Category Archives: Japanese Food

Hell Ya, Jinya (Ramen)!

Because I live on an island, questions like, “if you are stuck on a deserted island, and you had to pick one ramen place to sustain you for the rest of time…” becomes maybe 1% more relevant. So, similar to my search for the perfect girl, I have wandered the streets of Manhattan (and recently veered into Brooklyn) in search of the perfect ramen joint – hoping that someone will say, “of all the ramen joints in this town, you walk into mine” … or something like that.

Anyways, emo-side-rant-aside, my leader for the last two years has been Totto’s chicken broth ramen. But yesterday I found an usurper to the crown in the form of Jinya Ramen.

Address: 24 Greenwich Ave, between Charles St & 10th St in West Village
Price: $11-14 for ramen, $4-9 for appetizers, and you’re not allowed to order the rice bowls at a ramen joint
Hours:
Takes a break between lunch and dinner – til 11pm on weekdays, 12am on Friday-Saturdays
Wait / Reservations: They take reservations but I got in Saturday night without a wait – YMMV

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I was feeling down, so I ordered the fruitiest glass of sake. Hmm look at the wood decor. This place is pretty classy compared to Totto or Menkui.

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There are moments that you hear five words about a girl dish and you just know you have to see her try it. Here, that was the homemade organic tofu, made fresh…at your table! So it’s like booking at Circle, where they bring the delicious “fruit” to you! Jk. But so needless to say, I didn’t need much convincing to know that I wanted to bring the waiter over to pour out some for me.

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They give you some toppings and you wait about 5 minutes for the tofu to chill and thicken. Really freaking good…

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For the main, I got the Tonkotsu Black, with about 5 toppings included and you can ask for extra fresh garlic (pressed by yours truly). Like the perfect Asian girl, I probably wished there was more meat in the soup, but it was secretly fun to have her make me do some work for my meal.

Next Time
Like the girl who keeps you wanting for more, I’d go back for the shrimp toast and crispy rice with spicy tuna, and “umami-flavored” sake, and the rest of the ramen choices. With spicy chicken ramen and fried crispy chicken options on the menu, is this the mythical best of both worlds that could overtake both Totto and Mad4??

And don’t worry, you can test drive and take this model home with you, it’s a mere $350k initial investment.

Then I can cook my tears into my very own ramen:

Bassanova Ramen

I’ve been meaning to try this place for a while – Japanese ramen in Chinatown? Is that blasphemous or amazeballs? And if the former, for whom….? Anyways, this place is easy to miss (its entrance is below street-level) and not well known, so get there before it gets too hot for all the ramen fiends in the city.

This place has the same menu and style of its Tokyo location’s Thai-Japanese origins.

Address: 76 Mott St (between Canal St & Bayard St), New York Chinatown
Price: $11-14 for ramen, $6-7 for appetizers
Hours:
12-10pm (M-Th, S); 12pm-12am (F-Sa)
Wait / Reservations: They don’t take reservations anyways, wait shouldn’t be too long


biggest table I know for a NY ramen place so if you have a need for party of 10 (no reservations taken of course)

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giant chopsticks and spoon

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i got the lemon and black pepper, really interesting tangy taste, have never heard of or tried before in ramen


i ate too fast and forgot to take a picture, so this is from another source, but the pork was to die for, they said it was berkshire pork (french laundry uses the same), but so tender and savory, the amount of soup was a little small but the ramen still retained all the soup’s flavors

Verdict: Deserves another look, I will go back for more pork(!) and try their green curry ramen (their specialty and the genesis of their Thai-inspired taste)

Sushi Nakazawa

A couple months ago when I first heard that one of Jiro’s apprentices opened up a new restaurant in NYC, my pants quickly became moist with joy. Ever since I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I’ve been wanting to go eat at his restaurant, but seeing that I probably would not be going to Tokyo anytime soon, this was a pretty awesome alternative. The restaurant is located in West Village and reservations weren’t surprisingly terrible to make.

The meal had roughly 20 pieces of nigiri with a nice raspberry sorbet at the end to top it off. We got the sake pairing as well which was a nice addition to the meal.

