Story and photos by Chris Clemens
There is something particularly comforting about a great bowl of ramen. It’s cozy and warm. It blends the basic staples that serve up a nostalgia to when college kid ingenuity could whip up a full meal for 87 cents.
Back then, our ramen was constructed with the most frugal ingredients that brought just enough flavor to let our parents know we were getting by. The process had nothing to do with artistry, but rather with sustenance. Any flavors we added were an attempt to ward off the boredom brought by prepping the exact same meal we had the day before.
Now, in Geneva, there’s a new opportunity to throwback on the days of microwaving noodles with a grown-up, craft edition. In true Finger Lakes style, veteran chef Samantha Buyskes isn’t using basic ingredients. She’s cobbled together the freshest, most intense flavors you can find in our region for one of the best ramen dishes you’ll find in Upstate.
But, getting some will take a bit of planning on your part.
If the Buyskes name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s been a mainstay in the Finger Lakes food scene for years. Most recently, she led the team at H.J. Stead on Linden Street in Geneva. When that closed in November, Buyskes wondered how she could best serve Genevians without a kitchen to call her own. Ever the innovator, she’s begun hosting a series of pop-ups around the area.
On Wednesday nights beginning at 6 p.m., you’ll find Buyskes set up in Monaco’s Coffee on Washington Street until 8 p.m. Or, until she’s sold out for the night.
Her first ramen pop-up on November 14 featured a vegetarian based broth with an optional egg, scallions, and a homemade togorashi oil for those wanting a bit of heat. Just like the days of foraging for new additives, Buyskes offered a slow-roasted pork rubbed with a Chinese 5-spice to beef up the noodle dish. Setting up with a miniature mise en place means she can offer options that appeal to both meat-eaters and vegetarians.
Buyskes’ ramen is served in quart sized take out containers, so you can easily take it to go, or hang at Monaco’s for their Wednesday night open mic night. The experience is casual and easy, but the impression is deep and well-done. This ramen might feel familiar, but the strong flavors brought from the hearty components prove that Buyskes’ ramen is on par with what you’d expect from a devoted chef in the Finger Lakes.