Yuji Haraguchi always loved cooking as a hobby, but he never worked in a restaurant until last year. In less than 12 months, however, the Japanese native took up his first restaurant job working in the kitchen at Roberta's and launched Yuji Ramen at Smorgasburg. Today, Yuji's widely popular ramen dishes are now served at a lunch counter at the Whole Foods on the Bowery, and he has plans to open a restaurant in Williamsburg this summer.
But Yuji isn't simply serving traditional ramen. His mazemen creations (which are brothless and served with various toppings and sauces) is a not-to-miss dish for noodle fanatics. Yuji took some time to talk to us about where he gets his ingredients and where his favorite Japanese eats can be found across New York City.
Japanese Groceries: My ramen is very local, so I try to avoid Japanese ingredients that are imported. I do go to Sunrise Mart in the East Village all the time. When I run out of stuff, I go there for any last-minute ingredients I need to find. In New Jersey, Mitsuwa is great.
Noodles: We have custom-made noodles from Sun Noodle. We have two different noodles: One is for the mazemen, and it has an uneven wave. This helps pick up the salt and sauce sticks to it. It also has good texture and an al dente bite. For shoyu (soy sauce-based) ramen, the noodle is a lot drier and thinner. There's a little udon powder mixed into it, and the noodle soaks up the broth really well. The noodle and broth become one dish.
Seafood: The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market. I think their seafood is the best quality, especially the crab, lobster and shrimp. It's really good. I've used uni in some popular dishes. I get it from Maine through a Japanese wholesale company called Nishimaru.
Meats: I don't serve much meat. I'm at Whole Foods every day, and I really like their meat selection. The bones are good and make excellent broth—beef, pork, chicken, duck, lamb bones.
Tofu: There is a Japanese brand called Otokomae. It's very easy to find at Sunrise or Mitsuwa.
Ramen: Minca Ramen. The flavors are very deep, and I feel the taste is very authentic. There's nothing New York about it.
Desserts: Chikalicious. She doesn't try to be too Japanese—the desserts are local and original. But the plating is very delicate, which is very much Japanese.
Izakaya: Torishin on the Upper East Side. The grilled chicken skewers are my favorite there. The ingredients they use there are good, and the execution makes it really good.