Overall verdict: I’m surprisingly pretty conflicted with this one. The quality and freshness of the fish is absolutely top class, without a doubt. The problem I ran into (and I think it’s mainly because I have the palate of a 2-year-old) was that I wasn’t able to taste the more subtle flavors of some of the fish. Fish with stronger, bolder flavors like mackerel and barracuda was absolutely spectacular, but there were some fish like the fluke which I thought was pretty bland. Overall, out of the 20 pieces, I would say 13-14 were amazing and the others were pretty average. I’m not sure if I’d go again but definitely worth a try.

Now for the pictures….Also I couldn’t decide whether or not my camera or phone took better close-up photos so half these pics are from my camera and the other half from my phone. But clearly there was an obvious winner…

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Ivory Salmon

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Some other kind of wild salmon I forgot the name of

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Best scallop ever

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Giant Clam

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Fluke

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Wet Barracuda – this thing was AMAZING

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Haku

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Mackerel – so good

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Tiger Shrimp – the tail was still moving when we ate it ~~

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Blue Shrimp

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Wild Yellowtail

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Amberjack

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Skipjack – this thing was beautiful

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Bluefin Tuna – pretty lean and bland sadface

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Bluefin Tuna 2 – this was so good

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Toro!! so fatty and yummy

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Uni: Best dish of the night by far – butter of the sea

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Roe – so good too

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Sea eel – amazinggg

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Egg sushi – in the documentary it talks about how Nakazawa spent 3 months making only egg sushi under Jiro’s tutelage.. and it fucking paid off LOL best egg sushi ever omg

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Top off the meal with some nice raspberry sorbet yumyum

Nom Nom Ramen & LevelUp

Aside from the ridiculous name, this little hole in the wall is actually pretty satisfying. Located in Rittenhouse Square, this place tops other ramen shops in the area, most notably Ramen Bar in University City. Prices are cheaper and the portion sizes are actually rather generous. There are 3 or 4 broths to choose from and you can add extra meat or vegetables for a small price. The only thing that was missing was it didn’t offer kae-dama which is essentially a system that offers you an extra serving of noodles.

From the Ippudo website, “When you have almost finished your first serving of noodles, order by saying, “Kae-dama, please”.  In a few minutes the server will bring you another ‘ball of noodles’, and put it in the soup. At that time, you must have enough amount of the soup in the bowl to accommodate the new noodles, that is, you shouldn’t drink much of the soup if you are going to order the Kae-dama.”

The other thing to note about this place is that it accepts only cash or LevelUp. LevelUp is a mobile payment app where you store your credit card info in the app and then scan the QR code on your phone with a special LevelUp scanner that is provided by the restaurant. No need to pull out that credit card any more! Best part of LevelUp is that every time you use it to pay, you save money and by frequently revisiting the same restaurants or frequently paying via LevelUp, you can “level up” and get even more discounts. Mobile payments are the future…

Address: 20 S. 18th St, Philadelphia 19103
Price: $8 for regular, $10 for large
Hours: Daily: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pImage
Pork Belly Buns (tasted like poop don’t get them)Image
Large Shyo Ramen

Inakaya – Robata-Yaki Japanese BBQ

What’s the difference between Japanese BBQ and Korean BBQ? The latter emphasizes sauce and combines many different flavors into each action-packed bite, while the former uses lighter sauces and focuses on grilling the meat to its sizzling perfection. Portion sizes also seem to be smaller for Japanese BBQ.

Inakaya in Times Square is a huge tourist locale that combines performance with food. You sit down and the waiters/cooks yell welcome in Japanese. You order a dish and the waiters/cooks yell it in Japanese. You can also partake in smashing mochi in the back (during which the waiters/cooks yell encouragement in Japanese).

Overall, food was pretty amazing including maybe the best piece of grilled fish I’ve ever had (more comments on that below), albeit, a little pricey considering the smaller portion sizes. It’s a good date spot as the dishes are made for sharing and all the action around you allows you to test how spontaneous your date is.

Address: 231 West 40th Street  New York, NY 10018
Price: ~$30 / person for dinner
Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm Mon-Fri, Dinner 5:00pm – 11:00pm Mon-Sun
Wait / Reservations: No wait, don’t make reservations

“Robata” means sunken hearth, where the cooks grill your food and pass it you on an extremely long spatula

Salmon (and Salmon Roe) Fried Rice and Chicken Thigh Skewers

Grilled Black Cod (inside was as soft as tofu, outside was perfected just seared, great flavor throughout)