An ode to the mottainai philosophy

OKONOMI / YUJI RAMEN

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Text, photography, and video: Chantal Arnts

At Okonomi / Yuji Ramen in New York, not a single part of the fish goes to waste. Chef Yuji Haraguchi and his team embrace the ancient Buddhist philosophy of mottainai, the Japanese term which means zero waste, respecting the environment, and showing gratitude.

In 2016, Yuji added a store and education center to his restaurants. At Osakana, customers have their pick of the freshest, locally caught fish, as well as access to lessons on how to make sushi, which techniques to use, and how to best use fish in their home kitchen. This is chef Yuji’s way of restoring the lost connection between the city and the ocean that touches it. 

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Yuji opened his own restaurant(s) Okonomi and Yuji Ramen in 2014, working only with fish from the Atlantic ocean, like sea bass, mackerel, and flounder, and produce from the local farmer’s markets. At Okonomi he serves a fixed menu according to the tradition of ichiju sansai, a foundational element of Japanese cuisine that literally means ‘one soup and three side dishes.’ Rice and miso soup are such staples.

Ten years ago, owner and chef Yuji worked as a fishmonger in the Japanese fishing industry. He is job was to distribute Japanese fish to high-end sushi restaurants in New York and Boston. It was here he first noticed a paradox in the American approach to fish: The quality and potential of locally caught, American fish was just as high as the fish from Japan, but restaurants kept insisting on the Japanese product that had to travel thousands of miles before landing on the plate. This approach was anathema to the love and care with which the Japanese fishmongers treat their products.

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‘The quality and potential of locally caught, American fish is just as high as the fish from Japan, but restaurants kept insisting on the Japanese product that had to travel thousands of miles before landing on the plate.’ 

The locally caught fish served by chef Yuji is fresher than fresh. Each morning before the sun kisses the streets of New York he gets to work so he can serve the fish - along with rice and miso soup - to Okonomi’s first guests at 9 AM. At 3 PM the twelve seat shop transforms into Yuji Ramen, where what’s left of the day’s catch – like fish heads and bones – is used to make broth for steaming bowls of ramen served from 6 PM to 11 PM.

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Eggs

Eggs

Pickled vegetables

Pickled vegetables

漬物

Grilled fish

Grilled fish

ロースト魚

Miso soup

Miso soup

味噌汁

Wholegrain rice

Wholegrain rice

マルチグレインライス

In 2016, Yuji added a store and education center to his restaurants. At Osakana, customers have their pick of the freshest, locally caught fish, as well as access to lessons on how to make sushi, which techniques to use, and how to best use fish in their home kitchen. This is chef Yuji’s way of restoring the lost connection between the city and the ocean that touches it. 

Text, photography, and video: Chantal Arnts

OKONOMI / YUJI RAMEN

An ode to the mottainai philosophy

At Okonomi / Yuji Ramen in New York, not a single part of the fish goes to waste. Chef Yuji Haraguchi and his team embrace the ancient Buddhist philosophy of mottainai, the Japanese term which means zero waste, respecting the environment, and showing gratitude.

E
D
U
C
A
T
I
N
G

The locally caught fish served by chef Yuji is fresher than fresh. Each morning before the sun kisses the streets of New York he gets to work so he can serve the fish - along with rice and miso soup - to Okonomi’s first guests at 9 AM. At 3 PM the twelve seat shop transforms into Yuji Ramen, where what’s left of the day’s catch – like fish heads and bones – is used to make broth for steaming bowls of ramen served from 6 PM to 11 PM.

‘The quality and potential of locally caught, American fish is just as high as the fish from Japan, but restaurants kept insisting on the Japanese product that had to travel thousands of miles before landing on the plate.’ 

P
A
R
A
D
O
X

Ten years ago, owner and chef Yuji worked as a fishmonger in the Japanese fishing industry. He is job was to distribute Japanese fish to high-end sushi restaurants in New York and Boston. It was here he first noticed a paradox in the American approach to fish: The quality and potential of locally caught, American fish was just as high as the fish from Japan, but restaurants kept insisting on the Japanese product that had to travel thousands of miles before landing on the plate. This approach was anathema to the love and care with which the Japanese fishmongers treat their products.

Yuji opened his own restaurant(s) Okonomi and Yuji Ramen in 2014, working only with fish from the Atlantic ocean, like sea bass, mackerel, and flounder, and produce from the local farmer’s markets. At Okonomi he serves a fixed menu according to the tradition of ichiju sansai, a foundational element of Japanese cuisine that literally means ‘one soup and three side dishes.’ Rice and miso soup are such staples.

F
I
S
H
E
D
U
C
A
T
I

O
N

Japanese style breakfast

ロースト魚

Wholegrain rice

マルチグレインライス

Miso soup

味噌汁

Grilled fish

Pickled vegetables

漬物

Eggs

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Food Inspiration Magazine is the online magazine for foodservice professionals in search of inspiration and innovation. With the magazine we collect, enrich and spread inspiration. The free subscription magazine is published eight times per year and is an abundant source of inspiration for food and hospitality professionals. Our readers can be found in the U.S., Northern Europe, Latin America and Asia.
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