Guess what I had for dinner last night?
Homemade with marinated eggs. Yum!
Wasabi, a London-based Japanese fast food chain, will open its first U.S. location in Times Square at Seventh Avenue and West 40th Street on Monday, February 24, 2014.
From the English site, Wasabi looks like a fun place to get Japanese favorites like sushi, bento boxes and noodle soups. Everything is made in-house every day. They use sustainably sourced yellowfin tuna and salmon. There are at least 50 types of sushi to choose from in the form of hosomaki(thin rolls), futomaki (fat rolls), nigiri (thinly sliced fish over rice), gunkan (torpedo-shaped pieces), hand-rolls and onigiri (triangles of rice wrapped around a choice of savory filling). Also, the sushi is individually wrapped.
Not sure what fast-food ramen would be like (isn’t that an oxymoron?), but Wasabi has ramen as well as soumen, made with super-thin rice noodles, and tanmen, made with thick rice noodles.
Tabata Ramen is a small restaurant in the beginning of what is the Hell’s Kitchen wasteland. (Well, in my opinion.) I have wanted to try the ramen here, as it is busy at lunch whenever I pass by. There is a small dining room in the rear of the restaurant. There is also an extensive list of ramen with very reasonable prices. And the upside, for noncash carriers, is that Tabata takes credit cards–unlike other ramen shops. I opted for the shio ramen with pork because it’s my favorite. I think Tabata makes a decent ramen–if you are in the area and craving it, but like Sapporo it also has a more commercial than homemade taste to it.
I also got the spicy pickled cucumbers.
My friend got the vegetable ramen and the fried shrimp appetizer. She also felt the ramen was unremarkable but she liked the shrimp.
Ramen has become a trend in New York City, but Sapporo has been serving it in the heart of Midtown since 1975. I had been wanting to try it for a long time since I would walk by on my way home from work. It does a brisk business and was busy the day I visited too. There are a lot of ramen dishes to choose from. I opted for something a little different, shio butter-corn ramen. I was deciding between that and the tomato ramen, ramen with tomato and basil–an Italian twist. I opted to stay Japanese with the shio butter-corn ramen. I liked the taste of the butter in the broth, but I do prefer it without butter. I like that this ramen had a good helping of bok choy, as I think I’d like more vegetable in my ramen. Like Bassanova Ramen, there were more noodles than broth here. The broth tasted good because of the butter and salt, but it and the noodles had more of a commercial taste than homemade.
I also got char siu buns, and they were OK but nowhere near as good as Totto Ramen’s.
I saw an ad for Nikai Japanese Restaurant in Chopsticks advertising new vegetable noodles. I thought I’d try it since they make handmade noodles. I went for dinner with a friend of mine. It’s upstairs inside a lunch time café called Treehaus. Treehaus is a big space and it was a little confusing to figure out where Nikai was located. Once we found it, we were seated right away at bar top tables near the bar. I got the feeling this was more of a lunch place, as there was only one other group of customers.
They give you a hot towel for your hands here–the kind that you add water to and it expands. That was a nice touch and more like a Japanese restaurant.
Bassanova Ramen is a new ramen place in the heart of Chinatown. The menu at Bassanova is scant–only three types of ramen with broth. They also have a menu with a few ramen dishes without broth. The ramen here is a bit pricier than other ramen shops and pricier than the restaurants in the area. Below is a picture of the broth ramen dishes.
The décor has a modern design and sleek, clean feel. The most unusual thing is the utensils–extra-large chopsticks. The waitress asked me if that would bother me, but I had never used large chopsticks so I went in with an open mind. I didn’t have a problem with them at all. The spoons were also larger.
I ordered the tondaku ramen with a tonkotsu, or pork, broth. I was surprised that there were more noodles than broth, as I understand the broth to be the showcase of a bowl of ramen (although ramen are the noodles). However, it was very flavorful. The noodles were thin and tasted good. The broth was rich and dark, a bit oily, but the right amount of salt to make it flavorful but not too salty.
Given that there is a menu of ramen dishes without broth and that there was more ramen in the bowl than broth, I think Bassanova Ramen’s focus is the ramen.
Last week, the second location of Totto Ramen opened. Luckily, I got there earlier in the evening, so there was no wait. However, as time went by, there were people waiting but nowhere near as many as at the 52nd Street location. I have eaten at that location before and know that space and time are a premium. There isn’t much on West 51st Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, so this is a welcome addition. The space is larger and more roomy.
On this visit, I got the chicken paitan ramen with straight homemade noodles in a whole chicken and premium soy sauce-based soup topped with scallion, onion, char siu pork and a nori. I got corn and a seasoned boiled egg as well. The seasoned egg at Totto is the best! I really enjoyed this. I’m used to the pork-based broths, but the chicken is also very delicious. It was creamy, soothing and just plain good.
My friend got the spicy ramen and also loved it.
Ramen Takumi on University Place has an average rating on Yelp, but I really liked the salt- and soy-based ramen I’ve had here. Admittedly, I don’t know much about ramen to know what’s authentic.
I’ve had the Konbu seaweed and shiitake mushroom-based broth ramen at Totto Ramen and the pork-based broth ramen at Ippudo NY, and they were both very good. However, my taste gravitates toward the salt broth at Ramen Takumi.
I like the croquettes appetizer. The menu doesn’t say it’s vegetarian, but it has potato and peas inside.
On this visit, I got the Shio Ramen–natural salt flavored broth with two slices of pork, bamboo shoots, salt flavored egg, seaweed, scallion, scallop powder and noodle, pictured below. (Previously, I got the Syo-Yu Ramen–soy sauce flavored broth with two sides of pod; bamboo shoots, soy sauce flavored egg, seaweed, scallion, onion and noodle.)
Ippudo NY opened its West 51st Street location this Monday, and I was there. I was surprised there were no long lines for opening night.
The restaurant has a bar in the front room and a large, communal table in the main dining room. We were seated at a table in the traditional dining area. I like the modern and clean feel of the white and reddish-orange chairs and booths against the wood grain and brick.
The menu has a large number of appetizers along with a lengthy listing of sake. I just wanted to try the ramen. I went with the classic ramen since it was my first time having pork-based broth–and added the egg.
I thought it was delicious, simple yet flavorful.
My friend opted for the spicy ramen, a dish she also enjoyed very much.
As 2012 ends, it’s a time to reflect on all the delicious meals and treats I had this year. It was a year of firsts for me: my first empanadas, my first ramen, my first soup dumplings. I tried bottarga (an Italian delicacy–dried caviar from tuna or gray mullet eggs).
Here are lists of my favorites for the year.
Dina’s top 5 brunches of 2012:
1. Barbounia‘s shakshouka
2. West End Grill‘s omelets with sweet potato chipotle short rib hash
3. Robert‘s ricotta pancakes
4. Popover Cafe‘s Carolina Dinah with cheddar cheese grits
5. Market Diner‘s breakfast
Dina’s top 6 frozen treats of 2012:
1. Grom‘s candied chestnut gelato
2. Itizy‘s vanilla ice cream
3. Yogorino‘s plain frozen yogurt
4. Yo Art‘s Greek lemon frozen yogurt
5. Sundaes and Cones‘s Thai tea and corn ice creams
6. Mo’s cherry and mascarpone gelato
Dina’s top 6 desserts of 2012:
1. Smyrna‘s rice pudding
2. Epicerie Boulud‘s brandied cherry beignets
3. Benoit‘s tarte tropezienne
4. La Silhouette‘s honey mascarpone mille feuille with toasted oats and cherry curd
5. Pie Face‘s lamington
6. Minamoto Kitchoan‘s fukuwatashi
Dina’s top 14 dishes of 2012:
1. Braai‘s chicken bobotie
2. Braai‘s portobello mushroom with goat cheese
3. Caffe Falai‘s gnudi
4. Lillie‘s lobster mac and cheese
5. Xai Xai‘s eggplant rolled and stuffed with goat cheese
6. The Palm‘s crab cake appetizer
7. David Burke Kitchen‘s crab and tomato gazpacho
8. Porter House‘s organic Scottish salmon
9. Almayass‘s shrimp provencal
10. Totto Ramen‘s char siu bun
11. Swizz‘s raclette
12. Joe’s Shanghai‘s soup dumplings
13. Empanada Mama‘s corn flour cheese empanadas
14. Num Pang‘s pulled duroc pork sandwich