I don’t know anything about ramen. One thing that I have learned recently is that it’s called “Japanese soul food”. People line up all over Japan for their favorite local ramen joint, which can come in the form of the most upscale to a completely Mom & Pop operation. Here’s a great Intro to Ramen video from the New York Times Travel section.
I’m still learning so much about what’s authentic and what’s not regarding ramen, but as usual, I aim to eat what tastes good. When I heard about a new ramen restaurant, Chuko, opening up near me in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I knew I needed to go. We are a little starved for good ramen in this part of Brooklyn. Chuko was highly anticipated because the two men who’ve opened the restaurant were formerly at Morimoto. If you’ve ever watched Iron Chef, Iron Chef America or even Top Chef, you’re probably familiar with Mr. Morimoto himself. Either way, Chuko’s founder were bring a lot of buzz with them.
As per usual often in Brooklyn restaurants on a Saturday night, there was a wait; and, boy, did we wait. Even with a walk to kill time, we waited and waited some more. I will say that the staff was friendly and apologetic about the situation. The staff and service at Chuko is friendly, quick and seamless (just go earlier or later on busy evenings). Often at small restaurants, service seems to be the forgotten element, and it wasn’t at Chuko.
I was in the mood for veggies, so Husband J and his visiting friend, Davey, agreed to have some veggie appetizers.
Charred Brussel Sprouts
with fish sauce, peanuts and sliced chili
WHAT?! Brussel sprouts should always be made this way. I purposely went for the chilis while avoiding the peanuts and made sure to cover the brussels sprouts in fish sauce when I could. Asian flavors are the perfect way to highlight this fall vegetable.
Crispy Kale Salad
bacon, golden raisins, ginger dressing
When we tried this kale and the brussel sprouts, we realized that the wait was worth it. I’m still wondering how they made the kale so crispy. I was impressed that the chefs had found a use for the ubiquitous ginger salad dressing that you get at Japanese restaurants. It was stuck on the bottom of the bowl, but what a nice surprise when you reached that portion of the dish. Also bacon. ‘Nuff said.
Yes, we actually DID eat ramen.
There are three types of ramen on Chuko’s menu, and you have a choice of having them with added chicken, pork or sans meat add-ons for the vegetarians.
Our friend Davey had the Pork bone ramen (the soup base was pork bone) with poached egg. I have to say that I didn’t taste this. Davey and I are cool (I still like him even though he laughed at the Giants’ loss to the Redskins yesterday), but we’re not sharing food.
Husband J had the miso ramen that night, and I had this on a subsequent visit to Chuko.
It’s like buttah! Seriously, this soup was buttery smooth. When I think of miso, I usually think salty, but that just might be my limited understanding of the power of miso. This ramen was creamy, with al dente like noodles and crunchy corn kernels. There was something so warming and comforting about this soup. Let’s just say I understand ramen’s Japanese soul food designation now.
Spicy Pork Ramen
red bean paste, kimchi, spicy minced pork
Noodle money shot
O.M.G. First of all, when the waitress said kimchi, she had me. I don’t think that kimchi is usually associated with ramen (Anyone? Anyone?), but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have spicy ramen AND kimchi. The soup almost resembled a creamier base than some of my favorite Korean soups (kimchi jigae in particular) with the addition of chewy noodles and a very soft poached egg. It was heavenly. Please note that this is a special, so I don’t know how much longer Chuko will serve it.
By the way, since I’m not a ramen expert, I don’t know if Chuko wins any points for authenticity. Just know that it’s good.
Winter is definitely in the air. Thank goodness for good ramen close by!
552 Vanderbilt Avenue
Brooklyn, New York