Foo Kanegae, the former Master Chef of Ippudo, announced that his first solo project, Karazishi Botan, opens February 27, and will see the Hakata native at his very best, utilizing his broad repertoire of skills honed in Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture, Shanghai, Paris and New York. Kanegae and his team will serve inventive ramen offerings and beloved Japanese-Western style dishes in a casual environment. The diverse menu of small to large format dishes, in addition to his modern take on noodle offerings is part of Kanegae’s vision of an intimate neighborhood ramen diner.
At Ippudo, Kanegae crafted over 600 types of ramen varieties, a vast majority bearing traditional Japanese flavor profiles, but he is taking a different approach at Karazhishi Botan, as the menu will reflect not only influences of Japanese cuisine but also that of his own inimitable style of American-Western cooking blended in with his love for Western pop-culture.
Intriguingly, Kanegae studied breadmaking in France, under Houlliot Andre, the third apprentice of the world-famous professor of baking, Raymon Calvel. This foundation has given him added insight into working with flour, especially for the noodle-making process. Take his signature ramen, Chef Special-Iron Men, composed of a 16-month dry-aged pork bone soup, blended with chicken and oxtail, culminating in a rich flavorful broth; while the Ti Amo – Kanegae’s homage to the Grammy Award-winning French band, Phoenix – is composed of a refreshing chicken and oyster soup base, topped with chicken cha-shu, mashed potatoes, crispy bacon, and lemon for guests to season before they start slurping. On the lighter side, Kanegae is introducing a Misopresso Botan-ical Ramen, with a porcini miso soup base that is steamed with an espresso machine, producing a creamy finish, and then served with thin brown rice noodles that are gluten-free. This particular ramen is inspired by the neighborhood’s collection of local coffeeshops, as Kanegae wanted to craft a ramen that spoke to the spirit of the area that was also vegan-friendly.
Ramen is complemented by a diverse array of dishes ideal for sharing, showcasing the chef’s knack for crafting iconic Japanese comfort food with a tinge of Western influence. Highlights include the Okonomi Foo, Kanegae’s take on Japanese savory pancakes, but prepared in a waffle-maker; and the Botan Pork Spare Ribs, marinated in soy, balsamic sauce and topped-off with a homemade spicy fried scallion powder. Another must try is the Foo Bao, with choice of pork simmered in oxtail extract, cream croquette with okonomi mayo sauce, and falafel with vegan mayo sauce, and the Botan Zangi, a deep-fried chicken dish native to Hokkaido. Seasonal selection of sushi made with pressed Japanese premium rice will also be available.
The ramen diner features a sake list curated by Chizuko Niikawa-Helton, founder of Sake Discoveries and one of New York’s top sake sommeliers. Industry City based, Brooklyn Kura’s locally produced jizake is another highlight on the sake list, alongside selections from famed sake producing areas such as Kyushu and Tohoku. A range of refreshing sake cocktails with infusions ranging from mango to tomato are offered too while rare Japanese whiskies such as Suntory Hibiki 21 years; and a Suntory Kacho Fugetsu 21 years will also be available. Rounding-off the beverage menu and in keeping with the house-aged approach, guests can also choose to imbibe small-batch aged shochu prepared by the chef and his team, and an assortment of local and Japanese beer and wine.
Largely responsible for Ippudo’s success and expansion in the U.S., Kanegae has amassed an impressive number of accolades and achievements. Perhaps one of his most notable milestones includes Kanegae’s experience cooking ramen for the legendary inventor of instant ramen, Momofuku Ando – Ando himself said that Kanegae was one of Japan’s great ramen masters. He continued to thrive under “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara, founder of Japanese ramen empire Ippudo, and then Kawahara tapped Kanegae to move to New York in 2007 to lead the expansion of the empire.