As patio season comes to an end, Uncle won't be able to seat diners on its patio that was constructed this summer. To help counter the reduction in occupancy, the dining room has undergone a minor renovation to add eight seats, by expanding some tables into larger, community-style options and breaking up others into two- and four-tops.
The use of long benches helps save on space, which along with the tables were designed and built by Raw Creative, who also did the patio. "All in all, we hope it adds to the convivial atmosphere and allows more people to get their ramen in a shorter period of time," says chef-owner Tommy Lee.
For those who would rather grab and go, the take-out business has been strong for Uncle after becoming more streamlined.
"We're now doing a significantly larger to-go business, and able to get most orders ready for guests within 10 to 15 minutes," says chef Todd Somma. "We actually have phone regulars that we know on a first-name basis. It's a pretty cool thing to have. Larger orders, like large parties, are still a bit tricky and will require a little more time to get ready, and peak hours factor in, but the longest we've had to quote in the past few months is 30 minutes."
Along with the physical changes come additions and tweaks to the menu. To reflect the new season, garnishes for ramen bowls like corn and snow peas have been swapped for heartier fall vegetables such as kale and mushrooms. A new vegetarian entree has debuted: squash mazeman, which is one of the four staple styles of ramen. Uncle's version starts with a red kuri squash puree to coat a fatter and wider ramen noodle. It's then garnished with roasted butternut and acorn squash, kale, button mushrooms, soft egg, parmesan cheese, and spiced panko.
Another ramen has also been added, taking Uncle's standard broth—which is already cooked for 16 hours—and then cooking it for another 16 hours with a pig's head in it, resulting in a rich and porky flavor. Added to the soup is a puree of confit garlic and shallots, plus pork sausage, shredded cabbage, green onion, and parmesan. "Cheese in ramen is a big thing in parts of Japan and we decided it's pretty tasty," Somma says.
Other new dishes are also in the works for winter, which should roll out in the next two months.