Haraguchi was born in Utsunomiya — north of Tokyo, in a landlocked prefecture — but came to the U.S. to work as a seafood salesman. Growing up in Japan, Haraguchi didn’t eat much ramen, but when he fell homesick in the U.S., he began cooking it for himself. Those early dishes made with local ingredients evolved into Yuji Ramen, first a pop-up in Kinfolk Studios in Williamsburg, and later a regular stall at Smorgasburg. (Haraguchi was looking to raise $3,000 on Kickstarter earlier this year to buy himself the immersion circulator, heavy-duty food processor, and other equipment required for his increasingly ambitious ramen experiments — he raised $12,000.)
Good news for fans of Haraguchi’s cooking: By June, the chef plans to transition to his own restaurant space in Williamsburg. He tells Fork it will be a “Japanese street-food joint” offering takeout and eat-in dishes, specializing in snacks like okonomiyaki, the wonderfully greasy Japanese pancakes, topped as generously as pizza. But much like with his ramen, we can expect a few twists — kale instead of cabbage, house-smoked bacon instead of pork belly, and, of course, a rotating selection of mazemen.