bassanova: currying flavors
Way back in 2007, soon after “the rameniac” was born, a slew of English-language ramen-themed blogs began popping up on the web. Not that I can claim a patent on the concept (after all, both BON and Ed had already been in business for years) but Go Ramen! was the first to hit in the wake of my arrival on the proverbial noodle scene, and thus I began to keep tabs on him. “Here comes the competition,” I’d thought, and simply sucked it up to the vagaries of a wild wild web and the knowledge that with tens of thousands of ramen shops spread across the globe, there’s likely enough slurping to go around.
As with rival noodle chefs, I would eventually get to know Keizo, the blogger behind the site. He turned out to be a pretty level guy, and is even a fellow UCLA graduate to boot (okay, now this is just getting weird). Over the months, we bonded over bowls and (well, hapless) Bruin football, friends with a shared agenda: to popularize the humble “Chinese noodle” as a deserving component of 21st-century global food culture. Or maybe he just really likes the stuff and eats a ton of it; either way, the dude’s alright by me.
Bassanova then, is Keizo’s favorite ramen shop, his preferred hangout whenever he visits his relatives in Tokyo. A “rameniac” if ever there was one, he’s actually quitting his day job and moving to Japan next month, where he’ll soon train to become an honest-to-goodness ramen chef. It’s the fulfillment of his lifelong dream, and so to salute Keizo’s enthusiam, I sat down for a bowl of the restaurant’s green curry ramen, a “must-try” and practically the first thing he eats whenever he visits Japan.
Bassanova sits on a quiet thoroughfare in Setagaya, an expanse of stylish suburbs on Tokyo’s west side. It’s a small, hipster sort of noodle joint, with jazz on the sound system and ramen that deliberately breaks from tradition. The signature guriin kare ramen is a small but potent bowl of noodles nesting in a Thai curry-based soup. Garnished with thread-thin strands of shaved red chili pepper, it’s an aesthetically considered composition, the sort of nouveau-fusion assemblage that could only have sprung from the city’s cosmopolitan mélange of influences.
Thick, rich and full of fragrance, the coconut milk-laden soup bears a consistency akin to a moderately kotteri tonkotsu; it would work just as well as sauce upon a bed of Jasmine rice. “It’s good for when you’re drunk,” Keizo attests, and the stuff does fall on the salty end of the scale. As one of the first bowls that I, too, slurped after a few weeks in California, its flavor might have come off a bit too saturated. There’s no denying the chashu however, which is absolutely state-of-the-art — tender, moist, and laced with a perfume of smoky charcoal essence. Ribbon-like noodles boast good heft, curl and chew, and in truth, the dish is much more refined than one deserving of a simple alchohol-induced slurp.
But I can’t begrudge Go! for getting his booze on before a bowl. Heck, I’d do much same, and I’m sure when Ivan Ramen closes up shop and this particularly enthusiastic ramen blogger is done with working for the day, he’ll be spending plenty a drunken night in the shadow of Setagaya’s neon-lit “BASA” sign. Keizo, just do me a favor and tell them to fix their spelling. Nope, I’m not jealous of your new ramen-fueled life out in the trendy Tokyo suburbs; I can’t even be bothered to cook.
|thick, gritty, and infused with the coconut milky essence of thai curry, bassanova's green curry ramen soup is a stalwart liquid. drink water, it's salty stuff.||8.5|
|thick, wheaty, ribbon-like curls exude excellence. surprisingly hearty, it's easy to see why the restaurant's portions are smaller than average. simply put, they fill you up well.||9.5|
|fragrant, perfumed chashu are the state-of-the-art grilled charcoal flavor. the menma are fresh and soft, and the shredded red pepper are artful and gorgeous, if ineffective at actual heat.||9.5|
|next time. you can bet i'll be back.||NA|
|bassanova is properly boho, certainly by setagaya's tony standards. it's all dark interiors and chilled out jazz on the stereo set against rough-painted, blacked out interiors evocative of a an ur underground club. just my sort of vibe, actually.||7.5|
|bassanova brings a mean bowl of fusion ramen to a tony residential neighborhood in western tokyo. if you're anywhere near the place, definitely check it out.||NA|