Every time I go to a Makoto Suzuki restaurant, I’m always smitten with at least two or three dishes that are unique and mind blowing. At Bozu, it was the yellow pepper custard dessert, at Samurai Mama, it was the Udon noodles with an amazingly complex and delicate dashi broth, and, now, at his new venture, Samurai Papa, it is the sushi shots: salty chunks of lightly seared horse mackerel over a mini dome of sushi rice or the fresh salmon slices with salmon roe.
Over the last 10 years, Suzuki, once an aspiring Japanese actor, has built a small dining empire in North Brooklyn. He owns Bozu and Samurai Mama in North Williamsburg, Momo Sushi Shack, the Brooklyn Ball Factory in Bushwick, and now Samurai Papa, a ramen and sushi shop found on a quiet stretch of East Williamsburg at 32 Varet Street.
Samurai Papa is Suzuki’s baby. He named his second restaurant for his wife, in honor of her udon dishes, but now he has finally named a restaurant for himself, after all, he will soon be a father of three.
Samurai Papa’s signature dish is ramen noodles, a dish that’s having a moment. All the noodles in Suzuki’s restaurants are made in house with a pasta maker he imported from Japan. There are five different styles on the menu, including the vegan ramen, delicate white vegan noodles bathed in a broth composed of onion, ginger, enoki mushrooms, garlic, daikon radish and eggplant, then topped with avocado, mixed vegetables and kikurage mushrooms. The eggplant gave the broth a velvety body that’s as comforting as a warm blanket. Then there is the quarter fake vegan ramen, which uses a vegan stock with pork and mushroom toppings. Both the Papa ramen and the shoyu ramen incorporate chicken, bonito and mussel stock with meaty toppings.
For me, ramen noodles will always be comfort food. I don’t care how much the chefs jazz it up; it is a staple, a bowl of piping hot noodles with rich flavorful broths, adorned with big chunks of vegetables, mushrooms or fatty pieces of meat. This is the food you want on a cold winter’s night, after you split up with your boy/girlfriend of three weeks and when you’re far from home and in need of a hug. These ramens are made with loving and care and are beautifully presented and Suzuki keeps his prices real, at $8 to $11.
Samurai Papa is much more than a noodle shop, it offers great sushi and an array of intriguing appetizers as well. There are plenty of vegan dishes for those who don’t eat animals, from kale and arugula salad with a yuzu dressing to veggie gyozas. The sushi shots and sushi rolls are as fresh as any thing you’ll get at a tony neighborhood Japanese restaurant. There’s beer and cocktails, tea and a great sake list. My recommendation? Go for the Yuzu Omoi, it’s intensely citrusy and you’ll get lost in that heavenly aroma. Moreover, with just 7% alcoholic content, you can drink a lot of it.
Samurai Papa is an intimate restaurant, long and narrow, the walls are a grayish white with dark stripe trimmings that mimics a shoji screen. There are two large communal tables and a bar that sits about eight. I was there on a Friday night and by 7:30 pm; the place was already festive with diners slurping ramen and downing beer and sake.
32 Varet Street