address: 95 E. Houston Street, 2nd floor. 

Phone Number: 212-420-1320, extension. 281

Website: http://yujiramen.com

Open all week from 11 AM to 9:30 PM.

Artistic Rendering of Yuji's Mazeman Selection

Artistic Rendering of Yuji’s Mazeman Selection

The Five Reasons I LOVE Cold Fried Chicken

Now this is something that I’ve wanted to share with people for awhile. Let me tell you first that I totally love fried chicken and indulge in a plate of fresh fried goodness when I can. This post is NOT about hating on hot fried chicken. It is about one’s options when presented with leftover chicken and I am merely writing about some of the merits of enjoying it chilled rather than reheated or nuked.

1. You don’t have to worry about burning your mouth.
Now this one might be kind of obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sunk my teeth into some hot, delicious morsel only to horribly singe my taste buds and lose my appreciation for the rest of the meal. Dead taste buds remain numb when it comes to their function but still manage to feel pain and will stay sore for at least a couple of days. While the tongue is a fast regenerator, cold fried chicken allows you to take some of the danger out of your home dining experience.

Some things are best  served cold! Credit to Claudia and PJ Potgieser  http://www.dutchduowildlife.nl

Some things are best served cold!
Credit to Claudia and PJ Potgieser

2. You don’t have to go through the trouble of putting it into a microwave oven.
While many households do carry a way to heat their food, there are some that just don’t have microwaves for whatever reason. For the dorm-inhabiting college student, a microwave oven isn’t always a guarantee. Or, a microwave is available but its communal nature prevents the eater from satisfying their late-night munchies. Regardless, cold fried chicken eliminates the need for that extra step or appliance (assuming you have a refrigerator). Don’t get me started on why you shouldn’t use an oven. And you STILL won’t have to worry about burning your tongue OR your fingers!

It's not as bad as it sounds!

It’s not as bad as it sounds!

3. Cold chicken stays crunchy like Nature intended
Unlike revenge, fried chicken is a dish that can be served cold but still maintain its delicious integrity. Let’s face it, there’s no way to save everything when it comes to leftover fried chicken, but sacrificing temperature for texture and flavor isn’t a bad way to go. Even fresh fried chicken can disappoint when the skin peels off the meat too readily, and reheated chicken suffers the problem to an even greater extent, only it comes with the added flaw of being saggy and tasteless. Like a crisp autumn day or a persistent ex, cold fried chicken will cling to your every sense and refuse to let go!

4. It’s fast and easy to transport

Unless you have a KFC Go Cup! I mean if you have a KFC Go Cup on you right now, what are you doing here?

Unless you have a KFC Go Cup! I mean if you have a KFC Go Cup on you right now, WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

Whether you’re heading to the beach for a picnic or looking for something to throw into a cool salad before your day begins, cold fried chicken turns yesterday’s leftovers into a speedy and proactive answer to tomorrow’s schedule! Nobody in their right mind would reheat their chicken only to take it outside and expose it to the elements.

5. It’s like a metaphor. Don’t read this if you haven’t finished The Great Gatsby yet!

In Chapter 7 of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, antagonist Tom Buchanan and his wife Daisy reignite their flawed and largely dispassionate marriage over a plate of cold fried chicken. Now for some people this might not mean anything. Baz Luhrmann didn’t even see fit to keep it in the movie (just one of several blunders in his career). However, for the discerning student of literature, this dish means so much more. As a form of comfort food traditionally associated with the American South, the cold fried chicken represents the triumph of money over freedom. It’s a metaphor for the sheer power of old money and possibly corruption itself. Daisy and Tom can afford more expensive food, but they choose to eat cheaper fare on their own terms, and in the end, they don’t even touch it.

It's also likely that Carey Mulligan isn't even allowed to think about fried chicken!

It’s also likely that Carey Mulligan isn’t even allowed to think about fried chicken!

So the next time you’re chowing down on fried chicken and you’re worried that it won’t keep well, keep in mind what I’ve told you before you leave a pile of bones!