Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hinata

I found Hinata unexpectedly when my friend and I were walking toward Hide-chan or Totto for ramen. It is a tiny place with a cafe sort of feel, so at first we could not tell if this was a ramen place or somewhere to get a boost of caffeine. But we soon noticed that this was an authentic ramen restaurant managed by Japanese. According to their website, Hinata uses organic chicken for their broth and optional add-ins/toppings, and the sliced Berkshire pork, or Kurobuta, is accompanied with bean sprouts. MSG is not found in any of the dishes. For the noodles, one can select them as thick and wavy, thin straight ones, wavy vegan, or made from rice.

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There were other interesting selections on the menu other than ramen. My friend ordered a Pork Don which is shredded pork on rice; he liked it so much that he mentioned that he would return just to get the pork dish again. We both felt like Hinata was more like an izakaya restaurant instead of a ramen bar.

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Price: Ramen starting $12.5-

Neighbourhood:Midtown East

Cash Only, There is an ATM machine inside the restaurant

Dining alone: Yes

Ramen-Ya

I often go to the West Village to watch movies at small theaters around the neighborhood. When I watch a 7:00 or 8:00 film, it is a bit of a challenge to find a place to eat dinner afterwards, especially if I am looking for a nice Japanese restaurant. A recent Thrillist article entitled “The 8 Best Under-The-Radar Ramen Spots in NYC” introduced me to a very cozy ramen shop just around the corner of West 4th Street.

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I immediately sensed that the owner must be Japanese when I first observed the restaurant décor and then the menu. I went during the ‘Japan Authentic Craft Week’, which highlighted traditional craft items from Tochigi, Japan — an area relatively close to Nikko and the well-known temples — and ate ramen from a beautiful hand-made bowl from Mashiko. Mashiko is a famous little town that has many shops with beautiful, artful, and locally made pottery. I highly recommend their annual pottery festival if you are lucky enough to visit during the festival.

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Each time I visit Ramen-Ya I feel as if I am entering a cozy ramen shop back in Japan. I have eaten there more than five times prior to publishing this entry, and each time I think about what to order when I visit next. Usually my dinner course starts with their homemade gyoza, often called pot stickers in the U.S., which are pan fried dumplings stuffed with minced pork, cabbage, and chives – a flavorful blend of the outside crispiness with the juiciness of the meat and vegetables. Gyozas can be filled with many different ingredients but the pork ones are my favorite as they remind me of the tastes that I love in Japan.

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On the ramen menu there are two choices of soup: Musashi, a pork tonkotsu broth, and Kojiro, a paitan chicken broth. Then as it is standard in most ramen shops one can then choose shio (salt), miso, or soy tastes. Normally I order my favorite miso/tonkotsu but during my third visit I tried the Kojiro/shio. It was very flavorful and lighter than typical broths made from meat and equally delicious as the others. The tastes are rivals to those found in ramen restaurants in Tokyo, and one especially important item to note is the melt-in-your-mouth Char Siu pork that included with the noodles. That alone is worth a visit. The service is outstanding, too, as one might expect from a Japanese restaurant.

One thing I have to mention here is that the owner, Tyson Kobayashi, is from Utsunomiya, my hometown in Japan. We actually grew up a few miles apart, were born the same year, and went to neighboring schools, and then both left to attend college in Tokyo. I first met him at Ramen-Ya a few weeks ago and confirmed that it is indeed a very small world after all. How ironic to meet someone in a foreign country and find out you basically grew up as neighbors!! Kobayashi still resides in Utsunomiya and frequently visits NYC. He is a kind man with strong passions for both his business and commitment to provide authentic Japanese food and culture.

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http://www.ramenya.nyc

Price: Most ramen dishes are $12 with a variety of choices/toppings from $1

Neighborhood: West Village

Takeout/Delivery: Yes

Dine alone: Definitely

Vegetarian: available

Cash only

Open until 3:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays so you can catch a midnight show at IFC Theater around the corner.

Natsumi

I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog and she said that recently I seemed to focus only on authentic choices for the past couple of months. And when I stopped to think about her message I came to the realization that she was right. When I started the blog I intended to write about Japanese-fusion restaurants also.

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The 2016 winter NYC Restaurant Week was a good opportunity to talk about something new, and it gave me a chance to find out why Natsumi is so cool. According to their website, Natsumi specializes in Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine. Barbara Matsumura and Chef Haru Konagaya, formerly of Haru Restaurants, teamed up to create a strikingly original new destination in the heart of the Theater District.

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At Natsumi there are various choices on the 3-course menu. Several options are available for each appetizer, main entrée, and dessert. Since my theme was fusion, I ordered sashimi taco (Salmon and Tuna sashimi on taco) for my appetizer, filet mignon with shiitake sauce for my entrée, and Cheese Cake Tempura for dessert. The quality exceeded my expectations in a big way; my friends who were along felt the same way about their choices. The liquor list has a number of international selections to include red, white, and sparkling wines and champagne by the glass and/or bottle. They also have available a large bottle of sake (isshobin) which is very unique outside of Japan.

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Overall we were all impressed and decided that Natsumi would be a good choice outside of restaurant week and will definitely be back!!

Price: $38 for a pre-fix dinner menu during NYC Restaurant Week

Neighborhood: Times Square

Dress code: Smart casual

Private Party Venue: Lively lounge and recommended for gathering with friends

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http://natsuminyc.com