Tag Archives: Japanese

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

In the last few months, there have been a series of big Japanese chains that opened their first US location in New York. Normally, I don’t like to eat at chain restaurants, but it’s a bit of a novelty and Japanese fast food is generally more nourishing and exciting than American fast food.

Wagamama, TsuruTonTan, and Ichiran were the three major Japanese noodle players that have debuted to long lines in New York City. The one that intrigued me most was Ichiran partly because they are located in a big factory in Bushwick but also because they have special solo dining flavor concentration booths.

In the booths, you are completely alone excpet for a button and a curtain. When the button is pushed, the curtain is partially raised and the torso of a waiter appears who will respond to your needs.

The entire experience, including the recommendations on how to be savor the soup is a little precious. As a busy New Yorker who often deals with many people, I did appreciate the opportunity to dine completely alone and not have to deal with anyone else. But I imagine the ramen would taste just as good if I was sitting at a table with a group of people.

You also get to customize your ramen from the firmness of the noodles to the richness of the broth to the amount of added toppings. I went down the menu circling the options the restaurant recommends for first timers.

So my soup ended up on the medium side of just about everything. And it was pretty great. The thin chewy noodles were truly fantastic and the complex super porky tonkotsu broth was indeed worth savoring. The other notable addition, besides some serious garlic, scallions, and a meaty pork chashu, is their signature top secret spicy red sauce.

It was one of the better ramen soups I’ve had recently. Like many, I was dismayed by the prices  here (almost double the price of the Japanese locations) and the gimmicky flavor booths are a little too serious. But there’s no denying that this is one seriously good bowl of ramen. Price: $18.90

ICHIRAN
374 Johnson Avenue (between Bogart Street and Morgan Avenue),
(718) 381-0491
Bushwick, Brooklyn
ichiran.com/en

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2016…

Leave it to me to visit one of the best new speakeasies and not even have a cocktail. I studied the menu and watched the bartenders work their magic at Karasu, hidden behind the local restaurant Walter’s, but I didn’t order a drink because I was on my way to give a tour (and I try to stay somewhat sober for those). But I came here to check out the place (which is awesome) and have some dinner.  The food, like the cocktails, are Japanese-inspired. And the softly breaded and incredibly tender fried chicken pieces with dipping sauces almost makes up for the lack of alcohol. Price: $11
KARASU
166 Dekalb Avenue (at Cumberland Street),
Behind Walter’s Restaurant
(347) 223-4811
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
karasubk.com

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2016…

Cikarashi is the underdog in the new poke movement sweeping the city. The bowls are a bit more refined with a chef’s eye rather than just a mess of raw fish and Asian toppings. The composed raw fish bowls are quite interesting, but I found myself craving their salmon collar Salt, meat and fat cling to the collar bone, while a bright acidic ponzu sauce cuts the richness and soaks into the warm rice, cucumbers, and soy-kissed daikon radishes/ Price: $15.49

CHIKARASHI
227 Canal Street (between Centre and Baxter Street),
Chinatown
(646) 649-5965
chikarashi.com

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2016…

This year the iconic Union Squarre Cafe closed due to rising rents. They have since reopened in another location. But in its original space came a Japanese udon shop called TsuruTonTan which is causing quite a ruckus. The signature dish showcases the thick chewy noodles without the need for any broth. This refreshing cold dish is not too dissimilar to a rich carbonara sauce but instead of cheese and bacon, the noodles are slathered with a spicy cod roe sauce and brightened with a refreshing shiso leaf. Price: $16

TSURUTONTAN
21 East 16th Street (between Union Square West and Broadway),
Union Square
(212) 989-1000
tsurutontan.com

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2016…

2016 was a tough year. From a whirlwind political circus to the loss of many beloved celebrities to worldwide tragedies, the news was full of sad things. But there was still joy out there and as usual, I found a lot of that joy through food. And here in New York, these are the 5 dishes that gave me the most joy….

