At 12:30 a.m., chef Ito Shigeru’s Benkei Ramen had its first service as a pop-up restaurant at Hill & Dale’s Lower East Side digs, having relocated east from its previous spot inside the Soho sushi restaurant Ushiwaka Maru.
Justin Farmer, Hill & Dale’s chef and partner, said Benkei only served four tables last night, but he’s confident that the traffic will pick up and he’d like to have a longterm partnership with the noodle shop.
Through word-of-mouth, Benkei became a popular ramen destination once before, particularly among those who work in the restaurant industry, Farmer said. Daily Candy deemed it one of the best ramen restaurants in the city.
“The Lower East Side has a lot of late-night people. And there’s not a lot of good places to eat around other than pizza,” he said.
Four nights a week, Farmer will turn his kitchen over to Shigeru. Hill & Dale’s kitchen technically closes at midnight, but Farmer said not many people order food after 11 p.m.
“I’ve been wanting to do a regular pop-up menu for a while,” said Farmer. “Our menu doesn’t fully utilize the big kitchen downstairs, so we don’t fully utilize the space. We have a lot of extra everything to share.
One reason Shigeru’s product is so good, Farmer said, is that he uses four different kinds of noodles, all purchased from Sun Noodles, purveyor for all the city’s top ramen spots. “Eventually, he’ll get offered money to open his own ramen house.”
For now, Benkei’s menu is exclusively at Hill & Dale, and the focus is threefold. Farmer likens the tonkotsu ramen ($12.50) with “eating liquified pork butter, in a good way. It sticks to your bones.” Meanwhile, the shoyu ramen ($12.50) and kaisen shoyu ramen ($16) are lighter options, with soy-and-dashi based stock.
The second service takes place Sunday evening (well, technically Monday morning).
Benkei Ramen at Hill & Dale, 115 Allen St. at Delancey St., 212-420-1115, Sun. to Wed. 12:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.