Ramen fiends in Brooklyn have been salivating since word leaked a few months ago that Jamison Blankenship and David Koon, the Chef de Cuisine and Executive Sous Chef at Morimoto, were defecting from that famously sleek temple to the high art of Japanese cuisine to open Chuko, a restaurant on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights dedicated to the simpler pleasures of ramen.
A well-crafted bowl of ramen may look deceptively simple, but aficionados know that good ramen requires true precision, discipline, execution and care. After honing their skills in the kitchen of a master and becoming consumed with a shared obsession with the traditional Japanese noodle soup, Blankenship and Koon find themselves just a few weeks away from adding their own steam to the city’s blossoming ramen renaissance.
We checked in with David Koon for an update as the duo puts the finishing touches on the space and the menu.
You guys are coming out of Morimoto – one of the highest-flying kitchens in the city. How and why did you decide to strike out on your own?
After working at that neck-breaking pace for 5 years, there comes a time when we wanted to do things our way and create an environment we wanted to work in. It’s the ultimate goal in our industry.
It has become our passion. It’s very soul satisfying.
We all live in Brooklyn, I was born and raised and it just seemed like the logical step. We also wanted to bring ramen into Brooklyn. We fell in love with Prospect Heights.
A lot of people think of ramen as a really simple food. True, or not so true?
Ramen seems simple as it is only a few ingredients but those types of cuisines are the hardest to execute. It is deceptively complex. Broths sometimes take days to make. Everything has be harmonious.
Here in the West, most of our exposure to ramen is through the instant variety that comes in microwaveable plastic cups and has lots of ingredients that are hard to pronounce. How will what you’ll be doing be different?
There is a time and place for those. Everyone grew up on that. Ours is more refined. Everything is all natural, hormone free and as good for you as possible. Just great meats, vegetables, and natural seasonings like pure sea salt, first press soy sauce, and miso.
Will you be working with any interesting local products – produce or meats from local or sustainable-minded producers?
We are trying to source as locally as possible. The closest we could get for pork is a coop in Iowa that produces pure Berkshire — all natural, sustainable, humanely-raised pigs. We are in the process of sourcing corn from a farm in New Jersey. I think market vegetables will be where we can really take advantage of using local farmers.
When are you opening?
Our target open date is August 24th. Fingers are crossed.
For the sake of those with little kids, I have to ask…will you be doing takeout?
We will not be at the beginning. Ramen is very difficult to package and does not travel well. It loses its integrity very quickly. But if we can design proper packaging and there is a demand we will revisit it in the future.
Chuko will be opening soon at 552 Vanderbilt Avenue (at Dean Street) in Prospect Heights. We’ll keep you posted…