NUMBER 5: RICOTTA HOT CAKES at TWO HANDS BAR & RESTAURANT

Australian-owned coffee shops and cafés are taking over the city. And if they all do brunch as well as Two Hands, I’m happy to give it to them. I’m especially taken with their amazingly gluten free ricotta hot cakes. The large hotcake is browned to the edge yet the interior is cheesy and doughy (although not with actual dough). It’s topped with a tangy whipped ricotta, seasonal berries, and pecans for crunch. Of course, as any brunch cake should, it’s served with a side of maple syrup. Price: $14

TWO HANDS RESTAURANT & BAR
251 Church Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street),
Tribeca
twohandsnyc.com

NUMBER 4: U & I at MU RAMEN

This is an appetizer fit for a king. I probably went a little overboard eating it by myself, but it’s been a tough year. If translated into English terms, the uninitiated might not want to try the sea urchin gonads (uni) and fish eggs (ikura), but these are two of the greatest culinary pleasures I can think of. And together, they are just amazing. The bright orange uni is as creamy, sweet, and rich as it gets. The four lobes sat on a bed of warm rice and a spicy tuna mixture. More texture was provided in the abundant briny roe which was tamed by the strips of toasted dried seaweed. And then on top, sat a round of potent and fresh wasabi. Market Price

MU RAMEN
1209 Jackson Avenue (between 48th Avenue and 47th Road),
Long Island City, Queens
(917) 868-8903
ramennyc.wixsite.com/popup

NUMBER 3: PASTRAMI BACON at HOMETOWN BAR-B-QUE

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hometown Bar-B-que is the best barbecue we have in New York. It’s worth trekking out to Red Hook to get a taste of anything they smoke. This year, I was brought to meat heaven by a slab of grilled, smoked bacon. It was seasoned generously with pepper and pastrami spices and featured char marks along the exterior. It had the perfect layer of fat, which was buttery but not unctuous. Each bite was peppery, smoky, and luscious. I can’t think of a better pairing than the accompanying sweet and spicy honey mustard sauce. I’m excited to see what smoked meat from Hometown will end up on next year’s list. Price: $14 per 1/4 pound

HOMETOWN BAR-B-QUE
454 Van Brunt Street (at Reed Street),
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(347) 294-4644
hometownbarbque.com

NUMBER 2: CARROT CREPE at OLMSTED

This particular dish is not just at the top of my list, but many restaurant critics and bloggers around the city. Olmsted was hand’s down one of the top dining experiences of the year. And this crepe made from carrots was impeccable. Yes, it’s a crepe made from carrots, but it’s similar in texture to a giant tender ravioli. Inside littleneck clams are buttery and briny and pair perfectly with the creamy complex carrot reduction. Sunflower seeds and sweet carrot ribbons provide crunch and texture. It’s a gorgeously plated dish and one of the rare ones that tastes as good as it looks. Price: $15

OLMSTED
659 Vanderbilt Avenue (between Park Place and Prospect Place),
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
(718) 0552-2610
olmstednyc.com

NUMBER 1: SHIITAKE “CACIO E PEPE” at NIX

Cacio e pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish that is as simple as it gets: cheese and black pepper. It has also somehow become quite trendy in NYC lately. Chef John Fraser’s version loses the pasta and replaces it with rich polenta and tender peppery shiitake mushrooms that are sliced to provide an al dente texture. The rich woodsy notes of those shrooms are countered with sweet bites of corn kernels and a few bright green beans. Of course, as is appropriate, the dish is showered with plenty of sharp pecorino cheese. It’s honestly a dish I have been thinking about since I tasted it and it’s the best thing I tried all year. Price: $24

NIX
72 University Place (between East 10th and East 11th Street),
Greenwich Village
(212) 498-9393
nixny.com

I’m counting down the 100 best dishes I tasted in 2016…

Chawanmushi is not a dish you see on many menus at hip, seasonal Brooklyn restaurants. But Olmsted is not your typical hip, seasonl Brooklyn restaurant. It’s the best restaurant I visited all year and the fact that Chef Greg Baxtrom is reinterpreting this Japanese egg custard is a win for everyone involved (the Japanese, the Brooklynites, and the diners). A rotating roster of seasonal ingredients (like earthy truffles or maitake mushrooms) come mixed with charred onions and that delicate creamy egg custard. Price: $16
OLMSTED
659 Vanderbilt Avenue (between Park Place and Prospect Place),
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
(718) 0552-2610
olmstednyc.com

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