Ramen Diaries: Dassara Brooklyn Ramen

POP ETC frontman Chris Chu has been on the ramen beat for Food Republic, documenting a recent trip to Japan, where he ate eating epic bowls of ramen daily while keeping notes in a tonkotsu-splashed diary. Here he returns with a dispatch from upstart ramen shop, Dassara, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Last you heard from me I was deep in Tokyo ramen land, slurping up every bowl of noodles I could get my hands on. It was a glorious porky journey, but in the words of George Costanza, well, all vacations have to end eventually. I'm not going to lie to you, being back in New York, it is hard to find authentic ramen. But the Ramen Diaries MUST CONTINUE!

I decided to start off our New York slurping journey at Dassara, a new ramen joint that just opened up in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Part of what I found intriguing about Dassara is that unlike many of the ramen restaurants in New York that are trying to recreate styles from Tokyo and other parts of Japan, Dassara's owners set out to create a new regional ramen style all their own. They've call it "Brooklyn Ramen."

That said, Dassara is most definitely not just a ramen restaurant. They offer a selection of 8-10 "non-ramen" appetizers, including steamed buns, rice cakes, fried chicken hearts and sashimi. I decided to try the saba tartar and the rice cakes with Chinese sausage.

Since this is a ramen diary, I am not going to spend a ton of time on the appetizers, but I will say that both the tartar and rice cakes were well prepared. The rice cakes in particular were a nice surprise, since I haven't seen these on many menus outside of the Shanghainese restaurants in New York, much less in a ramen joint. They were prepared radically different than I have ever had them before: the distinct chewy texture is still there, but after being doused in shiso brown butter and chilis, this is a much richer dish than anything I've had with rice cakes before. Eaten with Chinese sausage, this really is a tasty dish! A word of warning though, with the exception of the salads, it may be wise to choose one or the other when it comes to appetizers and ramen, as the pairing may be too heavy for some. If you aren't in the mood for ramen, you can orders a few apps and some drinks and do yourself up an izakaya snack.

Now onto the ramen! I ordered the bowl of chicken ramen and my friend ordered the mushroom ramen. First, the chicken. For those of you that have been reading the Ramen Diaries, you know that I am partial to pork broths (specifically the tonkotsu style), but lo and behold, I really liked Dassara's chicken ramen.

The base chicken broth in this bowl is good in itself, but it's the toppings that makes this ramen so satisfying. The ramen is served with a poached egg, a crispy piece of nori, bamboo shoots, scallions, a couple bits of rainbow chard and braised pork belly.

These toppings are all familiar, but the subtle twists in preparation are enough to make this bowl of ramen unlike anything else you've had. It's a polite fusion. The pork belly in particular is a valuable addition, as it is prepared in the Chinese BBQ style. I found the sweetness from the anise to be present in every bite. While I find some chicken ramen to be bland, the creaminess of the egg combined with the sweetness of the pork really give this bowl of ramen dimension. I'm going to spare you guys my rant on how you just can't get good ramen noodles in New York, and I will just say that the noodles at Dassara were satisfactory, and the choice of a wavy noodle of medium thickness is exactly what I would want in a bowl of chicken ramen.

Next up was the mushroom. With this second bowl, Dassara continued to surprise me. I don't know if I've ever had a bowl of vegetarian ramen that I've liked. Some people in Japan wouldn't understand what you were talking about if you asked for a bowl of "vegetarian ramen," as the broth is always based in meat or fish. Still, against all odds, this is a damn fine bowl of vegetarian ramen! And I don't mean that in a backhanded way. It's light but still satisfying — perfect for when you are craving a slurp but not necessarily the heaviness of a thick pork broth.

Again, the toppings do this bowl of ramen quite a service. Basically the same as the chicken ramen, subbing a handful of chewy mushrooms for the pork (the creaminess of the egg helps again here quite a bit). Nice, chewy noodles. All in all, a great bowl of ramen.

OK, now I must stop writing and let my stomach digest. Thanks, Dassara. See you next time.

Dassara Brooklyn Ramen

271 Smith Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231



Read The Ramen Diaries on Food Republic: