Choose your ramen wisely at recently opened Ganso in Downtown Brooklyn. At a self touting ramen restaurant, one would think all versions of this comforting steaming bowl of brothy goodness would be equally exceptional. However, vivid disparities quizzically lurk in the “Ramen” section of the menu. As stellar and complex as the Short Rib bowl was, the Spicy Miso was just as lackluster. The former, beautifully layered with round flavors and a pleasantly salty bite to carry the tender shreds of beef, firm but yielding noodles, and that ever so luscious mouthfeel of a soft yolky egg. The latter left me digging for some semblance of spicy punch or a fond lingering taste. While the pork was well cooked, it didn’t make peep on the palate. And beware of the tender but porous noodles that soak up the broth to an unfortunate mushiness the longer it sits.
Why delve into this focused contrast right off the bat? Because it points to the dichotomy that exists and radiates through all facets in this new Japanese spot. Here, there is an amplified hit or miss sensibility.
Take the ambiance, for example. The service is phenomenal. Our server was all you could ask for: amiable, knowledgeable, attentive, genuine. The decor, on the other hand, unfinished and uninspired. It’s a good start with sleek blonde wood booths and minimalist light fixtures, but the large blank white wall and absence of accent pieces, art, and mood lighting contribute to the lack of character and warmth the space needs. Not to mention the bizarre music selection of hardcore rap only aided in disjointing any semblance of cohesion. Fortunately, these are aspects that can surely be improved upon the longer the restaurant marinates in this cauldron of culinary Brooklyn.
The culinary chops of Chef Ryuji (Rio) Irie were honed in his native Japan, so one could only hope this reflects an authenticity about his beloved Japanese comfort food. Authentic or not, dive into standout dishes like the Miso-Cured Skirt Steak and the Buta Kimchi pork buns. Both appetizer portions, the skirt steak is expertly charred and thinly sliced, its heartiness juxtaposed by delicate miso undertones and deliciously sweet marmalade. The braised pork buns satisfy as any tasty meat layered between soft supple bread can, piled with piquant jalapeno and mayo for punch, and thick cucumber for crisp levity.
While they may seem like a failsafe go-to, feel free to skip the Crispy Gyoza. Though innovatively presented as five individual potstickers linked by a thin airy crisp layer of batter, the pork filling contributes little flavor to the uber oily finish on your tongue.
But by the same surprising token, do lunge for the inconspicuously satisfying Hijiki seaweed and Root Vegetable salads, both julienne shredded and dressed to light perfection. And as small appetizer cups, doubling up on them would not be a bad idea.
Ganso delivers on some great ideas, but also has ones that could use a bit more thought. Either way, its worth a shot to see if it succeeds in being the Japanese soup for your soul.
25 Bond Street