Season Greetings, www.docsconz.com readers and fans! My dear friend John was kind enough to allow me to share my pictures and opinion about a rather intriguing food event I was able to attend a few days ago in Manhattan’s West Village – it is with great excitement and thrill I am happy to exercise this privilege.
“Takashi’s Secret Late Night Ramen”
A few days ago, I came across a post on NY Eater – they referenced something straight from the Yakiniku Takashi Restaurant Facebook page announcement:
“Takashi’s secret late night ramen is launching this Friday by reservation only. We’re all about the cow, so our custom-made noodles lie in a rich beef broth with delicious braised beef-belly and poached egg ($16). This Friday we’re limiting thirty spots only between 11:30pm-1:30am. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request an 11:30pm or 12:30am seating. This will blow your mind!!!”
Needless to say, I was beyond intrigued.
As of late, ramen has been quite “en vogue” in NYC – new ramenaya have opened all over New York City; some are brick and mortar places, others are pop-ups in sometimes rather unexpected places (that trend is best represented by Mu Ramen, which operates weeknights in what is a bagel shop in Long Island City by day; the other is Benkei Ramen, which transforms the real estate of the rather popular, in fact one of the best in the City, no less, Ushiwakamaru sushi restaurant on Houston Str. into a very late night ramen shop – sidenote: the latter two shops are really quite outstanding – both serve some of the best noodle soups around).
Mu Ramen Tonkotsu Ramen:
Benkei Tonkotsu Miso Ramen:
But, back to Takashi and Late Night
Special Secret Beef Ramen:
Takashi, or Yakiniku Takashi, as it sometimes called, is a unique restaurant – even by the NYC standards, which seemingly accommodate an endless array of all possible restaurant varieties and cooking styles, from mainstream to downright preposterous (Dans Le Noir, which sought to serve food in pitch darkness is one such example; there are others). Unmistakably, Takashi restaurant reflects the heritage of its youthful leader – Chef Takashi Inoue, who happens to be the fourth-generation Korean immigrant born in Osaka, Japan; as such, Takashi Restaurant is somewhat similar to the rather ubiquitous Korean-style BBQ restaurants in Manhattan and Flushing. However, and it is the major difference, not one restaurant of the similar style gets anywhere near Takashi in terms of meat choices, quality and preparation.
Takashi, both the Chef and the restaurant, serve beef in anything from sashimi form to beef offal prepared in the ways just shy of unrealistic for the most Western palates: raw beef liver, flash-boiled achilles tendon, grilled aorta ( one of my personal favorites, by the way), brains and every variety of the bovine stomachs – from the first to the forth.
I had an opportunity to eat at Takashi once before (please take a look at the Flickr picture set here) – our meal at the time was simply outstanding, so I was excited to come back.
Takashi Niku-Uni – (chuck flap topped with sea urchin and fresh wasabi):
Takashi is all about beef, and so was its unique offering of Beef Ramen:
Ramen beef broth was extremely rich and flavorful – somewhat similar to the more traditional milky white, made with pork bones gelatinous tonkotsu soup, but with a different flavor profile. I could clearly discern the umami coming from some variety of garlic – either roasted or, less likely, fermented black, but quite possibly some combination of the two. I asked if there was any seafood or shellfish in the broth – there was none, so the complexity of flavors was from some other source; I am still in awe as to what it might be.
The consistency of Takashi beef broth is something that must be mentioned separately: the broth was extremely rich and yet the fat globules on the surface were a lot smaller than I was expecting – I would not be surprised if the broth was first skimmed and clarified, then infused with some other fat flavoring (may be chicken tare? The latter is soy sauce infused with roasted chicken bones and augmented by other flavors, especially mirin/ sweet cooking sake, garlic and drinking sake). Worth mentioning: it took me a few minutes to take pictures of Takashi Ramen – I used three different lenses and took shots from different viewpoints, but it was no more than 5-7 minutes; still, they insisted on replacing my soup – I am guessing it was becoming congealed, as it was supposed to be eaten while piping hot and eaten quickly.
Chef Takashi Inoue himself was kind enough to stop by my table – he was very polite and quietly confident; somehow he projected innocent boyish charm wrapped around muscular physique that would make most Olympic athletes rather jealous. Still, I was impressed by his humility and creativity – I asked if his beef broth had added fat component and this time the answer was positive. He was also proud to mention the noodles used in his ramen – those were made especially for him, although not in house. The noodles were, albeit not too thin, but of the thinner, straight variety – I am not completely certain how those were made, but the broth covered the noodles very nicely. May be the difference was in the flour?
Finally, I have to mentioned the toppings: a slice of “fried beef belly” replaced more pedestrian char siu – it was braised to perfection first and then, most likely, pan-fried with a touch of Takashi sauce or sweet soy; there was also some nori, an egg and thinly shredded scallions. The absolute star, however, was the crispy fried beef intestines – a ramen topping like no other, if I may – the crunch component was incredible.
Just like the man himself, Takashi service was exemplary, polite, nimble and quick.
What have I missed? Quite probably it is a lot. Any taste profile, especially as complex of a flavor combination as presented by Takashi Inoue is hard to explain. My humble hope is to see the Late Night Secret Beef Ramen again – perhaps, so will you.