Since Smorgasburg partnered with Whole Foods, market vendors have been encouraged to use the chain’s Bowery space to transition from stalls to full-time restaurants, like the stellar meat-smoking crew of Mighty Quinn’s. Starting tomorrow, and going through Sunday, May 12, it’s Yuji Haraguchi’s turn in the kitchen.
Haraguchi will be serving a five-course ramen omakase by reservation in the evening and a quicker a la carte list during the day. Portions won’t be as big as at other restaurants, but neither will the prices — the bacon-and-eggs ramen is $9, as is every other bowl on the lunch menu. “Ramen is like a snack food,” Haraguchi says, “it should be cheap and delicious, and it shouldn’t make you feel gross.”
Though Haraguchi is best known for his mazemen, or brothless ramen, he’ll be making a broth each day with whichever bones are available from the store’s butcher counter for the shoyu ramen ($9) and for various dip styles at dinner. The pale noodles, “a little closer to udon,” says Haraguchi, will be shipped in from the city’s favorite ramenya supplier, New Jersey’s Sun Noodle. But for some of his more nontraditional dishes, like the ramen “ravioli,” Haraguchi will be rolling and cutting his own dough in house. As usual, his menu will lean toward seafood.
Haraguchi was born in Utsunomiya — north of Tokyo, in a landlocked prefecture — but came to the U.S. to work as a seafood salesman. Growing up in Japan, Haraguchi didn’t eat much ramen, but when he fell homesick in the U.S., he began cooking it for himself. Those early dishes made with local ingredients evolved into Yuji Ramen, first a pop-up in Kinfolk Studios in Williamsburg, and later a regular stall at Smorgasburg. (Haraguchi was looking to raise $3,000 on Kickstarter earlier this year to buy himself the immersion circulator, heavy-duty food processor, and other equipment required for his increasingly ambitious ramen experiments — he raised $12,000.)
Good news for fans of Haraguchi’s cooking: By June, the chef plans to transition to his own restaurant space in Williamsburg. He tells Fork it will be a “Japanese street-food joint” offering takeout and eat-in dishes, specializing in snacks like okonomiyaki, the wonderfully greasy Japanese pancakes, topped as generously as pizza. But much like with his ramen, we can expect a few twists — kale instead of cabbage, house-smoked bacon instead of pork belly, and, of course, a rotating selection of mazemen.
Yuji Ramen, in Whole Foods, 95 E Houston St., Second Floor, 212-420-1320