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Japanese, Breakfast & Brunch
150 Ainslie St
Williamsburg - North Side
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Williamsburg - North Side
A tiny Japanese restaurant on the Graham Avenue L Train stop with multiple personalities. During the day, it’s called Okonomi and serves up traditional Japanese set meals known as ‘Ichiju sansai’ that consist of miso soup, roasted fish, vegetables, and an egg served with rice. At night it becomes one of the city’s more acclaimed ramen joints serving seasonal seafood as well as Mazemen (no-broth ramen dishes). The setting is indicative of Japanese minimalism and the seating is limited to 12 tables. From the owners: ‘[We] embody the Mottainai philosophy of minimizing waste and appreciating what is given. We source our seafood from the Atlantic Ocean. We shop for produce from local farmer’s markets. We make our ceramics with an artist based in upstate New York. Our greatest challenge is to honor the life in what surrounds us.’
Everything about the place embodies the Japanese concept of mottainai, let nothing go to waste. The dining room, in shades of wood, soil, and water, is minimal without being austere. Dried fish skins decorate the walls; bones from the morning’s fish go straight into the evening’s unctuous broth. But for a chef who values simplicity Haraguchi gives diners a lot of options. On weekday nights, the restaurant transforms into Yuji Ramen, a noodle joint, while weekend evenings feature a ten-course ramen tasting menu. The biggest draw, though, is the daily Japanese set breakfast.
One restaurant. Two names. During the day, this tiny 12-seat house of chopstick heaven is home to Okonomi, in which they serve a traditional Japanese set meal called “Ichiju Sansai.” At night, the space gets taken over by Yuji Ramen, one of the best, most unique noodle joints that exists in this fine city filled with ramen. David Chang may claim ramen is dead – clearly he hasn’t been to Yuji.
“Talk about originality”, this “tiny” Williamsburg Japanese from chef Yuji Haraguchi provides “traditional” ichiju-sansai set meals for breakfast and lunch, then segues into Yuji Ramen at night, offering “cutting-edge” noodle soups; seats can be scarce in the “minimal” space, which doesn’t take reservations.
A small counter and a handful of tables is the extent of this tiny café headed by Chef Yuji Haraguchi, famous for his ramen pop-ups. Regardless of the time of day, Okonomi’s delightfully unconstrained Japanese cuisine is a compelling reason to visit. Locally grown produce and domestic fish are the foundation of the high-quality ichiju sansai, a set lunch of shioyaki (salt-grilled) or miso-marinated broiled fish, rice, miso soup, and shira-ae (wilted greens with a tofu dressing). Come evening, the focus shifts to ramen, with each steaming bowl bearing the distinctive hand of the skilled chef.
This 12-seat nook is a cozier setting for a ridiculously nourishing meal: a daily choice of local fish (bluefish roasted in sake lees and ocean perch, recently), served with a cube of Japanese omelette, tofu-dressed broccoli rabe, brown rice with kombu, and miso soup. At night, the space morphs into Yuji Ramen, the hit noodle den that blazed a trail for broth-less mazemen by incorporating Italian technique and peddling creative dishes like salmon cheese ramen.