Yankee noodle dandy

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While no one should be ashamed to admit Argentina is often behind the masses in terms of catching onto food trends (sushi, anyone?), it seems we’ve finally made it onto a level playing field with New York and ramen. Well, we’ve got the address of the playing field…

According to an article in Japanese publication The Yomiuri Shimbun this week, which focuses on the noodle trend in the US, it turns out: “In New York alone there are 60 ramen eateries, with more expected to open this year.”

Focusing in particular on ramen chain Ippudo New York in the East Village, Japanese journalist Sanae Nokura noted the following: “New Yorkers eat noodles differently from the Japanese. A renge spoon, which often comes with soup or noodle dishes, is two and a half times bigger than the ones used in Japan. New Yorkers often put the noodles in the spoon first before eating them. They tend to enjoy talking while eating ramen, and don’t seem to mind if the noodles become flat.”

I guess porteños falsos are as chatty as New Yorkers, because when we dined at Fukuro Noodle Bar in Palermo Hollywood on Tuesday, it took us nearly three hours to get through pork buns and noodle bowls.

Barely open a month, I first got wind of US-Argentine couple Matías and Vanessa Camozzi’s project a few months ago. And while their Asian-style eaterie, dedicated exclusively to ramen, registers in BA as a single digit in comparison with food haven New York, well, it’s a start, isn’t it?

I like slurping up a bowl of soupy goodness, and my go-to place for it has always been San Telmo Shokudo. The 70-peso lunch special includes a large black bowl of ramen and that was a ritual for Maya and I; she’d order sushi resplendent on a wooden boat, I’d take the gyoza dumplings and ramen. But now she’s moved away, I’m less inclined to put the world to rights on my own.

So in the nick of time comes Fukuro, and when I got wind that it was in the making I strolled past casually. The “To Rent” sign was still blazoned across the front of the property, and so on to the backburner went the thought of dribbling broth down my chest.

Peer through the horizontal window from the street, and wonder at the 25-metre stencil mural by Cabaio. The fusion of bright and breezy Chairman Maos, boom boxes, waving cats and Asian characters is eye-catching to say the least.

Once lured in by the street art, you’ll see the overall aesthetic has also been carefully thought out. High wooden stools with seats replicating the roof of Japanese temples line the two table bars, which are laid with renge spoons and smooth chopsticks. (Nothing worse than a tongue splinter after eating cheap, avocado-laden sushi.)

Dance and pop tunes blare out, and if the little Japanese figurines —one of barman and owner Matías’ in-restaurant collections besides skateboards that double up as foot rests — could groove, they would.
Service is friendly, with Matías keen to explain the recent history behind their noodle bar to diners.

Although the clue is in the name — bar — a cosy chat over dinner isn’t very easy if there are more than two of you sitting in a line to eat. The five of us rotated between stools during dinner, fine if the space is available but potentially problematic if it isn’t. (I am properly lazy and was born to be carried by footmen, so I won’t be steating — standing and eating — any time soon.)

Fukuro’s menu is short and sweet, and as dining mate Gacsy said: “It’s really similar to Momofuku.” He’d know. He’s been to the legendary NYC ramen bar. I, however, have not, but in my book there’s nothing wrong with tribute bands or tribute restaurants so I was thrilled at the prospect of gyoza, steamed pork buns (both 35 pesos) and of course noodles and broth in a great big bowl (75 pesos).

We took an order of those starters, labelled #PiggyStyle and #HuangBrothers respectively, and I have to say the pork belly steamed buns beat out the gyoza I always champion. Chef Vanessa has been tinkering with recipes for months, and all I can think is that poor pig must have been slow-roasted for weeks, it was so succulent. With a back-up team of coriander, pink peppercorns, pickled cukes and radishes and the perfect amount of hoisin sauce, this was a win-win situation. Repeat.

Nothing against the gyoza, but the buns were better value for money and far tastier by comparison.
On to the main attraction. Vanessa’s broth, a shitake mushroom and pork base, has been stewing for eight hours and she makes the noodles from scratch. (Yep, that lady is in the kitchen all day long.)

Chicken, pork or vegetable ramen are your options, supported by bean sprouts, spring onion, toasted sesame seeds and a poached egg — break that chicken seed and mix it well into the broth. Note for the hungry: each ingredient can be topped up for a small additional fee.

I went for chicken ramen and it was delicious and comforting noodley goodness that beat the pants off my old haunt in terms of flavour, ingredient quality and the fact it had more than two slices of meat floating in it. (Apparently I used to be easily pleased on the ramen front).

Other cute touches include animal bento boxes and training chop sticks for the uninitiated (AKA Argentine friends). Fun, friendly and filling. That’s what Fukuro could well mean in Asian fusion.

Fukuro Noodle Bar
Costa Rica 5514, Palermo

Buenos Aires Herald, October 20, 2013

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