Today, while running through a list of every restaurant I'd reviewed in 2009, I found my March 18 love letter to Bones--Frank Bonanno's noodle house and completely chef-driven restaurant at 701 Grant Street.
It was the lobster ramen that really hooked me. Sure, I loved the bone marrow, got all weak in the knees over the handmade pork buns and, over time, became quite fond of drinking a little too much while hunched up in one of the window seats and watching the people at the bar go nuts for the ever-changing menu that Bonanno and his guys put forth. But the lobster ramen? That was something else entirely. Here's what I had to say about the stuff during the first blush of my love affair:
I've been to Bones three times now. On each visit, someone in my party has had the lobster ramen with edamame and miso broth. Their descriptions of that broth have been priceless. Nancy loudly informed me (and everyone else sitting in the small, twenty-seat dining room) that she wanted to go home and bathe in the broth, it was so good. Joel wanted to fill a camel pack with it so he could walk around all day taking sips of the broth, knowing full well that on a hot day it would probably kill him and being completely okay with that. The broth is actually less a broth than a perfectly mounted sauce, pale gold, poured from a decanter over the ramen noodles and poached lobster and edamame already in the bowl. It's silky and smooth and rich as Croesus, with a depth of flavor that makes me want to dive straight in and never come up. Bonanno is a whiz with lobster no matter what he's doing with it, so the lobster in the ramen bowl (big chunks of tail and claw meat) is always immaculately poached and lovely. The edamame adds a nice textural counterpoint, and the noodles (slightly undercooked once, perfect twice) are excellent. But the broth is what everyone remembers. That broth is one of the best things I've ever tasted.
I still feel the same way today; the effect never really wore thin. And though I know I will miss virtually everything that Bonanno does with lobster (more than any other chef in the city, he has taken this one ingredient and truly made it his), and will really miss Bonanno himself (I like him for precisely the same reasons that some other folks in this town don't: because he is loud and outspoken and a little bit crazy, a perfectionist who does not suffer fools or knuckleheads, an arrogant sonofabitch in the best possible way, who never knows when to keep his mouth shut but comes to the table with the skills and successes to back up any boasting or shit-talking), his lobster ramen will haunt my dreams and serve as a benchmark comparison for explosive greatness and lingering appeal for years to come.