Thursday, November 28, 2013

[Ramen Adventure #1] Bassanova Ramen: The Total Experience


Since it opened in late July this year, I've seen quite a lot of biased reviews about Bassanova Ramen that I feel like I need to write a review that gives a total experience of how this restaurant is like. Yes, I've been working at Bassanova since it opens, but that doesn't mean I'm going to defend my work place, yet I'm going to give a more comprehensive review and honest opinion about this place as a consumer and also as an employee.

The first few things you would notice when you visit:
1.    white is the main color
2.    long chopsticks and huge spoon
3.    short menu

A walk-down restaurant, Bassanova has a minimalist theme in its decoration and setting. Its main color is white. When you walk down, you'll be warmly greeted by our cashier and servers with "irrashaimase!" ("Welcome!" in Japanese). Then you will see a huge plant on the center table as decoration. At night, we even light up mini candles to set the mood. When you sit down, you will definitely be surprised by the foot long chopsticks and big white spoon, I GUARANTEE. The chopsticks are usually placed on a resting stone, but a lot of them have been missing since we opened.

The menu in the beginning was just a piece of paper handwritten by the owner, clipped on a small board. It offered only 3 items at the time: Tondaku Ramen, Tondaku Wadashijiru Ramen, and Bassnova Ramen's specialty Green Curry Ramen. It was definitely a ghetto menu that we caught lots of customers saying "That's it? Only 3?" quite often. But we have slowly made progress since August, adding 2 new soup ramen, 4 new soupless ramen/mazemen, several lunch specials, and finally appetizers to the menu. Click on each menu item below to read full review.
 
Original Soup Ramen
•    Tondaku Ramen
•    Wadashijiru Ramen
•    Green Curry Ramen
•    Lemon Black Pepper Tondaku Ramen (new)
•    Wadashi Tomyum Goong Ramen (new)

Soupless Ramen (Mazemen)
•    Mixed Ramen (Chashu Mazemen)
•    Vegetarian Ramen
•    Shrimp Sauce Mixed Ramen
•    Crab Sauce Mixed Ramen

Lunch Specials (Monday-Friday, 12pm-5pm)

•    Half Ramen
•    Donburi (flavored rice)
•    Deluxe Set (half ramen + donburi)

Appetizers (new)

•    3 Shu (plate of eggs, chashu, and menma)
•    Hot Iron Stick Dumplings (3 pieces) 
•    Pork Buns
•    White rice

Drinks
•    Boylan sodas, free water or green tea

The most common asked questions from customers:


What is the difference between number 1 and number 2?

Number 1 + 2 refer to the Tondaku Ramen and Wadashi Ramen on the menu. The main difference between the two is that Tondaku Ramen is an all pork soup based ramen, while the soup in Wadashi is a combination of pork and fish broth. Dashi is a traditional Japanese cooking stock and our dashi is fish based, cooking with ingredients including kombu and bonito flakes.

What's the soupless ramen?

Soupless ramen is ramen that doesn't serve with soup, pretty straightforward. The ramen is cooked and then mixed with different oils or sauce that you can describe it as a Japanese style lo-mein. Soupless ramen, or mazemen, is getting popular in Japan and the trend has gradually spread to the US. Most notable mazemen in NYC included those served at Yuji Ramen inside Wholefoods (Bowery).

Staff, service, quality
Some people have commented on how the ramen at Bassanova is cooked by white people instead of real Japanese. I must point out one thing: we do have a main chef who is Japanese and he is the most AMAZING cook ever. Shoshin Yanaura, or Yana-san for short, is the main man behind all the food that is offered at Bassanova. He does all the cooking at the restaurant, from cooking the pork soup for more than 8 hours every day, to making all the ramen dishes and delicious staff meals for restaurant staff. He is a hardworking man who works pretty much all day, but still maintains a positive attitude at all times. You don't see him as often in the front now because he fully trained other chefs to do front-house cooking, but sometimes he would step out and provide additional assistance during busy hours. He's the one in the white golf hat and glasses. He is currently in Japan at the moment for a short visit.

I admit our service in the beginning was a little disappointing. Some of us didn't have a decent restaurant experience, so we made foreseeable mistakes. I didn't have any restaurant experience to begin with so I pretty much built up my restaurant skills while working at Bassanova. We established a better service system now, and since then customers always praise our friendliness and service (from Yelp).

The soup at Bassanova is definitely one of the few thickest types you would ever tried; it's what Bassanova is famous for in Japan. Many places serve tonkotsu soup (pork marrow bone soup) but the soup texture is often really light. I think thick soup provides more flavors, but it does get a little heavy the more you drink it. Another best thing from Bassanova's ramen is the pork chashu; it's one of the best in the city. The fat and lean portion is perfect in its 50/50 proportion. Each slice of pork is perfectly grilled before placing on top of the steaming hot ramen. I do admit there was a inconsistent quality earlier at the restaurant: soup is too salty sometimes, the meat is over-grilled, not enough meat, etc. It has gotten better since, but sometimes you can still see little flaws in the ramen.

Bassanova Ramen Trivia
•    You have to check out the one-person bathroom at Bassanova: we have a legit Japanese electronic toilet (Washlet) inside! The toilet does a lot of things, like sanitizing and making the seat warm (very important). Word of advice: don't try to press every button, we still want to continue using this amazing toilet :)
•    Customers' favorite seat at Bassanova is definitely Table 6, the bottom left corner by the bench when you first walk in.
•    Our ramen bowls are imported from Japan. The Green Curry Ramen bowl (second one from the left in the picture above) is with the most fun: it has a spout/hole on the side. You can either drink the soup from the spout or pour the curry soup through the spout onto your rice. Sometimes I even see customers sticking their chopsticks into the spout after they finish the ramen.

Visiting Tips
•    Cash only. Chase ATM is literally a few steps away if you need cash
•    We don't sell alcohol (no liquor license yet). Please don't BYOB (even though Yelpers said so)
•    Dumplings and buns are a little overrated
•    Try the Green Curry Ramen or Wadashijiru Ramen
•    Portion can be small to some people, so maybe eat something beforehand
•    Last call is 9:30pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30pm Friday-Saturday, we might close a little early if there are not many people. Last call on Sunday is 9:00pm

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 What are your experiences like at Bassanova? Let me know

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