Deli Ramen and Brooklyn: Q&A With Josh Kaplan of Dassara

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Last week, the buzz surrounding Josh Kaplan and Justin DeSpirito’s new ramen shop Dassara was everywhere. After a short soft opening, the Carroll Gardens shop officially opens today, and yes, the now famous Deli Ramen is on the menu. Dassara isn’t the first to offer a wacky take on the iconic Japanese dish. Last month, Angelo Sosa started making a brunch ramen at Social Eatz and Do or Dine was doing one, too, with bacon and eggs during the now defunct Sunday brunch service. But what makes the fifteen-dollar bowl of ramen at Dassara stand out? I talked to Kaplan to find out.

You have gotten a lot of press for your deli ramen. How did you think it up?
The Deli Ramen was a pretty logical leap for me as a Jew. When you have your first chicken ramen, you kind of get that Proustian rediscovery thing bringing you back to your first chicken soup, which for me had matzo balls in it. From there, the question was how to translate that to ramen. For chashu, the pastrami seemed like a fairly logical leap, and we also have an amazing deli willing to work with us [Mile End]. Rather than go the Totto route with raw onion, we thought we could achieve that crunch and heighten the sense that you’re having your Jewish grandma’s chicken soup with celery.

Are you a fan of regular ramen?
We love traditional ramen; my partners eat it regularly. Before this restaurant devoured my free time, I had eaten at every ramen-ya in the city.

You have said your concept focuses dishes infused with a Brooklyn fare. What does that mean to you?
The truth is we don’t know what Brooklyn ramen is yet. We’re trying to figure it out and there is a chance we won’t be the restaurant that definitively answers that question. To me, what defines Brooklyn and really New York City is its eclecticism: the mix of cuisines and cultures and the ways their proximity here influences one another. This allows us a wide berth for experimentation, and we are excited for the opportunity to explore the possibilities.

Do you have any NYC influences?
Yes we’re very influenced by the city. I think New York has the most intelligent, ambitious, adventurous chefs in the world.

What made you decide to open up in Carroll Gardens?
My partners live just on the other side of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, so it was a natural fit. Carroll Gardens is a wonderfully supportive neighborhood for restaurants and amazingly didn’t have a ramen shop, so it made a lot of sense.

What can we look forward to having at Dassara in the future?
For the fall, we’re developing a pork and apple ramen and a Xian ramen that features the flavors highlighted by Xian Famous Foods, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. Down the line, we’re working on a K-town ramen, a Creole ramen, and about a thousand other half-baked ideas that will probably never make it on the menu.