Manhattan, sometime in the late 1980s. My roommates and I, having just struggled mightily to make the rent on our five-floor walk-up on the Lower East Side, are preparing dinner together.
“Chicken, shrimp, or Oriental?” asks James.
Jeff huffs in annoyance. “Did you eat all the beef flavor already?”
“It all tastes the same,” I say. “Just have the chicken flavor.”
Of course, we were eating instant ramen noodles, those packaged bricks that are ubiquitous in every dorm room across America. If you’ve never fixed yourself a late-night snack of ramen while cramming for a college final, or after an evening of drinking warm beer from red Solo cups, consider yourself lucky. If, however, just the thought of that sodium-laden spice packet inspires flashbacks, then head to Park Avenue for an authentic ramen experience.
Furoshiki, located near the busy Park and Berkeley intersection, is a cozy spot to get your slurp on. Their tagline, “Asian-inspired comfort food,” certainly was promising when I stopped by on a chilly, gloomy February afternoon to check out the ramen.
Before unwrapping my chopsticks, however, I was presented with a plate of steamed pork-belly buns. These have been a popular menu item in pan-Asian restaurants over the past few years, and Furoshiki’s version -- at least based on the number of other customers I heard ordering the buns -- are hot sellers. With a perfectly soft, steamed bun, the delectable slab of pork belly hiding inside, a piquant sauce and the unusual addition of pickle slices, it was easy to see why. Missing from these were the traditional scallions and peanuts, but it wasn’t much of a loss.
The main attraction at Furoshiki is most definitely the noodles. There are five basic ramen offerings -- pork, chicken, miso, veggie, and kimchi -- and all start with a slow-cooked broth. Then, the chefs load the bowls with add-ons like veggies, meat, scallions, soft-boiled egg halves, sprouts, and greens. Patrons can add meats, tofu, kimchi or a “spice bomb” -- a house blend of spices plus Sriracha -- to customize the standard ramen bowls to their liking.
The pork-bone ramen that I tasted was indeed a comforting meal, featuring a balance of savory broth, perfectly cooked meat and the requisite noodles. But if you’re not in a noodle mood, Furoshiki also serves up sandwiches (including the now-trendy ramen burger, in which the beef patty is nestled between two rounds of cooked noodle “buns”) and salads. There are also enough small plates that diners could easily orchestrate their own dim sum-style meal, choosing from chicken or beef yakitori, pork dumplings, edamame, salt-and-pepper calamari, fried tofu bites, chicken wings and lettuce wraps. Sides include wasabi peas, shoestring fries, tempura-fried green beans, brussels sprouts, and more. For dessert, there’s cheesecake and chocolate-covered fortune cookies.
The bar at Furoshiki, although physically small, boasts a wide range of sake and sake-inspired cocktails, as well as wine and beer. For $10, a group of four can each enjoy a shot, and the restaurant offers a daily 2-for-1 beer and wine happy hour, as well as $3 wine, beer and sake specials from 9-11pm.
Furoshiki’s website says that there are 34,488 ramen shops in Japan, which is a testament to the satisfaction this flavor-packed soup can provide. Now Rochesterians can taste for themselves how different the authentic version of ramen is from its much maligned, college-staple cousin.
Furoshiki Kitchen and Cocktails
682 Park Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607
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