This week, I decided to go to another mysterious restaurant that I didn’t know much about, but have walked past countless times. If I were to describe Ubu, I’d say hole in the wall. You blink and you’d miss it. A tiny place that you could easily never notice. However, what caught my attention (oh, they know me so well) was a sign they leave displayed outside the door reading, “SUSHI. RICE BOWL. RAMEN. TOFU SOUP.” I was skeptical — the sign looked sketchy — I couldn’t get a good view of the inside. I hadn’t heard anything at all about it and knew absolutely no one who has gone before. But to my surprise, Yelp, and other food rating sites were giving it 4 and 4.5 stars.
As I strolled along Hudson Street, I was already beginning to feel at ease. Crazy to think that just a street over is the crowded and forever under construction Washington Street. As I took my first step, I was immediately greeted by whom I assumed to be the owner. Granted, there were only one or two other people sitting down, but I was still brightened by the gesture. Looking around, it was as small as you would expect it to be, but in a positive way. There were only about eleven small tables, a sushi bar with three or four seats, one sushi maker, and the owner. There was Japanese art hanging on the walls, magazines spread around the room to browse, and music in the background, creating a soft ambiance. I could easily picture an individual with a 9-5 job walking in by themselves and eating in peace here.
When we were given menus, the owner could tell I was a bit torn at what to try and very kindly explained the entire menu. The prices for most things on the lunch and dinner menu were about $10, so I wasn’t too limited on what I could buy. In the end, I decided to try the tofu soup, beef rice bowl, and eel sushi. As I sat patiently waiting, the owner, to my surprise, brought a bowl of soup and a plate of inarizushi (sushi rice in a sweet tofu skin) on the house!
Then, the sushi came. It honestly looked like very average sushi. There were eight pieces, normal sized and plain. As I took a bite, one of the things that stood out was the rice. As sushi people may know, it’s the rice that makes the sushi. The consistency was good, and there was a bigger proportion of avocado that I would say is usual, giving the pieces a very smooth and buttery texture. But not too buttery, some cucumber was enough to balance it. Surprisingly, I noticed that the star of the show, the eel, was sparse. It took a few pieces for me to realize that, although visibly there wasn’t much eel, the taste did prevail. I tried the sushi without any soy sauce and the tastes were still quite balanced.
Next came the beef rice bowl. My hometown has strong Korean community, so I knew what it REALLY was: bibimbap, a bowl of rice including different ingredients, typically one type of meat and many other vegetables! However, this was definitely not what I am used to. This bowl felt like it could be a Korean dish with some Japanese influence. In a traditional bowl, you can find carrots, spinach, pickled radish, and mushrooms. This bowl contained lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, beef, sesame seeds and oil, which gives it a particular fragrance. Like I expected, there was also a spicy sauce that the customer could add themselves to suit their taste. Unfortunately, after dumping quite a bit on my rice, it still didn’t taste very spicy. But with or without the sauce, the bowl tasted great! Again, the rice had that perfect texture, soft, but not too soft, and puffy. Mixing the bowl together, you really get a strong aroma of sesame oil. I was skeptical about the lettuce at first and the dryness of the bowl overall, but after taking a bite a was delighted to taste a flavorful mix of textures. The bowl also tasted like something I would eat at home: healthy, simple, but delicious.
Lastly came the tofu soup, which was definitely Korean. I believe it was called Gochujang Jjigae, and was a bright red, served in the traditional stone bowl. From the first bit, there was a powerful flavor that took over my mouth and completely contrasting the rice bowl. It was spicy, but what I liked the most was the textures on the soup. There were plenty of small tofu chunks sinking to the bottom of the bowl, a mussel, small calamari pieces and beef chunks again. Everything, aside from the mussel, were made into smaller pieces, making spooning a bit of everything easy. A bite was a hit of four different textures at once, and five when I added half a spoon of rice to the bite.
So, what did I think overall? My tummy was happy, and so was my mood! It was a long and tiring Monday, but going to Ubu really gave it a good ending. The food reminded me of home and I actually don’t know of many good Korean restaurants in Hoboken. Although Ubu labels itself as Japanese, I felt like it was fusion. The owner also seemed to be Korean, so that probably attributes to the influence. What really stood out to me, besides the food, was the customer service. The owner was very kind, and I could tell that he genuinely wanted to make my dinner the best experience it could be. As a student living in a city, away from home, sometimes it feels like the world around me is too busy to stop and wait, to make sure I’m feeling happy. This week, the food was good, comforting, and served with some love.
Pro Tip: Come for dinner or for lunch! The price won’t make much of a difference. It would probably be a better deal to go for dinner; however, there are some items on the lunch menu different from the dinner menu.
Everything ranged from around $9-$13, surprisingly, including lunch and dinner
Cheapness rating: 4/5 (based on a “relative to Hoboken” scale)
205 Hudson St. Hoboken, NJ 07030 (10ish min walk from Stevens)
Convenience rating: 4/5
~15-20 minutes. I honestly haven’t felt this welcomed to a restaurant before. Ever. And the fact that I’m saying this about a restaurant in Hoboken. The food was not brought out too quickly or too slowly. I was seated and given my drink, shortly after the order was taken, a bowl of soup and rice in tofu skin was given on the house, then the plate of sushi that was ordered, the main dish, and a yakult(yogurt drink) on the house. I didn’t feel rushed to leave or neglected by the server/owner.
Overall Rating: 6/5
Overall Rating: 4/5