nakamuraya ebina: precision ramen engineering
Ebina, Kanagawa may sit far enough from central Tokyo that it warrants its own post code and ramenclature, but in reality, in the megalopolis of the future that is twenty-first century Japan, this hamlet of skyscrapers and tiered shopping arcades is but an extension of the Japanese capital’s urban sprawl. Tell that to Shige “Sean” Nakamura, the wunderkind behind Ramen California and his flagship restaurant, Nakamuraya, in Ebina. He might demur, and who knows what then? Would he put a little less citrus in your impeccably light, impossibly delicious yuzu shio ramen, all delicate chicken bone and fish dashi broth and pristine toppings - cured, Italianesque chashu and a half-boiled egg perfectly balanced between liquid and solid states of existence? Any sort of tinkering to such a precise, wondrous composition would no doubt bring the entire bowl down, for his food is just that, art and engineering on a magnificent, precarious level.
The ramen genius, as Nakamura-san will henceforth be known here amongst these pages, divides his time between the United States and Japan; I have yet to catch him while on duty in his native country, cooking at his namesake restaurant. It is only then and there that one can experience his famed “Essence” course, a chef’s choice tasting menu built upon the ingredients and principles of cooking ramen, but deconstructed, as it were, into something delicious and nigh on molecular in aspiration.
Those who initially scoffed at my description of Ramen California as a molecular restaurant - and there were quite a few - might point to the fact that no dish at that Los Angeles restaurant’s menu has particularly resembled a post-modern olive or a swath of chashu-infused cotton candy thus far. Molecular cooking, irrespective of the fireworks, refers simply to the practice of incorporating scientific principles into one’s recipes; that the young chef has always done, boiling vegetables at pinpoint temperatures, manually changing the PH of his water using a host of hospital-grade apparati.
Nakamuraya, left more often than not these days to the devices of his staff, still functions with the same level of precision, a fact highly evident in the aforementioned bowl of yuzu shio ramen, but even in its wontons, rife with the same, gently cured pork eerily reminiscent of prosciutto. Wrapped in delicate, paper-thin skin, it’s a pig in a blanket of otherworldly inspiration, cresting gingerly atop waves of gloriously tactile soup and undulating al dente noodles. It’s impossible to put too fine a point on it.
|nakamura's trademark chicken wafu shio is light and a touch oily, with fine fishy undercurrents. it's not strong-flavored stuff for late night, alcohol-dulled slurping, but infused with the flavor of yuzu, the soup is mighty refined.||8.5|
|thin, al dente strands have a great mouth feel and complement the gentle soup perfectly.||9|
|fresh, choice ingredients are the foundation of good ramen toppings. and they don't get any better than this. there's a nice char on chashu, and here's three words for the attention-challenged: cured prosciutto wontons!||10|
|haven't yet had any side dishes at this wonderful joint. i'm hoping the next time i return, the man himself will be at the helm. bring on the small plates!||NA|
|nakamura's aesthetic spills over from his cooking into decor with nominal success. his flagship restaurant is modern and minimalist with a touch of chinese rosewood, hearkening back to ramen's origins. it's a little cavernous, admittedly.||6|
|sean nakamura is the future of ramen. the grant achatz and ferran adria of the cuisine. noodling is in good hands.||10|