Even though Rochester has a decent selection for a city of our size, there are still a few cuisine styles that I’ve been looking forward to seeing pop up; ramen being chief among them. Sure we have plenty of restaurants that serve sushi and other Japanese foods and even a few that dabble in ramen, but nowhere that focused on it specifically until recently. Furoshiki is a newcomer to Park Ave replacing the deceased Piranha at the corner of Berkeley St and trying to fill that giant ramen shaped void in the market.
OK. Fine. I might have been overstating a bit there, but I’ve had the pleasure of having some solid bowls in larger cities and have been very jealous following the trend explode the last few years. Of note, the tonkotsu style ramen recipe and ramen style guide that J. Kenji Lopez-Alt posed on Serious Eats worked me up to a fever pitch and made me desire a thick, rich bowl of pork bone ramen in my face like nothing else.
From a design standpoint, I thought that the interior made a change for the better from the previous iteration going in a brighter, simpler direction. Wooden tables, a few chalkboards with menu and drink options and it definitely fits in with the feel of the rest of the other Park Ave establishments. The menu is nominally Japanese with nods to current restaurant trends and general Asian flavors highlighted by the ramen and their wide selection of sakes.
My experience at Furoshiki was split into two different visits and I do have a quick proviso before I continue. The second of my visits was with the Rochester Blogger Network with other food related bloggers/writers and our meal was comped by the restaurant. My effort as always is to maintain my objectivity regardless of the circumstance and in the spirit of transparency I thought it was important to put that on the table before I continued with my review. Now on with the show!
I’m going to start off with the ramen since I’m assuming that is what most people are here to read about. In my opinion, the most important part of a bowl of broth based ramen is the broth itself followed by the noodles and the accompaniments (meat/eggs/vegetables/sauces) there to provide support and punch things up a bit. On the positive side, both the veggie and pork bone broths had a reasonably flavorful base and were the best seasoned of the bunch. When it came to the richness of the pork bone ramen, it wasn’t quite as thick and gelatinous as I was looking for but it did have a distinct pork taste that i enjoyed. I did utilize their spice bomb (additional $1 charge with a similar flavor profile to that of a Huy Fong Chili-Garlic sauce) in my veggie bowl which brought some of the spice I was hunting for to go along with the clear and clean vegetable broth. I would have also liked to see an option for dark garlic oil or chili oil as well to bring some extra diversity to the table.
What stood out most for me in the pork bone, veggie and chicken broths that I tasted was the inconsistency in baseline seasoning from one to the other. I can accept some variation since cooking is never exactly the same from one batch to another, but the range of saltiness that I tasted was a bit much and how it was handled was tough for me to accept. On both occasions when it was reported to the chef that the salt level was off (a bit low one time and inedibly high the other) we were informed that it was how the kitchen always seasoned things. When they offered to bring out a replacement for the high salt chicken broth one of my friend had, the new version came out with absolutely zero salt level and almost no flavor whatsoever. The tone when it was brought up wasn’t acceptable to me and my dining companions and was unfortunately one of the lasting impressions we took away from our experience.
Moving on from that issue, the rest of the ramen components had their ups and downs worth discussing as well. I was informed by the owner (Mark Teng, also of Plum House) that their noodles are sourced from Sun Noodle which, according to some of my favorite food commenters Francis Lam and Andrew Zimmern, is one of the premier noodle purveyors in the country. I can’t say what texture the wavy medium thickness noodles we were served are traditionally supposed to be served, but in practice the noodles in each of the bowls I had were a bit softer than I was hoping for. In both the pork bone and the veggie bowls, the toppings were uneven with some good elements and some that could be improved upon. I enjoyed the grilled flavor of the pork in the pork bone but it was on the dry side and although the cabbage added needed crunch to the affair I would have preferred better cuts or a different variety.
As you can see in the picture, the egg was hard boiled and could have benefitted from a few less minutes of cooking. In the veggie bowl, all the toppings (mixed bell peppers, broccoli) remained crisp and fresh after cooking but seemed to be cut on the large side for combining with the noodles and broth. I also would have liked to have seen a nod or two to Asian veggies instead of the purely American versions.
Moving off of the ramen to some of the other food that I tried, I think my favorite of the bunch was the kale salad with crunchy sweet potato bits and slices of avocado. All the textures worked well together and although the wasabi ginger dressing didn’t pack a major punch it still had a pleasant flavor that was better than the generic overly sweet ginger dressing you see at most places. The sweet potato fries and fried green beans both hit their mark especially when eaten with the tangy and lightly spicy dipping sauce. Steamed pork dumplings didn’t stand out and the pork belly buns and sausage skewer both missed for me. The pork buns had a small serving of belly that couldn’t stand up to the pickle slices and the Coretta sausage skewer tasted exactly like an Italian sausage which wasn’t what I was expecting. Not sure what I was looking for but it definitely wasn’t that.
I’m not entirely sure how to round this review out. I can’t say that I ended up particularly satisfied with either of my experiences at Furoshiki, but I am happy that we have a place focused on ramen in Rochester and what I tasted does have the potential to be better. I’m sure I’ll end up eating at Furoshiki again and I hope it achieves a level of consistency and focus that can make their ramen a heavy hitter in Rochester.