As a testament to my lack of a social life, I had no idea that half of Williamsburg went out drinking on Friday nights until I found myself roaming around the area in the wee hours of the morning—stepping around bar-goers in the process. I was headed towards Bonjin, a roving Williamsburg Japanese restaurant concept that just found a new home inside the Korean restaurant Dokebi. It only operates on Friday nights from midnight to 4 a.m. (after Dokebi closes), and the food clearly caters to the late-night drinking crowd. So what was I, a non-drinker, doing there? To get Japanese comfort food—specifically ramen.
But there's more to Bonjin than ramen. The menu for last Friday night also featured zousui (rice porridge), kakuni (stewed pork belly), edamame, and carrot salad. My friend and I started with the carrot salad ($3) made of long, thin strands of raw carrot dressed with Japanese sea salt, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and a bit of garlic and pepper. Simple and surprisingly delicious, this dish quickly went into our bellies.
The stewed slices of pork belly ($5) flavored with a slightly sweet and salty sauce of soy sauce, sake, mirin, ginger, and sugar just about fell apart at the poke of my chopsticks—always a good sign.
While I'm used to seeing pork belly with my ramen, Bonjin's ramen ($10) was also topped with arugula, corn, and thin fried noodles. Fatty, bitter, sweet, and crunchy—a great combination. The medium-bodied broth was made of chicken, pork, and vegetable stock—cooked for about 14 hours—mixed with five kinds of miso, sake mash, and soy milk. While I prefer springier noodles, these were perfectly fine. My friend and I split an order and were still each left with an ample serving—not a bad deal for $5 each.
At the end of the meal we were given comment slips to suggest dishes they should make in the future. Seems like the suggestions are rolling in; they've added vegetable curry and kaniku don (pork belly over rice) for this Friday's menu.
I predict that I'll eat many second dinners at Bonjin on Friday nights, followed by waking up at 1 p.m. with a Japanese comfort food hangover. I only wish I could get my first, pre-midnight dinner there as well.
UPDATE (11/20): Scratch what I said about splitting one order between two people; I just found out that we were actually given two orders, but charged for one because it was their mistake to give us two. On that note, if you and and friend aren't starving, you'd be better off sharing one order.