Matsugen’s Mill Is Constantly Grinding

The mill grinds slowly, but rarely stops.
The mill grinds slowly, but rarely stops. Photo: Melissa Hom

Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest offering, Matsugen, has an extensive menu and a topflight sushi bar, but the restaurant will likely rise or fall based on how the public responds to its primary focus: soba (buckwheat) noodles. In Japan, soba sellers get freshly-ground flour from a nearby mill. In an expensive attempt to replicate that flavor, Matusgen has a modern, mechanized version of the ancient technology. With the electric Mitsuka mill, two heavy wheels of granite are fed two ounces of Japanese buckwheat kernels every few minutes. The machine — which cost nearly $10,000 — slowly grinds the sobako flour to varying textures. After the flour drops through the millstones, a robotic arm brushes it into a bin below. “It basically runs all day,” says sous-chef Kyle Herman. “We constantly need fresh noodles, so we constantly run the mill. Those wheels are constantly turning.”

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