Since opening in 2013, BBD’s – Beers, Burgers Desserts has garnered considerable praise for its burgers made with prime beef butchered and ground in-house. You can get it cooked three ways: coal-fire grilled, griddled and steamed.
The attention placed on serving high-quality burgers is certainly not surprising given BBD’s name or the zeal of Ralph Perrazzo, owner and chef of the gastropub in Rocky Point, who is a self-described “butchering enthusiast.”
It has been somewhat unexpected, however, to note BBD’s recent increased focus on ramen; the restaurant has hosted several sellout “ramen nights,” and Perrazzo has traveled to Vermont for pop-up dinners centered around the dish.
Serving ramen at a burger-focused restaurant (the variety of the noodle dish rotates regularly; it’s listed on the menu only as “chef’s choice”), and its popularity, intrigued us. We called Perrazzo and spoke about his introduction to ramen, developing a signature recipe with locally raised duck, and BBD’s next event on May 24, which was just announced.
Edible Long Island: BBD’s is best known for its burgers. What did your customers think of ramen being added to the menu?
Ralph Perrazzo: We’ve had nothing but a great response. We may be known for our burgers, but I like to think our menu shows we offer much more than that. The thing here is, we want to get people hooked on the burgers and then get them to try the other dishes we do that they might not expect to be there; ramen is one of those.
ELI: Do you remember the first time you had ramen?
RP: I think everyone’s first time is the instant kind, breaking that brick of noodles up. [Laughs.] But my first-first time was when I was cooking at Jean-Georges. I was 19 and after the restaurant would close, the whole kitchen would pile in a few cabs and go to Chinatown to grab some food. Going with them down to Doyers Street, that was really when I discovered the hand-pulled noodles, the dumplings, the ramen.
You’d have this group of classically trained chefs leaving a spot like Jean-Georges to head to these dingy, cramped places with plastic bowls and cheap chopsticks.
You know, these were some real hole-in-the-wall places. It was really interesting: You’d have this group of classically trained chefs leaving a spot like Jean-Georges to head to these dingy, cramped places with plastic bowls and cheap chopsticks. And they’d be geeked about it! It shows that good food can be anywhere if you know where to look.
ELI: Were you hooked from that moment?
RP: Definitely. I mean, up to that point my experience with Asian food had been standard Chinese takeout on Long Island. And let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with any of that. I still love that. But that period definitely set me on a path to seek out more of the authentic side. I would look for it wherever I lived and cooked, whether it was Vegas—which has some of the best Asian food in the country, by the way—or Boston, going to the shabu-shabu restaurants in Chinatown. I should also thank one of my exes, who was from Hong Kong. I think I got the good treatment whenever we sat down for noodles.
ELI: So, when did you start making ramen?
RP: That was in Boston, when I was cooking at Clio. On our days off the kitchen would go to the Asian markets around town to grab ingredients and we’d make ramen at home.
I loved making ramen right away, because of the depth. When you do it right and add the ingredients in layers, every slurp gives you a change of flavor. It’s really easy to tell the difference between a bowl of ramen made from the heart and a bowl just tossed together.
I’m a cook who likes to make food people want to eat.
ELI: When did you add ramen to the menu at BBD’s?
RP: This is a good story. The first bowl of ramen I made at BBD’s was like a family meal for all of my cooks. This was a bit after we opened, in 2014. I had a really young staff and every day was like going to school and getting a lesson on how to build flavor. None of them had ever had real ramen before and to see them slurping away, being in awe of how good it was … I guess the nostalgia thing hit for me, seeing these young cooks. It brought me back to my days at Jean-Georges.
I made ramen for them and, when we opened for business later that day, our guests kept asking about the smell in the air. So I made bowls for a few of our regulars and they were hooked! Days later, people were calling up and asking if there was any left. I’m a cook who likes to make food people want to eat, so we put ramen on the menu right then and there.
ELI: George Kao—of the influential ramen-noodle company, Sun Noodle—came to BBD’s to try your ramen. How did he hear about it?
RP: I reached out to Sun Noodle for a few reasons. One was to get them to make a special noodle for us because we don’t have the type of equipment to make it here consistently. The other reason was to tell George what we’ve been doing, like how we ship in certain dried squid from Japan for the dashi.
ELI: What did he say?
RP: “Now I have to come out from Jersey to taste your bowl.”
ELI: And how was that?
RP: I was just so excited to get a real, influential opinion on our bowl. This is a friend of David Chang’s, a person who eats ramen for a living. The first thing he said was that it was beautiful, and that he wasn’t expecting it to be this good. But he also legit critiqued it, spent a lot of time and went into detail. He said the temperature of the soup should have been hotter, and more broth was needed. I’m really grateful he took the time out to do that for us. I’m all about improving our bowl.
ELI: Is there also a research component in all of this, like sifting through cookbooks or—
RP: Absolutely. I have stacks of Japanese cookbooks. Just like every Italian grandmother has a different way of making tomato sauce, the Japanese have different ways of making their ramen. It really depends on the region.
ELI: You recently hosted two ramen nights with special menus, even closing the restaurant for them. How did they go?
RP: Great. Better than I ever expected they would. I mean, we waited two years until we felt our bowls were ready to do something like that, and they both sold out. I think everyone enjoys the bowls—and the Japanese death metal.
ELI: You’ve also hosted some pop-up dinners in Vermont. What’s your connection to the state?
RP: I consider [Vermont] a second home. I’m considering doing a ramen restaurant there. I’ve made a lot of friends in Vermont’s food scene, but also being a big beer guy I’ve made great relationships with the breweries. We actually did our first [pop-ups] at Lost Nation [Brewing Company] and Citizen Cider. And our last one, which was just this past Monday, we partnered with Fiddlehead [Brewing Company] and a great pizza place called Folino’s for charity.
ELI: Your next ramen event at BBD’s is May 24. Can you tell us about its menu?
RP: We try to keep the menu simple, focusing on a few apps and a few different styles [of ramen]. You know, there are so many different kinds of broths, noodles, seasonings, we could spend an entire month trying to offer up everything. But we keep it simple: two traditional bowls and one signature bowl of our own.
ELI: What are they?
RP: We’re doing a pork ramen, or tonkotsu. That’s a thick and fatty broth that makes you smack your lips as you slurp it. People can’t believe how much the broth tastes like fresh pork.
Then we’ll have one seasoned with shoyu, or soy sauce, with a base of chicken parts. That’s lighter and tangier.
The third is our signature, the miso duck. That’s like a coming-out-of-the-closet ramen designed around my surroundings and my favorite flavor profiles.
I reached out to Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue about getting their carcasses and wings fresh for our stock, and they leave the fat on the backbone and do other things for us that gives our broth amazing flavor.
ELI: Can you tell us about that?
RP: With the resources of a duck farm 20 minutes away from the restaurant, it was the perfect opportunity to do something different and incorporate some local ingredients. I reached out to Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue about getting their carcasses and wings fresh for our stock, and they leave the fat on the backbone and do other things for us that gives our broth amazing flavor.
To make it I use a blend of white and red miso. The broth base is duck bones and feet done low and slow. We actually do a double wash, which is when you take the original duck stock and refortify the bones and feet for a second day. And we add aromatics like black garlic seasoned with mirin and yellow chives.
ELI: Lastly, do you think you’ll continue to host ramen events at BBD’s and elsewhere?
RP: We’re going to do events here at BBD’s once a month now. As it goes into summer we’ll be shifting the focus to cold ramen. I love juicing vegetables for much of my cooking and right now we’re testing our fresh vegetable juices as the base for the cold bowls. Stay tuned!
This interview has been edited and condensed.