Ramen Ramen Blog Best Ramen
Ramen master Foo Kanegae was an opening day chef at the first Ippudo in NYC some 12 years ago, a key player in the Japanese chain’s well-deserved success in both the East Village and, later, in Midtown. But after nearly a decade of making noodle heads happy as part of the Ippudo team, Kanagae is now striking out on his own with this week’s opening of Karazishi Botan, a “Ramen Diner” on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens.
Kanagae calls his place a diner not for the decor—you won’t find vinyl booths or retro styling in the cozy, 18-seat space—but rather because he loves to play with classic American comfort food ingredients in his ramen creations. To take the most obvious example from among the handful of dishes we sampled the other day at a press meal, the Ti-Amo bowl, named after a record from Kanagae’s favorite band Phoenix. This one features a ball of mashed potatoes floating in the center, in addition to a disc of crisp bacon, drizzles of pistachio oil, and oyster in the broth.
The other ramen we sampled, Chef Special Iron-Men, named after a superhero in Kanagae’s favorite comic book universe, features a broth made from 16-month dry-aged pork, as well a chicken and oxtail. Not quite as unusual as the Ti-Amo, but still, given his obvious penchant for creativity, it’s not hard to believe the chef’s claim that he came up with more than 600 different types of ramen during his tenure at Ippudo. Coming in the spring: Kanagae’s Misopresso Botan-ical Ramen, a vegan, porcini-miso concoction steamed with an espresso machine.
In addition to the ramen, Karazishi Botan has a bunch of meaty snacks and appetizers, including a pair of wonderfully-fatty slabs of Oxtail “simmered Hakata style,” which is where Kanagae is from; EscarDogs, a five-pack of mini turkey corn dogs smothered in a garlicky “escargot” sauce; and some sticky Botan Wings. The pick hit in this category was definitely the slide-off-the-bone Botan Pork Spare Ribs, completely covered in a secret blend of crunchy fried toppings. Kanagae suggests that you hold on to the leftover spice dust and use it as a dip for your ramen noodles. It’s a good idea, these bites were delicious.
There are plenty of other intriguing menu items here as well, like the Crawfish Cole Slaw, the Okonomi prepared in a waffle iron, and the Hawaiian Wedge Salad with homemade pineapple dressing. And then there’s the “extremely spicy” Captain Ramen, which is only served at the bar—if you order it, Kanagae hands you a mini Captain America shield to guard yourself while he pours in the hot oil.
Alcohol choices include beer, a bunch of different sakes, and some house-aged Sochu.
Karazishi Botan is located at 255 Smith Street, between Degraw and Douglass Streets, and starting tomorrow will be open daily from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (347-763-1155; karazishibotan.com)