The ramen artist
Claim to fame: The secret soup
Reason to go: A near-perfect bowl of shio ramen.
To look out for: The invariably long line
The inventive ramen at Motenashi Kuroki tells the story of chef Naohito Kuroki’s journey from Japanese haute cuisine, through French and Italian kitchens, back to the basics of noodles in soup. The seeming simplicity of the form belies the high level of technique that goes into each dish. Kuroki turns this common street food into a thing of beauty, complexity, and elegance. And he delivers it without a trace of pretense.
His shio ramen is the Platonic ideal of the salt-based classic, executed with refined touches. The secret is, first and foremost, in the broth. The chef enriches the stock with handfuls of bonito flakes, along with dried pike, flying, fish, and mackerel. The noodles, handmade from a mix of Japanese flours with a touch of whole wheat for gravitas, are pliant yet firm. Toppings show off Kuroki’s playful side. A slab of rolled pork stuffed with green olives and dried tomatoes nestles against blushing pink slices of slow-cooked chashu, garlic chives, and a marinated soft-boiled egg. The regular menu consists of two choices: shio or miso ramen, on Fridays Kuroki also serves a special shoyu ramen with roast duck. Limited-edition seasonal offerings such as the chilled hiyashi chuka with roast beef, or summertime Keema-curry mazemen change weekly and induce great anticipation.
The décor is pantry-chic, with bags of dried seafood and cookbooks lining the walls. The counter-only seating for 13 pulls you into the action: bubbling pots of stock and racks of roast pork are enticingly close. People start lining up before the restaurant opens at 11:30, so there’s always a wait. But it’s worth it.