SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.
Today we’re getting our summertime tips from Hiro Mitsui, Founder and Executive Chef of Ramen by UZU; he recommends cold sesame noodles, lots of sparkling water, podcasts and more:
How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison?
Usually, as a Ramen shop owner in the states, summer is a very tough season. In Japan, ramen is eaten year-round, no matter how hot it is outside, because hot soup actually cools you down. But in the states, people don’t necessarily crave soup in 95 degree weather. Fortunately, Ramen by Uzu has cultivated a following of patrons who love our dishes even through the heat, like real Japanese people do! But this summer in particular, because of Covid-19, we have definitely been hit hard. Sales have dropped slightly but it’s only made us be more creative in our menu items and offerings.
What is your summer shaping up to look like?
I’m working on a new concept at Ghost Kitchen in Glover Park, partnering with other beloved restaurants and chefs from around DC for a takeout only market. I’m really excited to work with former Sushi Nakazawa chef, Ryu Hirosoko, on our new sushi concept. Look out for new food in mid to late August!
Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer?
I want people to try our new cold sesame noodles. We have a dish called Hiyashi chuuka, which is a Japanese cold noodle dish. In Japan, you know it’s officially summer when the ramen shops announce that they’re starting to serve Hiyashi chuuka. For me, that dish marks the beginning of summer! I wanted to create something similar – my dish looks a little different than traditional Hiyashi chuuka, but still has the same amazing flavors.
What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now?
Definitely wear a mask. At this point, I think wearing a mask is a more important thing to do for the people around you than for yourself. It’s a simple step we can all take to protect each other. When it comes to staying sane, I really enjoy driving into DC with my coffee every morning. I try to use this alone time to really clear my mind. Sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast or some music, and just try not to think too deeply about anything. We all have way more than enough things to think about everyday, so it’s very important to have your zen moments when you can get them.
Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front?
I used to play basketball professionally, so throughout the summer I really enjoy playing ball outside. Unfortunately, with everything going on right now, I haven’t had as much time to play as I’d like. All I have time for at the moment is work, but as a chef, I’m on my feet all day, so that’s enough exercise for me!
Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?
I bought my mask a couple years ago when i went back to Japan. My summer uniform is a baseball cap, black Uniqlo t-shirt (which is my favorite), black Dickies pants or Nike shorts, white socks, and black Birkenstock kitchen shoes.
What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.)
I’m not a huge reader but I do love podcasts!II I am always listening to podcasts about entrepreneurship.
Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?
My top three would be Nabe (a Japanese hot pot), Korean BBQ, and PHO.
What about a great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe?
I don’t drink, so I typically stick to a lot of sparkling water.
What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you?
Japanese hip hop all day. My homie DJ Ryow from my city, Nagoya!
Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks?
I’d love to go back home to Japan, or to Korea!
And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?
I haven’t had a break since March and haven’t gone anywhere, so if you hear of any good day trips, let me know 🙂
Ramen by UZU inside Union Market
1309 5th St NE Washington DC
Thursday 11:00am – 8pm
Friday 11:00am – 8pm
Saturday 11:00am – 8pm
Sunday 11:00am – 8pm