When a buzzy restaurant reboots, we watch with anticipation to see where the superstar chef will land.
But what becomes of the rest of the kitchen crew? Must the hardworking sous chef be left out of the limelight?
If you are Jose Ramirez-Ruiz, formerly of Ignacio Mattos' lauded run at Brooklyn's Isa, you launch a Tuesday- and Thursday-night BYOB pop-up, Chez Jose, located in a charmingly bare-bones taco shop in Williamsburg. You charge a mere $55 a head for an eight- to 12-course prix fixe menu.
Ramirez-Ruiz wowed us with his refreshingly vegetable-forward menu when we dined. A fennel-infused celery Gin & Tonic was a bracing start. Sweet potatoes reunited with their own leaves in a dish with pickled apples. Miso- and squid-ink-dipped Japanese eggplant share plate space with fried wild rice, lemony purslane and white sesame paste. Ramirez-Ruiz's supremely talented girlfriend, Pamela Yung, is behind the marvelous sourdough bread served with butter pooled in its own buttermilk.
Table space is communal, allowing dining neighbors to share both stories and wine.
These heights of creativity bring to mind the cooking of César Ramirez at Brooklyn Fare, where Ramirez-Ruiz used to cook. Even the bargain pricing at Chez Jose echoes that of Brooklyn Fare back in 2009.
When something this delicious and fun emerges out of a restaurant's rubble, it's kismet.
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