Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
If you've heard anything about Dassara yet, it's probably been about the "Deli Ramen," a.k.a. the matzo ball soup with ramen noodles and Montreal-style smoked meat. "It's my Aunt Sherry's matzo ball soup recipe," said co-owner Josh Kaplan. But he wants people to know that Dassara's menu contains much more than that.
Like the White Clam Mazemen, a sort of linguine and clams meets ramen mashup in a creamy, clam buttery broth inspired by a recipe from Young Man and the Sea by seafood chef Dave Pasternack (and co-written by our man Ed Levine!). In the fall, Kaplan plans to add a Creole-inspired ramen ("I just love New Orleans"), and Xi'an Famous Foods fans will appreciate this: a spicy, tingly ramen with lamb chashu, cumin, lots of chili oil, and cilantro.
This isn't a traditional ramen shop, as you've probably figured out by now. "Ramen is really just the vehicle for us to get creative with toppings," said Kaplan.
The name Dassara comes from the Japanese phrase datsu sara, which loosely translates to stepping outside your comfort zone and following your dream. That dream was ramen for first-time restaurant owners Kaplan, Justin DeSpirito, and Lana Yang.
The ramens range between $12 and $15 with starter options, too, including rice cakes, steamed buns, and an heirloom tomato salad with bonito flakes. The bar up front, dimly lit by a sake bottle chandelier, offers craft beers on draft and a cocktail menu in which all of the drinks contain either sake, shochu, or plum wine. The Kamolzumi Margarita, for example, is made with sake, mezcal, and tequila, served in a glass rimmed with shichimi togarashi, the Japanese chili pepper spice blend. The Kuroni is a Negroni riff with sake, dry vermouth, and Campari.
Chef Marc Giroux, originally from Toronto, is having fun in the kitchen along with our buddy Cathy Erway, Brooklyn food writer and radio host, who's been helping with menu development and Greenmarket shopping. The scallion pancakes served with the clam ramen, to sop up all that ocean-briny broth at the bottom of the bowl? That's her scallion pancake recipe.