Chef Jose Ramirez-Ruiz’s Pop-up Restaurant at Whirlybird Cafe
254 South 2nd Street off Havemeyer, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
$55 each for 2 people, without drinks, without tip
Email chezjosebk at gmail dot com for reservations
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Back in 2009, I had a very impressive dinner at a pop-up restaurant inside the Brooklyn Fare store for $70 per person. Three years and three Michelin stars later, the tasting menu is now $225. So when I heard that chef Jose Ramirez-Ruiz used to cook there and at the old Isa and is now running his own popup at the Whirlybird Cafe, I jumped at the $55 chance before the rest of the food world raises his prices.
You take a risk when you decide to support a pop-up restaurant. As someone who’s served dinner to groups of people on the down-low, I know how it is to cook in a borrowed kitchen without the resources one may have if they were working in a real restaurant. Not only do you prep and cook the dishes for your customers, you also serve and clean up after everyone’s left. In the end, you realize that you really only do it for the love of cooking.
Chef Jose Ramirez-Ruiz, and his sidekick of the night @wandrlstng, both love to create and cook. The dishes were grown-up and technical, and the vegetable-focused dishes were adventurous, savory, and delicious. As a carnivore, I am impressed when someone can push a vegetable’s limit to different heights.
Armed with a nice bottle of Haden Fig Pinot Noir, we sat by the window facing the street to enjoy our meal. I’m going to try to describe what we ate here. Apologies to the chefs if my taste buds misidentified something.
– Salted cod spread with warm crepe that reminded me of a Korean scallion pancake
– Vegetable broth that was so rich I couldn’t believe it was not made out of meat bones, served with small pieces of ramp stalks
– A beet green dusted with powdered yogurt
– Soft tofu with peas
– Date bread and the most delicious and evil ramp brioche served with ramp butter
– Young lettuce with Phu Quoc flavors of fish sauce, vinegar and Sriracha
– A surprising combination of strawberries, turnips and salmon roe that worked
– Asparagus, mushrooms, and olive sauce with a surprisingly technical foam made from canned tuna
– Confit of carrots, cardamom and wild watercress
– Amazing textures of creamed spinach, beets and millet with an arrow leaf spinach
– Savory parsnip brûlée with mustard creme
– Beet yogurt hazelnut bar