Cool your jets, authenticity hounds: the boys behind Dassara, a new ramen house on Smith Street, have no designs on being the next Ippudo, Momofuko or even Chuko. Their mission? To turn out cross-cultural bowls of noodles and broth with serious Brooklyn flavor.
“People tend to get a laser focus about what correct ramen is, but in Japan, it can be wildly different and creative based the part of the country it’s in,” said co-owner Justin DeSpirito.
“We think it’s inevitable that someday, there will be a ramen style indigenous to NY,” added his partner, Josh Kaplan. “Of course, we don’t know if our ideas are going to help shape that, but it’s something we’ve started to explore.”
That means steering clear of straight-up renditions of revered classics like tonkotsu (the milk-white, gloriously fatty pork bone broth), or even Japanese green curry, which they’ll eventually restyle as Indian by adding butter chicken, Masala spices, and glistening droplets of ghee.
Most importantly, they draw inspiration directly from the neighborhood, recruiting goods from nearby appetizing shop Shelsky’s for a special brunch-time bowl of whitefish stock, topped with flakes of hot-smoked salmon and chunks of deep-fried lox cream cheese.
It’s the signature Deli Ramen that swerves Dassara straight back into dangerous territory, though, tempting criticism by testing the taste buds of hardened ramen-ya experts and good Jewish grandchildren alike. Miniature matzoh balls (definitely not as good as grandmas) jockey with perfectly tasty, springy egg noodles for position in a bowl of celery-laced broth, the customary hunks of charshu pork belly replaced by a length of Mile End smoked meat.
Amazingly, the tender pastrami doesn’t shrivel into shoe leather after an extended bath in hot soup, although some might wish for carry-over cooking to occur on their blob of barely poached egg. Once integrated, however, the supple yolk takes the chicken tare-accented broth to stratospheric heights, coating the tongue with a concentrated, umami-rich wallop of roasted bones, mirin, sake, and soy.
With basics done as well as this, they just might want to take a stab at traditional tonkotsu after all.