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Crane Ramen’s roasted mushroom salad. Photo by Samantha Schuyler.

Downtown Gainesville, already known for its bars and music scene, has become a sanctuary for local foodies. Although deciding on a favorite restaurant may be next to impossible, an oasis of comfort and authentic Japanese cuisine has nestled its way into the line of restaurants along SW 1st Ave. With an open kitchen and dimly lit, sleek interior, Crane Ramen brings big-city craft noodle shops to li’l ol’ Gainesville.

After opening its doors in December, co-owners Fred Brown and Bill Bryson have developed a warm, contemporary spot infused with traditional Japanese elements. And Bryson, a Gainesville native, and Brown, a University of Florida alumnus, certainly aren’t new to the business.

Ramen has been a part of Brown’s life since he was a Chef in New York City’s East Village. Brown said that when he wanted something “wholesome and restorative, it was ramen” that satisfied his craving.

With an open kitchen and dimly lit, sleek interior, Crane Ramen brings big-city craft noodle shops to li’l ol’ Gainesville.

The craving Fred describes is similar to the one all students have one time or another. Now, instead of cooking pre-packaged, dried noodles on a Bunsen burner in a college dorm, students can experience Japanese ramen and a comfortable dining experience at Crane.

An incredible amount of time has been dedicated to forming an enjoyable dining experience for customers, and it’s evident in the decor. From the re-appropriated wood paneling to the contemporary Japanese banners with Crane’s logo, the design is a departure from the ramen houses of Japan, which customers are in and out of in 15 minutes.

Aesthetics aside, the true beauty of Crane lies in its ramen. Chef Steve Grimes, who recently came aboard in September, has 12 years of experience in Japanese cuisine and has worked in cities from San Francisco to Tokyo. Grimes said that making ramen is a “precise” process that takes “hours and hours.” He assures customers that there is  “at least one broth going 24 hours a day.”

Now, instead of cooking pre-packaged, dried noodles on a Bunsen burner in a college dorm, students can experience Japanese ramen and a comfortable dining experience at Crane.

All of Crane’s dishes feature quality ingredients, most of which are grown in Alachua County. According to Grimes, 80 percent of their vegetables and all protein is sourced from local farms. For the stuff you can’t get locally, Grimes buys from the best—the dough, for example, is made from a prestigious ramen-maker called Sun Noodle.

The team at Crane Ramen has thought through every angle of its enterprise down to the name, which was chosen to pay homage to the droves of cranes that visit Gainesville each year. The crane symbolizes the process of coming home.

NOTE: For this recipe, some ingredients can only generally be found in Asian Markets, like Chun Ching on Eighth Avenue. However, if you’re on a tight budget with limited time (boy, do we feel you) we’ve offered some substitutes you can find at any grocery store.

Roasted Mushroom Salad

Salad Mix:

  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1 bunch of arugula
  • 1 bunch of mizuna

Mushroom Mix:

  • 5 ounces enoki
  • 5 ounces shimeji
  • 5 ounces maitake
  • 15 ounces shiitake
  • (We substituted these with a mix of shiitake, oyster and portobello with good results)

Mushroom Vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup mushroom dashi
  • 3 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoon green onion
  • 1 cup Tosazu

Tosazu:

Tosazu is a Japanese vinegar mix. If you can’t find it pre-made in store, you have a couple options.

For the most accurate taste:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce,
  • 1 tablespoon mirin, a Japanese sweet cooking wine,
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar,
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon bonito flakes.

For on-the-fly, on-a-budget dressing:

  • We combined rice vinegar, soy sauce, water, mirin, sugar and salt, which worked nicely.

Optional Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 teaspoon Togarashi, a Japanese pepper

Instructions:

  1. Begin by de-stemming and washing all greens. Be sure to cut them if they are too big into the size of your choosing.
  2. Wash and slice mushrooms. Cut off all butts and reserve for future use.
  3. Place all pre-sliced mushrooms on a baking sheet and bake in canola oil at 350° F until tender and crisp, about 20 minutes. Once finished, sprinkle salt, pepper and togarashi over them for flavor.
  4. In order to make the mushroom dashi, place the baked shiitake mushrooms in a bowl, and soak them in warm water for 15 minutes or until softened. Make sure they are fully submerged and become fully rehydrated. When finished, give a gentle squeeze to each mushroom to drain of any water. Strain away the debris and set aside to use in the vinaigrette.
  5. If you need to make the tosazu, heat liquids to a boil, then combine the sugar and salt, simmering until the solids dissolve. Remove from heat and add bonito flakes, then strain.
  6. To prepare the vinaigrette, take all ingredients, including the freshly made dashi and tosazu, and run them through a blender or food processor until liquified.
  7. Toss the salad, mushrooms and vinaigrette in a bowl. Add mushrooms and optionally a dash of togarashi for amped-up flavor.