Chef Bill Espiricueta isn't just relaxing and waiting for the completion of the Source Hotel on Brighton Boulevard, where he will soon open Smok BBQ. Instead, he's expanding his repertoire of Asian-inspired specialties at Zeppelin Station (3501 Wazee Street). The chef launched Injoi Korean Kitchen when Zeppelin Station opened in March, serving Korean fare with influences from the American South. Now he's expanded into the food hall's No Occupancy space (which rotates vendors every few months) with Gaijin Ramen & Yakitori.
While Injoi offers a Southern-Korean mashup, Gaijin takes a mostly traditional approach to Japanese cuisine. Tonkotsu and miso broths are simmered for hours, while a vegetarian broth gets its umami from mushrooms. The half egg in each ramen bowl is sepia-tinted from a 24-hour cure in a soy-based solution.
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Yakitori skewers are cooked over mesquite (that's Espiricueta's Austin roots showing) instead of oak charcoal, but otherwise hew close to Japanese wood-fired cooking. Customers will be able to see a row of brick-lined yakitori grills at the back of the kitchen, where shrimp, chicken and Wagyu beef skewers are quickly cooked. Grilled vegetables include shishito peppers, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and okra showered with bonito flakes. Espiricueta explains that he previously worked at Nobu in New York City, where yakitori was part of regular staff meals, so he was able to work on his skewer game while there.
The menu is small but there will also be daily specials for those who frequent Zeppelin Station, and the food hall just added online ordering for pick-up and delivery, which is being handled by Confluence Courier Collective. Since food is delivered by bicycle couriers, the delivery area is limited.
Gaijin took over where Comal recently ended its run in the No Occupancy space and expects to serve ramen and yakitori for the next four months. See the Zeppelin Station vendor list for hours and delivery options.