Skewers, Raw Fish & Noodles: Joaquin Baca Opens An Izakaya-Style Restaurant
Chef Joaquin Baca has made a lot of excellent food in NYC over the years, working the kitchen during the early days of both Momofuku Ssam and Noodle Bar, and then running things at the great Brooklyn Star for the entire nine-year run of that popular Williamsburg spot. Now Baca is back with Būmu, an izakaya-style restaurant that opened this week in Greenwich Village, with a full menu of grilled skewers, raw fish dishes, meaty, fishy, and veggie “plates,” and a few noodles bowls.
Būmu, which means “boom” in Japanese, is a reboot of sorts of Baca’s short-lived Teo in Ridgewood, but there’s also some Brooklyn Star in here as well, most notably the Crispy Pig Tails, which arrive stacked up high, crackling fried, and rich as hell. A squeeze of lemon cuts some of the intense porkiness, but this is not a dish for the fat-averse.
Other good choices in the small plates section of Būmu’s menu includes the Taro Root Nest, a mess of crisp curlicues studded with smoked trout and salmon roe, and the bright and bitter Wok Fried Pea Leaves, smeared with a black garlic sauce. The Yaki Onigiri is a sort of deconstructed number, an oversized rice ball sitting on fanned-out seaweed squares, the plate covered with apple butter and strewn with charred Brussels sprouts leaves. There are Fried Oysters, Agedashi Eggplant, Grilled Shortrib, and a Cast Iron Okonomiyaki here as well.
Baca offers a half dozen Raw Fish appetizers, including a terrific Hamachi with pickled watermelon radish and avocado, as well as Uni with “mushroom crunchies,” Scallop with bacon jam, and Tuna with those increasingly-trendy habanada peppers. Several skewers from Baca’s Teo days make the cut at Būmu, like the Chicken Skins and buttermilk dressing which bring a Buffalo Wings vibe to the table, the impossibly tender cubes of Smoked Beef Tongue with spicy mustard, and the almost-too-cute-to-eat Baby Octopus with shiitake and horseradish.
Three noodle dishes round things off: a Spicy Shrimp Udon with a lively lobster broth that you’ll want to drink deeply from an upturned bowl; a Hanger Steak Tsukemen, with barely-cooked beef and a potent dipping sauce; and a Seaweed-Fungus Ramen which is as briny as it sounds. Overall the menu offers many points of entry, and can be readily configured to provide a complete two- or three-course meal, or a table-full of share plates for a group, or a solo snack at the bar.
The space was designed by Christine Yao of Simulacra, and it’s an attractive, if utilitarian room. There’s a rectangular, three-sided copper bar, tables before a banquette, and high tables at the window up front, which are handy for people watching. Blocks of slightly textured, geometrically patterned wallpaper provide a bit of splash, but it’s all pretty low key,
Būmu is on an unpredictable block for retail, that stretch of 8th Street to the east of Sixth Avenue that was once almost entirely cool shoe stores, then for years mostly abandoned and empty, and now home to an idiosyncratic, frequently changing lineup of restaurants. Some places have stuck though, and with Baca’s big flavors and beverage maestro Chris Johnson, formerly of Maialino and The Eddy, running things up front, Būmu seems poised to settle in for a while as well.
Būmu is located at 61 West 8th Street, between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and is open Sunday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and from Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Brunch and late-night hours coming soon (212-505-2610; bumunyc.com)