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More of Brooklyn: Samurai Mama

July 22, 2011

Remember how I ended the last entry on Brooklyn bidding farewell to Williamsburg?  Well, apparently you just can’t keep me from Brooklyn!  Only 3 hours later, I found myself walking down Bedford Avenue – this time in search of Samurai Mama for some udon noodles.

Udon is a little like the neglected stepchild to the adored ramen.  Honestly, there’s nothing not to like – big fat chewy white noodles, offering a certain bite that ramen is missing.  When I read that Samurai Mama makes somewhat of a spectacular out of udon, I had to venture out to Brooklyn to check it out.  Luckily, it didn’t take my friends much convincing before we hopped on the L Brooklyn-bound.

We finally found Samurai Mama after taking quite a few detours to do a little shopping.  The restaurant was nearly empty which made it perfect for snapping a few shots of the interior which I loved.  A large wooden communal table took over the center of the dining room with herb filled jars as decor.  There were large wood booths off to the right side of the restaurant.  It was a little bit of modern meets beachy country meets Japanese minimalist.

The Main Dining Table

The menu consists of sections of smaller dishes and a stew section featuring daikon with various proteins as well as the obligatory sushi and sashimi section.  Of course, the main attraction is udon.  There are 3 types: hot broth (in similar fashion to ramen), dipping (akin to soba), and dump style.  And yes, it did completely escape my hungry stomach the humor of this particular preparation.

Bypassing the sushi and other typical dishes you find on Japanese menus, we shared four appetizers.  The first is house made tofu topped with seaweed tukudani and avocado slices.  It was good, very good – silky and creamy almost.  Perhaps it didn’t really even need the toppings but I rather enjoyed the seaweed tukudani that brought a touch of soy and of the sea.  Next was a pick off the special menu – scallop carpaccio topped with uni.  While I had high hopes for it (given my affinity to uni), I was a little disappointed with the flaccid taste of the scallops.  At least the uni’s distinctiveness shone through and gave a little brightness to the dish.  Moving on was JZ’s call, mackerel marinated in salt and vinegar.  I have always been a little weary of mackerel raw for its excessive fishiness.  But this dish surprised me.  After a brine of salt and vinegar, the mackerel was refreshing and tender.  I loved topping it with a little bit of wasabi, ginger and shiso.  Wrapping up the appetizers was a big delicious bowl of pork belly and daikon stew with a perfectly soft boiled egg.  There was suppose to have been a dollop of spicy mustard on top of the egg but that fell into the savory rich broth somewhere from the kitchen to our table.  While others at the table marveled at the tender pork belly, I was more awed by the lovely golden orange egg yolk, slurping pieces of it up with the broth.

House Made Tofu, Scallops with Uni, Mackerel with Salt and Vinegar, Daikon and Pork Belly (Starting top left clockwise)

For entrees, we of course all ordered udon (not that there was another choice).    There are a few options for each style with even vegetarian options available for all preparation.  Like most noodle restaurants, there is a whole list of items to add to your noodles.  I was the only one who went with the dump style – bukkake, with some sansai (wild edible Japanese plants).  While those who went with the hot broth udon found the noodles a tad overcooked from the heat of the broth, I went absolutely crazy for my bukkake.  It was served chilled with seaweed, scallion, ginger, and crunchy bits with a shot glass full of hot concentrated broth and a poached egg on the side.  I dumped (hence the name!) everything into my giant bowl, mixed and slurped!  The noodles are fantastically chilled, maintaining their chewy texture, flavored lightly by the sauce created by the broth and egg yolk.  I could have easily had two bowls without any issues.

Bukkake Udon with Sansai

I think I can safely say, Samurai Mama is up for the running of my second favorite Japanese restaurant in the city.  The appetizers were for the most part beautifully delicate and wonderful, all leading up to amazingly executed udon noodles (in any style you want).  This only adds to the draw of Brooklyn for me.  I am already itching to go back for another bowl of Bukkake udon and a few more slices of mackerel.

Samurai Mama | 205 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 | www.samuraimama.com

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