Okonomi

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fter nearly three months in this amazing city with too many Shake Shack burgers, too many Five Leaves pancakes and too many cocktails, I am almost fed up (almost!). This is why a dinner at this fairly new Japanese restaurant a few weeks back did me very good, so good that after a delicious serving of ramen one night, we had to come back a few days after to get a taste of the Japanese breakfast.

With this place, chefs Tara Norvell and Yuji Haraguchi aim to give New Yorkers a taste of a more healthy kitchen. In the morning, the place is named Okonomi and serves a traditional Ichiju Sansai set meal for breakfast, and in the evening it shifts to Yuji Ramen serving ramen. The breakfast (pictured) consists of five small servings, a bowl of miso soup and a bowl of rice with an optional egg. I would have imagined eating fish and rice in the morning feeling weird (I cherish my oatmeal and fruit highly) but it was surprisingly normal and tasted great.

The room is tiny - seats about 8 people at a time - and you feel like you've just entered a private living room somewhere in Japan. The menu which changes daily is handwritten and whenever someone leaves the place, many 'thank yous' are given to the kitchen. Both times I've been by, almost all of the other guests looked Japanese, which adds even more to the authenticity of the place.  

When I went by a couple of days after our feast to take some photos of the place, I had a chat with Tara and she explained how one of the ideas behind this place is to minimize food waste. They use the whole fish, the bones go into a broth and the menu changes daily after what's available. Before opening up the place earlier this year, Tara was a chef at Bushwick's pizza-hipster-haven Roberta's and Yuji was running a successful ramen pop-up noodle bar inside Wholefoods whilst supplying a bunch of the city's restaurants with seafood. Their love for Japanese food and their excellent sense of style (they redid the entire room themselves!) shine through, and the location on Ainslie Street in Williamsburg is perfect with a bunch of nice cafés and other good restaurants near by. And just look at the place. Japan is next on my list (I wish!).

Okonomi / Yuji Ramen
150 Ainslie St.