>> Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Last night was a crazy night.
Precisely at 12:20 AM on Sunday "evening" (technically Monday morning!), Bryan and I stepped out into the frigid night (it was ten degrees Fahrenheit - brrrrrr!) and headed out for ramen.
Ramen at midnight???
In the wee hours of Monday morning on January 16th, Guchi Midnight Ramen, a pop up restaurant started by a few O Ya chefs, opened its doors for the first time. Rumors had been circulating for months about this mysterious venture. The word was that several O Ya chefs had decided to create a ramen pop up restaurant where everything was to be made from scratch, from the broth down to the handmade noodles.
Handmade noodles??!! I didn't need to hear more. I couldn't wait for this to open.
Imagine the thrill I felt this past weekend when I received an invitation to attend the first ever opening of this much-anticipated pop up.
Even though both Bryan and I had to work the next day, nothing would stop us from heading out to Bondir at midnight to slurp up that inaugural batch of noodles!
Mark O'Leary and Yukihiro Kawaguchi (aka "Guchi")
First of all, let's meet the founders behind this crazy venture.
The whole idea was hatched one night at the bar at Drink. O Ya chefs Yukihiro Kawaguchi (Mr. "Guchi" himself) and Mark O'Leary were chatting with the bartender when the idea of a ramen pop-up came up.
Mark O'Leary, who loves making noodles, was thrilled that Guchi, who loves experimenting with making broths, wanted to partner and bring this idea to fruition.
"I'm lucky to work with Guchi. He's taught me a lot. I'm lucky he lets me make his noodles. I hope to make a lot more noodles for Guchi."
Guchi at O Ya
Guchi comes from a family of noodle makers. His family owns a ramen shop in Japan, and he grew up living directly upstairs from the shop. When Guchi moved to America, he spent some time at Ginza in Boston before becoming a chef at O Ya, where he still currently works.
Vilas Dhar and Tracy Chang
Vilas Dhar is an attorney and food entrepreneur. The mastermind behind the pop-up Dore Creperie in Downtown Crossing, Vilas brings to the team his experience, drive, and enthusiasm. Tracy Chang also worked at O Ya back in 2010, but left last year to spend a year in Spain to train at three-star Michelin restaurant Martin Berasategui. She came back to Boston not too long ago, and since then has been very involved in many of the details behind this pop-up!
Checking Out the Kitchen
Soon after I arrived, I couldn't help but be drawn to the kitchen. How in the world were they going to execute this pop up?
Guchi told me that the broth, which is a pork and seafood based broth, had been cooking for about 10 hours. He has actually experimented with making many different kinds of broths, many of which he plans on using at future pop ups.
Mark and Tracy got up at 6AM (!) to start making the sweet buns for the pork belly buns. The two of them then began the laborious process of hand-cranking out 50 portions of handmade noodles. Talk about dedication!
They spent all day prepping every single component of the evening's dinner from scratch, from the delicious "XO-like sauce" (which they call "Umami oil"), down to the broth, the buns, and the noodles. I can't believe they still had energy at midnight after getting up at 6AM!
As soon as the last guest arrived, Tracy popped into the kitchen and told Mark and Guchi, "I think we're ready to go!"
Soon afterwards, these delicious homemade pork belly buns began to appear.
The bun itself was moist, just a tad sweet, and gorgeously fluffy. The pork belly was divine, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture that worked perfectly with the crunchy cucumbers, peanuts, and fresh cilantro. It was fantastic.
The much anticipated ramen was also really, really good. We loved the handmade noodles, and the broth was really flavorful. It's a bit lighter than a traditional pork bone broth, which is usually very creamy and quite heavy. This broth still had the creaminess from the pork bones, but had other complex elements that came from the variety of seafood used in the broth.
Bryan, who usually doesn't like ramen that much, absolutely loved his bowl of noodles and even finished mine!
I loved the "umami oil" that they put on the tables. I liberally added it to my noodle soup, which infused a lovely kick as well as a huge umami boost to the dish. Bryan tried it with the pork buns as well, which he said was quite good. If only they would bottle it and sell it, I would totally buy one!
Yes, I looked tired, but what do you expect? It's 2AM!
We ended with a delicious matcha chocolate chip cookie. It was a great way to finish off the meal.
The atmosphere was lively and celebratory. The Guchi Midnight Ramen crew had invited many of their close friends to come and enjoy this special inaugural feast with them, including a bunch of people from Barbara Lynch's group (pictured above, Colin Lynch, executive chef of Menton), James Bissonnette from Coppa, and John Gertsen from the famed Drink where it all started.
Tracy talking to members of Barbara Lynch's team
After everything had been served, the team popped the champagne and celebrated this exciting occasion.
Jason Bond, chef owner of Bondir (the host restaurant!), and Monica Higgins also hung around next to the lovely fireplace at the entrance of the restaurant. They were able to enjoy all of this delicious food too, not too long after working so hard earlier in the day running Bondir!
Although I was exhausted afterwards, I don't regret going one bit. I had tons of fun not only enjoying the delicious food, but also getting to know this crew of incredibly dedicated, hardworking, and talented people.
I personally can't wait to find out when the next Guchi's Midnight Ramen pop up will be. It's so hard to find handmade noodles here in Boston (trust me, I've tried). Here, not only do you get to enjoy the delicious chewiness of handmade noodles, you get to slurp them up with Guchi's unparalleled broth. The Guchi Midnight Ramen team has promised that their pop ups will be priced much lower than other ones we've seen around town, which is awesome.
Seriously, it's a win-win combination.
Guchi Midnight Ramen team, thanks so much for the rare opportunity to share this exciting first meal with you all. It was definitely a tremendous honor. Can't wait to see what you have in store next!
I did not pay for this meal.