Hearty Ramen on a Brisk Fall Day

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Welcome back friends and strangers. I want to start off by apologizing for my extremely long absence from the blog. Circumstances kept arising that kind of kept me away from all you lovely people. First in March, after an amazing lunch at The Cannibal that I was going to tell you about, I had my phone stolen on the way home, and with it went the photos. I plan to make a return trip during dinner one day to sample their pig’s head, and I’ll be sure to report back to you then. After that, I had my last set of law school finals and then went straight into studying for the Bar. After all that and some time to relax and some more time to scramble to find a job, however temporary it may be, I have finally returned. And with my return, I want to tell you about a lovely ramen shop around the Boerum Hill area in Brooklyn called Ganso.

To make this different from usual, I’ll be adding in my brother’s thoughts about the place because we didn’t really see eye to eye. I blame his opinion on setting incredibly high standards, since the only ramen he’s ever had other than Ganso is Ippudo and Totto Ramen, which is an insane standard to put other ramen up to. We ended up trying three different things because (a) I was super hungry, and (b) I need to be able to write about something.

BUTA KIMCHI BUNS

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The first appetizer we shared was the Bota Kimchi buns. Deliciously braised pork belly accompanied by jalapeño kimchi, spicy mayo, and a cucumber. For this one brother and I had pretty similar views. We both thought that, overall, the pork bun was very good. Not great, not particularly memorable, but definitely very good. I found the pork to be just a smidge dry, and both brother and I thought that they put a bit too many things into the bun. A bit less kimchi would have made it loads better, the pork kinda got lost in everything else. But, the kimchi tasted great, and the spicy mayo balanced the dish well. Brother says he wanted the spicy mayo to be thicker, but he’s an idiot and I don’t agree. He also said he loved the buns and that they were super silky and he would want nothing more than to chow down on the buns all day whilst admiring their silkiness. I’ll grant him that one, the buns were beautifully soft.

CRISPY GYOZA

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The crispy gyoza are where brother and I differ the most. He didn’t really didn’t care for them, and I thought they were delicious. These five wonderful pot stickers were filled with pork, garlic, and chive and came with a chili soy sauce for dipping. For me, the batter was moist and tender and the meat made for a great precursor to the pork-filled ramen that was to come. The only issue I had was that they could’ve done with 15-20 seconds less cooking. You can see in the picture that they just got a little to burnt and, in a couple spots, went from that beautiful golden-brown color to the charcoal black color. And those parts did come with a bit of that overcooked charcoal taste. But no matter, I would gobble those things up all over again if I had the chance. Brother, on the other hand, said they were his least favorite part of the meal and found them too salty (I could not disagree more, and think it’s more due to the fact that he drenched his pieces in the soy sauce for too long and too much). I tried to press him to figure out what he specifically didn’t like about it, but he just said “I don’t know, they’re tasteless, but they’re also salty. I think they’re tasteless because they’re salty.” That’s all I’ve got for you, I don’t know how else to describe his opinion. All I’ll say is, everyone in the joint was eating these bad boys and no one seemed to have an issue with them.

GANSO RAMEN

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Now we get to the main event, the ganso ramen. Usually I like to go straight for a restaurant’s spicy ramen option, but I’ve done a lot of damage to my stomach in the last few weeks and figured I’d show it some mercy and go for the place’s signature ramen, instead of just getting the spicy one. I tried to push brother to get the spicy one so we could sample both, but at the last second he switched back to this one. This ramen comes with a shōyu broth, angelh air braised pork shoulder AND pork belly, ajitama egg, bamboo, chives, and some other greens. The pork belly was divine. Completely tender and juicy, it melted in my mouth without having to chew. Brother, who usually hates fat on meat (you should see him butcher steaks as he takes off the fat) said that he loved the fat on this; it really was just meaty juicy perfection. The ajitama egg came as a close second to being the star of the dish. The yolk was in that wonderful little area between completely liquid and completely solid, and… you know what, I don’t need to describe it, it tasted just as good as it looks in the photo. The pork shoulder was a nice toss in, but ultimately unnecessary. I would’ve much rather preferred more pork belly. This isn’t to say the shoulder tasted bad, it just wasn’t contributing much to a bowl of ramen that already had such great pork already in there. Brother said his piece was too tough and chewy for his liking. I didn’t get that with mine, maybe it just seemed that way after how easy it was to eat the belly, I don’t know. I didn’t think it was badly cooked, just not really contributing much. Finally the broth, another area where Brother and I disagree. Brother said he found the broth very generic and bland. I again contribute this statement to the fact that he’s subconsciously comparing this broth to Ippudo’s broth. I mean, if you’re going to make that comparison then obviously he’s right, but it’s a silly one to make because this broth was just fine in its own way. I actually liked that it was not too fatty and heavy, which would have obliterated me if it were. By the end of the meal I was just full enough that I could make the trip home without dying. The broth was nicely flavored for me, maybe nothing that special, but certainly not the bland, hot water that Brother is trying to make it out to be.

Overall, Ganso has a bit a ways to go to be able to compete with the real big dogs in the New York ramen market, but it certainly can stand its own ground. I had a great time there, and hope you give it a try.

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